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Chemistry and Other Stories

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  429 ratings  ·  57 reviews

A Picador Paperback Original

From the pre-eminent chronicler of this forgotten territory, stories that range over one hundred years in the troubled, violent emergence of the New South.

In Ron Rash's stories, spanning the entire twentieth century in Appalachia, rural communities struggle with the arrival of a new era.

Three old men stalk the shadow of a giant fish no one else
...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by Picador
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238th out of 1,898 books — 1,449 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 903)
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Shaun
As a huge Rash fan, I was not disappointed by Chemistry, a finalist for the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

I will admit that while I really enjoyed the first story, several of the earlier stories had me a little worried as some were less developed and weaker than what I've come to expect from Rash. Yet, by half-way I was once again feeling the "love."

Rash's prose are tight and poetic and for the most part his stories are well-constructed and feel complete (at least as short stories go). My
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Newengland
May 15, 2008 Newengland rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Southerners, Literary Sorts, Short Story Aficianadoes
Shelves: finished-in-2008
Ah, the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation moves South (from Winesburg, Ohio) where Ron Rash details the sad and sometimes tawdry tales of mostly Carolinians DEEP in the countryside, many of them so down and out it is as if they are from another epoch entirely. Unlike Sherwood Anderson, Rash does not feature a common character. Rather we get an assortment of tales published in various Southern literary magazines, collected such that the end stories are the strongest.

There's a bride from
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Eldonfoil TH*E Whatever Champion
As with "Burning Bright," the last set of stories I read by Ron Rash, I have to give this collection 3.5 stars. I wish I could give it more. The stories are certainly entertaining and well-written, down deep into some of the good stuff of southern Appalachia, but they mostly all seem too smooth in a sense. Often times I feel like Rash's starting point is an Appalachian cliche....like hunting that huge, mythic fish or finding your son strung out on meth or digging up a Confederate grave or partak ...more
Jenn
Update, update: I wanted to document that my favorite story in the collection is "Their Ancient, Glittering Eyes" - I love it! And I use it as often as I can with my students; I think it's brilliant.

Update: I finished the collection and the last two stories freaked me the heck out! The story, "Pemberton's Bride" has been expanded into his novel "Serena" and the title character has been called a "Lady Macbeth of the Appalachian region." I would guess so. She scared the hell out of me. Sooo evil!
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Bonnie Brody
Ron Rash has written another wonderful book of short stories, most of them situated in Appalachia, the place he is so familiar with. Included in this collection is Pemberton's Bride, the first chapter of his novel, Serena, which I loved.

Their Ancient Glittering Eyes is a great fish story. Some boys see a huge fish as long as a leg and the old men in town, seasoned fishermen, don't believe them until they see the fish themselves. The fish is over six feet long and bigger than any fish ever seen i
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Lori T-m
This probably won't be a fair review because I didn't read all of the book. I may embarrass myself here but apparently language, vocabulary, and reading comprehension isn't taught "nowadays" like it was when the author was in school. I felt very dumb within the first story and found myself googling a few things (resigned equanimity, devolution, octogenarians) that I've never heard used in my day to day life. I have a college degree and a professional job that truly influences peoples' lives but ...more
David Joy
He may be renowned as a novelist, but his short stories are where I think he shines. Ron Rash might just be the finest short story writer alive.
Wilhelmina Jenkins
Jun 04, 2008 Wilhelmina Jenkins rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: short story lovers
Shelves: short-stories
One of the best short story collections I've read in a long time. I could not put it down.
Justin
Ron Rash writes about my native soil—western North Carolina—and Lord does he write them well. The Tuckaseegee winds through my memories of college like it winds through Cullowhee (Their Ancient, Glittering Eyes). I grew up hearing stories about a kid from Shelby that was better than Michael Jordan ever was and threw it all away for drugs (Overtime). Where I grew up, you knew the drug dealers, and you knew their daddies (Deep Gap).

The final question of Blackberries in June has kept me up late at
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Sandra
I'm also a fan of Ron Rash's novels and short stories, set in the Appalachians. I really enjoyed this batch of stories and looking foreward to many more. Mr. Rash is a gifted writer, and has a deep understanding of people living in poverty and raised in these mountains. He writes in the dialect of his characters, some humor, but mostly gritty and tragic.

From Blue Ridge Country:
"He's collected an intense set of short stories in Chemistry, creating characters that walk a narrow edge between dar
...more
Rhonda Browning White
Okay, I loved it! These stories shed beautiful, poignant light on tragedy, and the book has some incredible lines (I live for great lines!), like in "The Projectionist's Wife," when Rash writes about the projectionist in an old-time movie theater: "At age fifty-four I see him as I could not at fourteen, not so much an ill-humored wizard as a weary clockmaker god threading the stuff of dreams through the projector's metal maze, then onto the second reel so he might watch in impotent solitude as h ...more
Angela
4 of these stories are reprinted in "Something Rich & Strange," and 2 are the basis for the books "Serena" and "The World Made Straight," but there are 7 other stories I hadn't read. And I am always looking for anything by RR I haven't read!
Pat
Old men in overalls sitting outside country stores. Giant fish. A scene in an emergency room. Mountain life captured so beautifully in a series of short stories. There are stories that will make you laugh out loud;like Their Ancient Glittering Eyes. Most speak to the human condition that is always hopeful in the most hopeless situation.

Rash knows the mountain life of Western North Carolina. A way of life that is going to be gone. Taken over by tourists and "foreigners" as my family reminds me e
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David Ward
Chemistry and Other Stories by Ron Rash (Picador 2007)(Fiction), which is a collection of author Ron Rash's short stories, is excellence on the written page. There are thirteen stories presented here, and there is not a bad one among them. These tales capture the essence of the mountains of western North Carolina. Particularly noteworthy are "Their Ancient Glimmering Eyes" (on a prehistoric water beast), "Chemistry" (Pentecostalism), and "Speckled Trout" (marijuana poachers). I submit that Ron R ...more
Kevin Brown
It's uneven at times, but uneven Ron Rash is still pretty darn good.
Laura
Ron Rash's collection of stories from Appalachia is a worthy addition to what one critic has called "the literature of place." Some of these stories are a little, dare I say it, obvious (for example, in "Honesty," Rash overplays his hand with characters that might as well be named Self-Doubt, Desperation, and Arrogance, a la John Bunyan) but when they aren't, they hit home. Rash's O. Henry Award-winning story "Speckled Trout" appears in this volume --it's stunningly rendered and every bit as pow ...more
Cheryl
Excellent short stories set in Appalachia. Interesting to read "Pemberton's Bride" which was written later edited and expanded into the novel, Serena. The original short story has an different ending than the novel.
Clay Duda
Ron Rash is an excellent writer. The stories are mostly kind of back-wooded theme tales of love, life, etc., but he manages to the entire social spectrum, from aristocrats to marijuana growing hillbillies. I'd say the main theme of his works (at least this collection) is coping with change. Timey Appalachian villages continually redefine themselves with the encrochment of the outside world... and pretty much everything is set in the Appalachia's in North Carolina (can anyone guess where he's fro ...more
Francesca
This is an exceptional collection of short stories that capture the "Upcountry" of the Carolinas. Appalachia comes to life in these eclectic stories of rural life with universal themes. Two of the stories were the genesis for 2 of the authors novels: The World Made Straight ("Speckled Trout" - winner of the 2005 O. Henry Award) and Serena ("Pemberton's Bride") Any book club looking to discuss a short story collection would do well to select Ron Rash's collection of stories.
Bonnie Wertz
Short stories about Appalachia people. Stories were short I wanted to know more and they just ended. Guess maybe I'm not a short story person
Bonnie
Loved all these stories, which is amazing, usually I get stalled somewhere in the middle of a book of short stories but not these. The stories are rich in the ways of the world and of family, all wonderfully written and gut wrenching and most of all real. All the stories were great, none were tiresome, none were confusing or made me wonder at the end "now just what was that story about anyway." I recommend this book to anyone who likes reading great stories.
John Pappas
Ron Rash's collection of short stories sketches out the ethos of Appalachia, from the late 19th century to the present day, mostly without succumbing to the "gritty melodrama" of meth-infused narratives. The highlights of this collection, "Pemberton's Bride" (the starting point for Rash's novel Serena), "Speckled Trout" and "Chemistry" rise above by showing essential human truths, regardless of place of birth or class.
Casey
As I've said before, Rash can really write, but I was a little disappointed with this collection. Many of the stories are a bit one-note, and several of the stories end a little too early. It seemed to me the real conflict and tension was just beginning when the stories came to an end. I felt a cheated, and that the characters were let off the hook.

That said, though, it won't keep me from reading more of Rash's work.
Bill Long
I bought this book in Asheville at the recommendation of the local bookstore staff. I was not disappointed. Mr. Rash has a way to grasp you in the hollow of your chest with his writing. This book reminded me of another collection by Donald Ray Pollock, "Knockemstiff." Mr. Rash's writing is more refined than that of Mr. Pollock, but they both do a great job of capturing the reader. I can't wait to start "Serena."
E luvs Dan, Qhuinn, Tate, Po, Rule & Lucas
This book is a gem. When I bought it, I knew I'm going to enjoy it because its written by Ron Rash.
Its a book of short stories and though I'm not from the region where its based or also not from America, I could in a way imagine the stories and characters, because they are similar to folks back home. One should read this book if you are a fan of Ron Rash's writing or you enjoy good stories well written.
Linda Harkins
I agree with Pat Conroy that Ron Rash writes like a prince. I couldn't put down this book of short stories. The story settings are in the Piedmont of South Carolina and the western part of North Carolina, the area to which we've recently retired. Stories of the Old and New South, written by one who is familiar with its history and people, are absolutely mesmerizing.
Jim
A bit of a disappointment, not that the stories are poor, far from it, but because several appeared in an earlier collection and two were early chapters in his novels. I guess this was a stop-gap effort put out by his publisher to make money, but I am glad I didn't spend hard cash and get suckered. I really hate when they do this. . .without warning the reader.
Anne Glenn
Apr 05, 2008 Anne Glenn rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: chall gray
The best short story collection I've read since Hannah's "Airships." Every story resonates. Rash writes the peoples of Appalachia at different times and places, but all ring emotionally true. This collection deserves more than just a nomination for PEN/Faulkner. I'll reread it, which I rarely take the time to do.
Patricia
13 beautifully written short stories of Appilachian life. My favorite are the first and the last that happen to be fishing stories. Actually, as I flip through the book every story was so good, I want to read them all over again. Pemberton's Bride was frighening, do not read it just before you sleep...
Heather
Ron Rash is always a good read!
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Ron Rash is the author of the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Finalist and New York Times bestselling novel, Serena, in addition to three other prizewinning novels, One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, and The World Made Straight; three collections of poems; and four collections of stories, among them Burning Bright, which won the 2010 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, and Chemistry and Other St ...more
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“The woman doesn't look up. It's as if she's deaf. Maybe she is. Maybe she's like the Cambodian women I've read about, the ones who witnessed so many atrocities that they have willed themselves blind. Maybe that's what you have to do sometimes to survive. You kill off part of yourself, your hearing or eyesight, your capacity for hope. ” 10 likes
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