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American Masculine

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  121 ratings  ·  24 reviews
Winner of the 2010 Bakeless Prize for Fiction, a muscular debut that reconfigures the American West

The American West has long been a place where myth and legend have flourished. Where men stood tall and lived rough. But that West is no more. In its place Shann Ray finds washedup basketball players, businessmen hiding addictions, and women fighting the inexplicable violence
Paperback, 192 pages
Published June 21st 2011 by Graywolf Press
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Community Reviews

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Jim Thomsen
“He thought of his eyes on alcohol, gray coals in a brick-like face, a vicious mouth that lifted flesh from bone like a man field-dressed a deer.”

Self-consciously literary in the extreme, American Masculine is a swirl of long, incomprehensibly pretty sentences masquerading as a collection of short stories.

There is authenticity in the settings and heart in the characters, but they are largely swept aside in the look-at-me writing style, which is less an original style than one snatched whole fr
Jenny Shank

News - From the September 19, 2011 issue by Jenny Shank

The short stories in Shann Ray's first book, American Masculine, reflect his lifelong interest in forgiveness and redemption, as well as in basketball and the American West. Ray's characters struggle to live up to their families' expectations and look up to those who are "more ready to give and forgive."

Ray, who grew up in Alaska and Montana, played basketball for Montana State University and professio
In the note at the beginning of American Masculine, Robert Boswell, judge of the 2010 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Bakeless Prize in fiction (which this collection won), writes that "one might call several of the stories in American Masculine experimental, much as one might accurately call the stories of Alice Munro experimental. It is part of the magic of Munro's stories that they never seem experimental no matter how inventively they are structured or how radically they are shaped. In like f ...more
David Abrams
Some of our earliest printed literature came as a result of medieval monks secluding themselves in scriptoriums, devoting days, months, entire lives to copying sacred texts by hand. In daily ritual, these early scribes bent over the manuscript, moved pen to ink and back to page, painstakingly forming each letter with diamond precision. In the depths of the monastery, there was little sound but the faint whistle of breath from nostril and mouth, and--slightly louder--the scratch of quill on vellu ...more
Aug 30, 2011 Maia rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Maia by: val
Well, I guess 'American' and 'masculine' (not capitalized) is pretty much the one strong thing I can say about this short-story collection: literary to a fault, meaning that it reads like a Richard Ford or Raymond Carver or even Sam Shepard (saving the differences) parody, and so self-congratulatory that if the author had been standing next to me while I read I'd have slapped him! Another problem beyond the mediocre writing is that the voice never truly sounds 'masculine'--this is, in my estimat ...more
Siobhan Fallon
A gorgeous and thought provoking collection about gender roles in modern society, encompassing marriage, love, adultery, family, responsibility and heartbreak. And somehow, beautifully, in this somewhat harsh world, there is an echo of forgiveness.
Shann Ray's story, "Mrs. Seacrest," is one of the most perfect short stories I have ever read. When I finished it, I gasped, and thought to myself, "Damn, I wish I had written this."
Then I read it again.
A very talented, big-thinking, generous writer--
I've been reading a lot of short story collections lately, with an eye out, specifically, for newer collections. Of what I've read, Shann Ray's American Masculine is certainly the best.

While I'm not well-versed enough in contemporary American short stories, what I have read leads me to believe that realistic short story writers are still emulating Raymond Carver; that is to say, that a hyper-minimalist style is often used. The less said, the better. Alas, most of these authors aren't Raymond Car
Brianna Soloski
American Masculine by Shann Ray
182 pages
5/5 stars

I don’t read a lot of short story collections. I tend to prefer meatier novels that allow me to really get to know the characters and follow a story line from beginning to end. However, Shann Ray’s debut collection American Masculine was definitely an exception worth making. Winner of the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference Bakeless Prize, these stories read like a novel. There were recurring characters and themes that kept the stories flowing seamle
Alyson Hagy
There is much to admire in AMERICAN MASCULINE. Much. It is a deep and inventive story collection, so those of us who like to obsess about the short form find plenty to celebrate. But this is not merely a book for short story lovers. It's too soulful for that. It's too knowledgeable about fathers and sons, husbands and wives, brothers and teammates to be pigeon-holed in that way. It's open-eyed about race and class. It's sharp and true in its observations about the West (and, by extension, about ...more
Claudia Putnam
I'd put this in the same category with Battleborn. Highly promising, looking forward to reading more from this author, which I absolutely will do. Interesting, the comparisons with McCarthy. Would not have thought of that--perhaps in the evocation of landscape, but stylistically, McCarthy is more stark.

Many beautiful, heartfelt sentences, gorgeous land, poignant circumstances. These tales, though, are best encountered in isolation from one another. Perhaps in separate journals, months apart. Re
Stunning stories in this collection, stories of pain, sorrow, loss, and ultimately, redemption. Off but near the reservations of rural Montana, the narrators all suffer the ravages of alcoholism, child abuse, and the alienation of life in the city. The first story (How We Fall) sets the tone for the collection: Benjamin Killsnight, having left the reservation and married a white woman, stoically struggles with his own alcoholism and his wife's steady disintegration. She runs away from him, and " ...more
Brittany Wilmes
I was eager to dig into this collection of stories but also unsure what to expect. I had the fortune of knowing Shann secondhand from my time at Gonzaga (where he's a graduate professor), and also met him briefly when he stepped in to teach my leadership class one night. In person, he's intelligent and empathetic and quick-witted.

I was glad to see that in print, he's still all of these things, but with a depth that cuts to the quick. His empathy and intelligence compel him to drive to the heart
Kris Dinnison
This collection hits hard from the first story. And I wondered if I could survive such a grim set of stories in late winter Spokane. But Ray’s rich language kept me reading, and from under an initial impression of darkness emerged some hope, some compassion, and even some happy-ish endings for his characters. Most of the stories, set in the Northwest and Montana, include elements of crossing against the expectations of cultures, society, and individual relationships. There is darkness here for s ...more
Three stars for the writing - it was clunky (masculine?) at times, sort of awkward and sometimes like something someone in a freshman writing class might write, feeling like they ought to. The fourth star is for the content and spirit of the stories, which I really appreciated. The characters' struggles are real, and there is redemption to be had - even if it's difficult to obtain and doesn't feel as good as maybe it seems like it should.

I was expecting something completely different, and found
Glen Stott
This is a collection of short stories about men living in Northwest America. The general theme revolves around men who have deep character flaws that they struggle to overcome with varying levels of success. Though the stories were good, I found the writing style even more engrossing. His style really pulled me into the scenes and the characters. I actually read this book because Shann was featured in a newsletter from the St. Labre Indian School in Montana. Though he is not an Indian, he did at ...more
Great stories of Montana, the land, it's people, including Natives of the area. I thought the best story was the native who worked on the train, who was also my favorite character. Recognized some of the Blackfeet names. Some of the stories seemed uneventful and left me hanging, waiting for something to happen. It's a great book. I'd recommend it for those who like regional stories, and slow paced, scenic, drama type writing. Had a chance to meet Shann Ray at the premier showing of Winter in the ...more
Aaron (Typographical Era)
What the heck is the Bakeless prize? What do no-bake brownies have to do with writing short stories? Those were the first two questions that formed in my brain after I was handed a copy of Shann Ray’s debut short story collection at my local library and I glanced at the cover which proudly announced its status as the 2010 winner of the award.

Dayna Smith
An amazing collection of short stories that center around the American West. These stories follow struggling men: men with addictions, former basketball players whose dreams never come true, bull rider's, and a man struggling with forgiving his abusive father. The stories also include insights into the lives of the women who love these men and must deal with their violence. A fascinating collection of stories.
Seth Tucker
This collection is wonderfully haunted by the heavy persona of Montana--each beautifully crafted story carries the tension of the "setting as character", something I haven't seen in quite some time in American fiction. The world Ray creates is heavy with native history, with the ancestry of the mountains he describes--think McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" crafted with Tobias Wolfe's lyrical language.
Anna B
tragic cruel stories. makes me thankful for my many blessings. not a huge short story fan. none of the stories resolve or have happy endings so 3 stars even tho the writing was good.
fairly brutal tellings of humans trying to love. set mostly in western usa, with lots of indians too.

on kirkus best fiction of 2011
Bim Angst

"...lonely, but lovely in its way" (p. 71).
Sharon L. Sherman
Sharon L. Sherman marked it as to-read
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SHANN RAY is the winner of the Subterrain Poetry Prize and the Pacific Northwest Inlander Short Story Award. His work has appeared in Montana Quarterly, Northwest Review, McSweeney's, Narrative, StoryQuarterly, Poetry International and other venues.

He grew up in Montana, spent part of his childhood on the Northern Cheyenne reservation, and has lived in L.A., Alaska, Germany and Canada. His poetry
More about Shann Ray...
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