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Kentucky Straight: Stories

4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  597 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
Riveting, often heartbreaking stories that take readers through country that is figuratively and literally unmapped. These stories are set in a nameless community too small to be called a town, a place where wanting an education is a mark of ungodly arrogance and dowsing for water a legitimate occupation. Offutt has received a James Michener Grant and a Kentucky Arts Counc ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published October 27th 1992 by Vintage (first published 1992)
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Best Southern Literature
234th out of 879 books — 2,188 voters
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Community Reviews

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Here are nine unforgettable tales about hardened people living hard lives. They chew tobacco, drink corn liquor, fight, fornicate, live and die in shacks without indoor plumbing.

One man remembers his moonshiner grandpa's words as he tends his own marijuana crop. Another learns the truth behind an ill fated hunt for a killer bear. Still another is ridiculed for his desire to earn his GED.

The writing is simple and beautiful. I'm in love with this paragraph from the beginning of House Raising:

Feb 28, 2015 Brian rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Brian by: Jacob
Beautifully crafted stories set in the orbit of the fictional Rock Salt township in deep woods Kentucky. Offutt's characters speak in clipped sentences that carry more meaning than the long, bloated paragraph busting interchanges too often used by lesser authors. We get a deep sense of place, a different purpose of life where commerce and materialism exist not.

It is easy to get lost in these hills and feel like the stories could easily become a work of fantasy told on another planet with bipeda
Rain chewed fresh gullies in the ridge road, turning the hard clay dirt to a yellow paste. The ditch overflowed and gray air blurred the low horizon. Dripping leaves hung limp and heavy.
"It'll pass," Mercer said.

Set in the rural backwoods of eastern Kentucky, the stories in Chris Offutt's debut collection all explore the lives of inhabitants of a nameless community which is too small to be called a town, and does not appear on any map. This is the sparsely populated and remote region of Appalach
Apr 24, 2008 Steven rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
All the stories in this collection take place in a fictional area of Kentucky, and the cumulative affect is to bring that place, and its people to life. Offutt uses a lot of sophisticated techniques to up the ante on these stories, to keep them from becoming just portraits of Kentucky hillbillies. In “Nine-Ball” I like the way the expected fight doesn’t happen, like the way the cue ball is used to inflict the damage. He really uses imagery and the sensory detail well, captures how the pool cue f ...more
Charles White
Sep 10, 2010 Charles White rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010
The strongest short story collection about the South I've read since Breece Pancake. But honestly, better than Pancake, but that gives you an idea of how highly I think of this work.
Eldonfoil TH*E Whatever Champion
An uneven collection of stories. Enjoyed "Sawdust" and "Blue Lick," two stories told from a youngster's perspective that threw out poisonous humor in daggers. The stories were no less insightful on matters of living in the hollow. I found "House Raising" to be Offutt's finest writing, a deep tone and dark atmosphere maintained throughout that was nothing short of masterful. "Nine Ball" was a little too much on billiard balls, but it also got down and dirty. At other times, I found these stories ...more
This is a place people move away from.

In these nine short stories set in Appalachia Kentucky, Chris Offutt brings to life individuals that are as much part of the landscape as the trees and rivers themselves. They struggle to survive in the midst of a poor job economy but never view themselves as victims. In fact, in a couple instances they have turned down help from outsiders. They are a fiercely proud people that hold tight to traditions and superstitions. These are quiet stories in the sense
Aug 19, 2010 Jacob rated it it was amazing
I'm going to say the same thing for Kentucky Straight that I did for Out of the Woods, Offutt's other collection: This is good. No: this is really, really good. But I have reviewer’s block right now, which makes it hard to explain how good this is, so you’ll just have to trust me and find out for yourself. With near-perfect prose and very few wasted words, Chris Offutt does nothing but shine. It's a slim collection (9 stories, 167 pages) but very powerful. I need YOU need to read the rest all of ...more
Paul Cockeram
Sep 14, 2015 Paul Cockeram rated it it was amazing
When Everett makes a decision about his family hog farm in the concluding moments of "Nine-Ball," this collection's final story, I cheered him on because I found myself caring deeply for him in the space of a dozen or so pages; similarly, when Everett opens the hog pen to let the runt go free but doesn't put the runt inside the truck, I cheered Offutt on for avoiding the sentimentality I myself would probably have indulged had I tried writing this story. But Offutt shows restraint, and penetrati ...more
Pep Bonet
Mar 28, 2016 Pep Bonet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's something about hillbillies which makes me like books around them. It may be the attraction of this old race of stubborn and proud people, a certain liking for stories around losers, the way they speak English or whatnot. But I like them. Offutt writes a handful of stories or varying interest,but as a whole the book presents an interesting picture of a world which seems to be disappearing, with characters which mostly have no interest in changing their lives. There's a mix of magic and a ...more
Jan 23, 2016 Will rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-2013
Edition 0-679-73886-X

A man can take a mess of figures and make it equal out to something different. Maybe some people like math for that, but a pile of stove wood doesn't equal to a tree.

A long time ago I was scared of the dark until Dad told me it was the same color as day, only the air was a different color.

People don't like owls because they live in graveyards, but an owl needs a big tree and graveyard trees don't get cut down. Never be afraid on account of where something lives.

The pr
Kirk Smith
May 10, 2015 Kirk Smith rated it really liked it
This is Hillbilly Noire at its finest. No literary acrobatics. No bullshit writing. I am buying more Offutt.
Nov 30, 2008 Scott rated it really liked it
Raw & truthful, whiskey-hard. Like Thom Jones or Pinckney Benedict's best short works.
Oct 10, 2015 Janellyn51 rated it it was amazing
I ran into Chris Offutt on Myspace several years ago, and read a couple of his books. I love his writing. I'll tell you one thing, I wouldn't want to be a dog in Appalachia, for anything. The language and phrasing in this book, I could listen to all day. There is wisdom in them there hills, and even some of the most brutal things to me, in the book, are told in such a way that you get their logic, no matter how much you don't like it. Offutt writes what he knows, and the stories grab you, and yo ...more
Mark Poulsen
Apr 05, 2011 Mark Poulsen rated it really liked it
Kentucky Straight by Chris Offutt. A Vintage Contemporaries Original, November 1992 First Edition.
This book is not about your beautiful, elegant, and majestic state of Kentucky; this book is straight, “Kentucky Straight.” The novel is about a small fictional community in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. Here education is looked down upon, hunting is not just a game but a means of survival, and life is anything but pretty. Offutt makes this very clear right from the beginning. Within the fi
Apr 04, 2014 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: country-noir
Short stories about folks living in the Appalachians. Everyone is super poor and generally fights with the VISTA people sent by the government to provide aid. My favorites were "Sawdust" about getting a GED when everyone else thinks you are acting uppity, "the Leaving One" about a boy that runs into his grandfather in the woods, all though he expected him to be dead, and "Old of the Moon" about a crazy bear fight.
A decent, enjoyable collection of short stories focusing roughly on the hard life of folks in the Kentucky hills, primarily it seems in the post war and 60's era of VISTA. Heavily weighted on the narrative toward male activities: hunting, cards, and the relationship between hillbillies and the government (agents). The characters are often ill-educated but knowledgeable, and some of the best stories are narrated by the young. My favorite story was "The Leaving One," about a young boy secretly mee ...more
Jason Jordan
Feb 15, 2009 Jason Jordan rated it really liked it
After I read a handout of "Sawdust" in a fiction workshop class, I knew I had to order Kentucky Straight. The stories take place in a fictional region of Eastern Kentucky, so my birthplace (Louisville) certainly played a part in my interest. Offutt has a knack for characterization and this collection features a bunch of memorable, likeable, and motivated characters. While I like the use of dialect, even though it slowed me down sometimes, I had difficulty keeping tabs of all the characters in ce ...more
Melanie Ullrich
Jul 14, 2014 Melanie Ullrich rated it really liked it
It took me a little while to catch onto the "hills" sort of language, but when I did pick it up, I couldn't stop reading! These short stories formed a truly beautiful look into modern Appalachia and the folk lore that still runs deep in that culture.
Jan 28, 2009 Lanea rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best collections of short stories I've ever read. This will make me a fan for life. I am now an Offutt-evangelist. Buy this book, please. It will do you good. I'm about to buy everything he's written over at Powell's.

And unless your heart is made of stone, it will upset you. Kentucky Straight is a collection of stories set in a nameless section of the Kentucky Appalachians. The book oozes depression, addiction, illness, cultural collapse. It's a downer, but a really delicious
Sandra Gundersen
Oct 06, 2015 Sandra Gundersen rated it did not like it
Gadd ikke å lese den ferdig.
Lee Ann
Jul 26, 2011 Lee Ann rated it it was amazing
If you love a good short story, great Southern writing, and want to be knocked on your butt by a writer's sheer talent, then introduce yourself to Chris Offutt's work. Whether he's writing short fiction or autobiographical non-fiction, his style is sparsely beautiful and affecting. Why isn't he more well-known and widely read, even within his own home state of Kentucky? I have no idea, but spread the word.

P.S. Other Southern writers to read (that aren't on everyone's lips): Jim Grimsley, Silas H
Sep 07, 2007 Eric rated it it was amazing
chris offutt's stories are some of the most gut-wrenching, unflinching, and honest stories about human nature that i have ever read. he easily belongs on the same plateau as larry brown and thom jones. yes, a lot of his stories, like theirs, are steeped in alcohol, grime, transgression, death, and madness, but beneath it all are truths about us all. offutt is truly one of the greatest living southern writers. and this is probably his finest collection, and possibly his finest work.
Feb 21, 2013 Mark rated it it was amazing
This is a fabulous collection of short stories. The phrase "economy of words" is often overused when discussing authors, but I can't think of a better way to describe the narration. You really get a visceral sense of the time and place where these stories take place and the characters who inhabit this particular world, all without getting lost in cute word play or boring, banal detail explication of mundane minutiae. Great read. Highly recommended.
Jan 06, 2009 Miss rated it really liked it
All the stories I've heard from people that grew up in the deep Appalachian Mountains are pretty rough and fit pretty closely with with the emotions, ideas, and stories Mr.Offutt tells. People are isolated, many do not finish school past the eighth grade, and get by, by the way they act. If you've ever wondered about the people living in Appalachia, listening to their stories, will raise your brow.
Nov 25, 2007 Shawn rated it it was amazing
People assume I like this book because all the stories are set in Kentucky. I admit that is the reason I first read it. But the reason I recommend it is because it's one of the most consistent and solid collection of short stories written in the last 20+ years. These stories transcend setting to speak about the mentality of small, rural America.
Jul 07, 2009 Rupert rated it liked it
The first story in this collection is one of the most brutal stories I've ever read, but it felt vital and necessary and true. Taken altogether there are moments where the book feels like it is teetering on Appalachian operatic sschtick, but then it reels itself back in connecting with the dark humorous roots of folktales.
Feb 02, 2016 Aimee rated it did not like it
Another H***r++ble book, thanks Chris, gave up counting how many dogs died cruel deaths in this book, you are one sick.....
Sep 02, 2009 Eric rated it it was amazing
Wow. Chris can really spin a tale! This book of short stories took me on a trip to the hollows of Kentucky, to visit with people I've never imagined. Gripping. I especially loved "Aunt Granny Lith," the story of a haunted but ultimately satisfying marriage.
Jun 09, 2008 Cory rated it it was ok
Compared to the similar southern, hometown short stories that I have read, such as Pancake, Franklin, O'Connor, Faulkner, ect.....this one was a bore and just didnt stack up. I gave it a two because there were two stories that I found enjoyable.
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“Time piles up like brush. You burn it in the fall and all you remember are the glowing cinders. I got ash heaps everywhere I look. -Old of the Moon” 0 likes
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