Battleborn
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Battleborn

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  1,447 ratings  ·  318 reviews
Winner of the 2012 Story Prize
Recipient of the 2012 American Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal FoundationAward
A National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" fiction writer of 2012


Like the work of Cormac McCarthy, Denis Johnson, Richard Ford, and Annie Proulx, Battleborn represents a near-perfect confluence of sensibility and setting, and the introduction of an exceptionall...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 2nd 2012 by Riverhead Hardcover (first published 2012)
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karen
these stories are about encounters. people trying to make connections with other people. some are emotional, some protective, some sexual, some cross-cultural, some just a hand reaching out into the void. and most of them are very good.

the first couple of stories didn't do anything for me, which was a shame, because i really wanted and expected to like the manson one. but it just felt a little writer's workshoppy to me. but after the uneven first two, i pretty much loved every story that followe...more
Roxane
Battleborn is by far one of the best short story collections I've ever read. Each story took my breath away with the strength of the prose and the momentum of each story, often quiet but building and building. Several of the stories made me cry by the end because they were so beautiful and so powerful and I was in such awe. I will say more in an actual review somewhere but this is outstanding. Also, there's a real diversity of narrative techniques at work here. From a craft perspective there is...more
Jeanette
This author shows some definite promise, provided she can manage to sort out her verb-tense schizophrenia. She doesn't shy away from dicey material. In the first few stories, she revels in the strange and the forbidden, with stories about abortion, incest, a gay male madam at a Nevada brothel, and kids who ran with Charlie Manson. The last few stories are a bit more commonplace, but still edgy, because edginess is the petri dish from which her stories evolve.

Most of these stories are set in Wat...more
Cynthia
Quiet battle

I read Watkins’s stories compulsively. I couldn’t stop or look away though I often wanted to. With Watkins longing is a constant state of being. She writes with starkness that’s reflected in the desert settings. Sometimes her stories are set in the old west and sometimes the west of last week. There’s quietness to them. Hatred, lust, and desperation swirl under the surface and only erupt intermittently. Even in the seemingly sweetest of settings and situations sudden violence or even...more
Peter Derk
Someone just asked me "How did you learn to read poetry?"

It's a great question. It really is. Because I didn't know the answer, but at the same time there's a skill to pick up somewhere.

By that same token, I have to wonder if people struggle with short stories because they don't know how to read them. The poetry is a question I have to think over, but for the short stories I have an idea.

Short stories are the serial monogamy of reading.

For those who aren't familiar with that term and just don't...more
Richard Thomas
THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT THE NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.

There is something equally freeing and unsettling about the wide-open desert—the horizon stretching out forever is both unattainable and inspiring. In Battleborn, a collection of stories by Claire Vaye Watkins, we get to explore all aspects of Nevada, from the sad allure of a brothel to nights out in Vegas that can only lead to trouble, told in an honest and yet lyrical voice. We bear witness to those moments in time beyond which ther...more
Maciek
Battleborn is Claire Vaye Watkins debut collection of short fiction, set mostly in the U.S. state of Nevada, along the California border. The title refers to one of the state nicknames, Battle Born - itself a reference to Nevada's historic achievement of statehood during the civil war. Claire Watkins is the daughter of Paul Watkins, a former member of the Mason Family - and I was curious as to what kind of stories she'd come up with, having an experience like that.

I'm sure there's plenty of inte...more
Jenny Shank
http://www.dallasnews.com/entertainme...

‘Battleborn,’ by Claire Vaye Watkins, is a 'remarkable debut' of short stories
By JENNY SHANK Special Contributor
Published: 03 August 2012 01:53 PM

Nevada shapes each of the characters in Claire Vaye Watkins’ assured debut collection of stories, Battleborn.

The state’s permissiveness influences some characters, as with the working girls at the Cherry Patch Ranch brothel in “The Past Perfect, The Past Continuous, The Simple Past,” or the young women growing up...more
Jill
It couldn’t have been easy growing up Claire Vaye Watkins. Her father – Paul Watkins – was Charlie Manson’s second in command and ultimately testified against him. But to consider this very talented author from that perspective would be reductive. She is a force to be reckoned with and writes so exquisitely and metaphorically that it is hard not to be riveted to the page.

Wisely, she ties in her own mythology with that of the West in her magnificent opening story, Ghosts, Cowboys. The pitiless la...more
Tuck
really compelling first collection of short stories, most set in nevada, though as the nature of the west, all over everywhere too, one i particularly liked is "the diggings" set in 1849 gold rush, for its historical authenticity and subtle (most of the time) looks at white hatred of everybody else, if that is, they have gold and you can take it away from them.
i also like the use of real trees, grasses, shrubs, rivers, creeks, playas, places for the dead-onness that invokes in me.
also like a s...more
Kima
Easily one of the best short story collections that I've ever read. The first three stories will leave you speechless. "Diggings" deserves all kinds of awards on its own. "Ghosts, Cowboys" is exceptional.

Wish You Were Here, The Archivist and Virginia City were all throwaways for me.

She really turns the Southwest mythos on its head and then back again. Incredible, incredible.

I cried for a full 10 minutes after "The Thing We Need." So, so good.
Lindsey
Starts out with three strong stories, and then the writing becomes awkward and the storylines confusing. This is the sentence that ended the endeavor for me: "I pressed my hands to my breasts where they'd begun to bloom up from my bra, and longed for a museum that didn't feel like a museum."
Nolan
This a review I wrote for my bookstore, BookPeople in Austin, TX:

Picking up a copy and looking at the back of Battleborn, it's hard not to be interested. How does a debut by a young writer have promotional quotes from Joy Williams, Donald Ray Pollock, and Pulitzer Prize winning author Paul Harding? Impressive to say the least. That mixed with a cover picturing a desert that would be picturesque if it didn't threaten to consume you whole and burn you alive. And such a gritty title, Battleborn. Al...more
Stephen Murley
2012 was a great reading year for me and I was so pleased to run acrosss this beautiful, poignant collection of stories near year end. Late October is the start of the Northern California rainy season. I woke up Saturday morning with San Francisco swathed in low fog and drenched by a slow penetrating drizzle. I started Battleborn with that first cup of coffee and fell spellbound into late afternoon disappointed when I turned the last page.

The book resonated with me because I grew up in Las Vega...more
William
May 05, 2014 William marked it as to-read
Shelves: stories, 21-ce, fiction, us
The first story here "Ghosts, Cowboys" is excellent. Watkins's father was a member of the Charles Manson gang -- it is said he was one of Manson's top procurers of girls -- and he testified against Manson at the trial. Now here's his daughter writing a terrific story about the whole affair.

The second story, "The Last Thing We Need," is also exquisite. A Nevada farmer finds some detritus by the side of the road that connects in an odd way with a significant event earlier in his life. As he looks...more
Matt Brady
A series of short stories linked by setting - the deserts of Nevada and eastern California, and by the utter despair at the core of each one. I don’t mind a sad story, but ten sad stories, with no huge variation, all utterly humourless, wasn’t very enjoyable. The author certainly has a lot of talent, particularly in the way she reveals a character’s personality through small actions and observations, but the misery became very predictable very quickly. If there’d just been a little more of, well...more
Pam
This is the best book I have read this year. Hands down. And I have read so many good ones. Claire Vaye Watkins looks in her rearview mirror at the whole D'agata/Jim Frey whoo-ha and says, really, guys, isn't it time to move on? But that is only one of a hundred things this book does right. The writing is razor sharp and there is the best kind of surprise in every story. So glad to have another great young western woman on the scene.

Rene Saller
Watkins, the daughter of Manson Family pussy procurer Paul Watkins, is from Nevada, and many of these stories convey a very strong sense of place: the desert, mostly, and the weird people who populate it. The opening story, one of my favorites, covers Watkins's own life story, although in an elliptical way. She understands our prurient interest in her late father's history because she shares it; it's an odd collage of historical factoids and fragments from her own past, as a young-adult orphan....more
Sian Griffiths
It took me way, way too long to buy this book from my wishlist. I have to admit, I was suspicious. The collection was getting talked about so much. It was winning so many awards. Watkins is so young. Could it possibly live up to the hype?

There are times when my jadedness saves me from following the fickle crowd. This was not one of those times. BATTLEBORN earns its accolades with every page. I can't remember reading a better, more even collection. Watkins has a gift for voice and image and crea...more
Brian Erich Kepple
One of the best debut collections I've read in awhile. Watkins' level of control over her prose is stunning and reads like the work of a writer much older than 29, refreshingly opting for depth and acumen over the superficial charms of style and mode favored by many of our younger writers today. Her characters are complex and real, with personal depths that often seem bottomless, making them, in a sense, unknowable. However—maybe paradoxically—its that seemingly unknowable essence which really m...more
Leesa
This collection is one of those rare ones that's actually as good as everyone says it is. It may be the only one (?) I've read that I can say that about, actually. I think I'm gonna make a list of all of my favorite little bits I highlighted and put them up somewhere soon. Like "She picked up a dusty piece of smoky quartz the size of a spark plug" and "all these once frightful and malevolent creatures streamed into my heart as though it were Noah's, and nested there harmoniously" and "It was an...more
Dan
I'd say a 2 1/2 star book.
No, I'm not really done with it from cover to cover, but there's this feeling that I don't want to continue with it. It happens.
I suspect I may have a problem with much contemporary writing, especially the short story. Perhaps it's a feeling of sameness, that life in this age can never be much different no matter your background. The problem with America is it's drive for all to assimilate, to share the same dilemmas. This could poison the well of creativity.
Claire Vaye...more
Matthew Salesses
Maybe what I love most here is the sheer ambition and the ability to meet those high expectations. The stories reach for everything and it is immensely satisfying to see someone completely going for it and getting it. This book never shies away from anything. There is so much heart and thought and craft and connection and empathy here.
Anders
More harrowing and gripping than I knew I was signing up for. These stories are profoundly melancholy, about not just the little tragedies but the big ones. The characters struggle with forces that threaten to break a person, struggle to put on a brave face and hold themselves together. To make meaning in the face of overwhelming sadness and evil. All the stories feature protagonists with rich inner monologues and their stories link together in interesting ways. I especially loved the story "The...more
Alan
Jan 31, 2014 Alan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Alan by: tuck; karen
Shelves: short-stories
On the whole an excellent collection, although like Karen I found the first story off-putting with its tricksy stopping and starting, although it did get better as it went into the Manson connection. The author also used her first name (Claire), so I wasn’t sure if the author really was the daughter of one of Manson’s gang or not: so I looked it up, and she is! Made me wonder then if the story was fiction at all, if she has people stalking her and wanting her picture etc.… anyway it left me intr...more
Jennifer
4.5/5 Stars

Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins is a gritty portrayal of life in the American West through a series of ten short stories, all set in and about Nevada, in what is her literary debut. Through this common thread, each story takes readers into the time, which goes back to the gold rush and through to the present. Watkins has crafted an impressive collection of stories, which illustrate to the reader the challenges, triumphs, and losses experienced by those in the west at various points...more
D.S. West
I'm only halfway through, but I'm already calling it--this collection is AWESOME.

Even if the stories in the second half go all shitty-summer-pop-album and pale in comparison to the first few, those first stories would merit the full-on star treatment I'm giving this collection.

Claire Vaye Watkins employs a scary visual vocabulary. If the attention to detail those powers of description make possible were the collection's primary strength, I'd merely be impressed. Three stars, review over. Thanks...more
Margaret
I received an advance reader copy of Battleborn with Indiespensable #32. The book jacket would have me believe that Claire Vaye Watkins is on par with Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx, to name a few. This is only Watkins' first collection of short stories, but I would tend to agree that this relatively new (she's published short stories before in the Paris Review among others) author has more than just the makings of something good.

Each of the stories in this collection deals with some aspect...more
Matt
I thought this was a pretty remarkable collection of mostly-realstic regional fiction, in this case dealing with life in the parts of Nevada that aren't necessarily Vegas. People here go to Vegas, but they mostly don't live there.

There's a lot of sadness in these stories-- if you wanted to convince people that all contemporary literary fiction isn't sad, you wouldn't lean on this book, which is peopled with lovelorn twenty-somethings, mostly. But Watkins knows her way around a story, so one like...more
Kerri Anne Stebbins
Watkins can certainly tell a compelling story, but all of these read less like a cohesive collection and more like a series of glass-damn-near-empty snippets connected sometimes only by their collective sense of hopelessness. Watkins seems to altogether forget the hope, and maybe that's an intentional omission, but in this optimist's opinion it's wholly detrimental to her collection as a whole.

I need hope in my stories. I need humor. Not because life isn't dark, our lots sometimes seemingly cast...more
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Claire Vaye Watkins was born in Bishop, California in 1984. She was raised in the Mojave Desert, first in Tecopa, California and then across the state line in Pahrump, Nevada. A graduate of the University of Nevada Reno, Claire earned her MFA from the Ohio State University, where she was a Presidential Fellow. Her stories and essays have appeared in Granta, One Story, The Paris Review, Ploughshare...more
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“His cigarettes helped mark the passage of time, especially on days that seemed all sun and sky...The dependable dwindling of his cigarette supply reassured him that he hadn't been left out here, that eventually he would have to ride into town and things would still be there, that the world hadn't stopped whirling.” 7 likes
“Like all our memories, we like to take it out once in a while and lay it flat on the kitchen table, the way my wife does with her sewing patterns, where we line up the shape of our lives against that which we thought it would be by now.” 7 likes
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