These stories are beautiful and disturbing, and despite this being Bass' first published collection, the writing is surprisingly poignant. His succincThese stories are beautiful and disturbing, and despite this being Bass' first published collection, the writing is surprisingly poignant. His succinct use of common speech is refreshing, revealing the stories in a more natural way--one steeped in oral tradition. Even his more experimental forms ("Cats and Students, Bubbles and Abysses" for example) seem like they are driven by voice. In a way, Bass achieves a sort of mastery of dialogue where speakers and their particular dialects are translated as well as the meaningful silences, the situations where our words sometime fail us.
On a side note, Mr. Bass' story from the 2008 Pushcart Prize ("Goats") is considerably different in style--more lyrically or descriptively rich, the sentences also far more structurally complex--but remains particularly strong in dialogue. He is well on his way to becoming one of my favorite short story authors of all time....more
Despite the buzz-word-like blips-on-the-page acknowledging 9/11, or the occasional unbearably snooty "Look at Me/Why I'm Unique" essays by either hipDespite the buzz-word-like blips-on-the-page acknowledging 9/11, or the occasional unbearably snooty "Look at Me/Why I'm Unique" essays by either hip fashion-conscious ideologues for the left-but-not-too-left or born-again Christians who preach not to preach... Despite these disturbing inclusions in what is otherwise a noteworthy bundle of beautiful chickenscratch, this collection is a real pleasure to read and has many stories (and poems!) that will stick with me for some time. In the order in which they were presented, here is my list of exciting writing:
"Cocktail Hour" by Kate Braverman, "Hard Rain" by Tony Hoagland, "A Short History of My Breath" by Kristin Kovacic, "Moonsnail" by Cleopatra Mathis, "Dogged" by Risteard O'Keitinn, "A Day in May: Los Angeles, 1960" by Philip Levine, "Vexing Praxis/Hocus Nexus" by Mark Halliday, "Bye-Bye Larry" by Katherine Karlin, "The Land of Pain" by Stacey Richter, "Halley's Comet" by Laura Krughoff, "Stay" by David Schuman, "The Eternal Immigrant" by Sharmila Voorakkara, "Some Terpsichore" by Elizabeth McCracken, "Lament for a Stone" by W.S. Merwin, "Gassed" by Steve Gehrke, "Escape from Hog Heaven" by Dina Ben-Lev, "Shelter" by Nami Mun, and "Why Bugsy Siegel Was a Friend of Mine" by James Lee Burke.
And so, to close I offer up a few random quotes I have noted in my book:
"They both hang their heads as they speak, their necks like stalks bearing heavy fruit." - Katherine Karlin
"Geographically speaking, the Land of Pain is a subcontinent of the World of the Sick. The World of the Sick is a nifty, parallel universe that exists inside the World of the Well... The Sick live among the Well like spies, pod-people, or daywalking vampires: different, afraid, and isolated; and like spies, pod-people, and daywalkers, the Sick who can manage to mingle with the Well reflexively disguise their identity. And you, with your white picket fence and your neatly trimmed lawn in the Land of Pain, you are no different." - Stacey Richter
"He was ambitious and doubtful: he wanted to be famous, and he wanted no one to look at him, ever, which is probably the human condition: in him it was merely amplified." - Elizabeth McCracken
"Then there were the people up the block whose bodies turned to black strings until they thinned out of sight." - Nami Mun...more
This collection had a high level of lucid well-written pieces--from essays to fiction to poetry--and I was surprised by how many pages I'd dogeared byThis collection had a high level of lucid well-written pieces--from essays to fiction to poetry--and I was surprised by how many pages I'd dogeared by the time I had finished. Of course, there were a few disappointments such as the fictions by Rick Bass and Thomas Lynch. Bass' seemed to be the framework to a good story had it been pressure-cooked a little, and Lynch's was predictably full of cadavers, funerals, and other things related to "the dismal trade." Neither seemed to explore new ground. But what do I know? I know the following were most certainly good reads:
"The Cavemen in the Hedges" by Stacey Richter, "An Official Reply" by Ha Jin, "Grief" by Pamela Painter, "The Ashes of August" by Kim Barnes, "Hippies" by Denis Johnson, "The Big-Breasted Pilgrim" by Ann Beattie, "The Bad Seed: A Guide" by Nicola Mason, "Khwaja Khadir" by David James Duncan, "It Is Hard Not to Love the World" by Jim Moore, "O Lost" by Thomas Wolfe, "Melba Kuperchmid Returns" by Peter M. Orner, "Alcyone" by Talvikki Ansel, "Bike Ride with Older Boys" by Laura Kasischke, "Death as a Fictitious Event" by Bert O. States, "Part of the Story" by Stephen Dobyns, "Seven Types of Ambiguity" by Dan Chaon, and "The Moor" by Russell Banks.
Note: Keep an eye out for more Stacey Richter as she is an interesting read, being able to humorously marry pop-cultural product contempt with a delightfully non-pretentious nonchalance, and when she goes for something darker, she succeeds with grace and aplomb....more
This collection seems a little dated. It isn't my favorite. Perhaps my distaste stems from the era in which they were written, but some of the storiesThis collection seems a little dated. It isn't my favorite. Perhaps my distaste stems from the era in which they were written, but some of the stories here try to make up for a lackluster character by issuing a slurry of references to other works of art. I dislike these sort of non-lyrical and yet overly complicated allusions--mirrors reflecting mirrors, not for the beauty but for cover. I think everyone would agree; we all want an author who is not afraid to say: "I'm not trying to sell books. I'm not trying to raise my stock. I'm not trying to dupe you into thinking I know the way. I don't need to hide behind obscurity. I don't need you to love me. I need you to understand..." Of course, there were still a number of great stories, essays, and even a few choice poems:
"Love in the Morning" by Andre Dubus, "The Slaughterhouse" by Karen Halvorsen Schreck, "Dark Age: Why Johnny Can't Dissent" by Tom Frank, "A Man-To-Be" by Ha Jin, "What Comes from the Ground" by Wendy Dutton, "Big Ruthie Imagines Sex without Pain" by S.L. Wisenberg, "Crabcake" by James Alan McPherson, "Cows, Arrogance, the Nature of Things" by Trudy Dittmar, "Looking in a Deeper Lair: A Tribute to Wallace Stegner" by Barry Lopez, "Disorder and Early Sorrow" by George Packer, "The Shortest Night" by W.S. Merwin, "Mad" by Jewell Mogan, and "A Dog Was Crying Tonight in Wicklow Also" by Seamus Heaney.
All things being equal, I paid one dollar for this collection. It was more than worth it....more