All of these stories were really morbid, and a couple of them were really great. I thought the best stories, like "Julie in the Funhouse," "The Haunti...moreAll of these stories were really morbid, and a couple of them were really great. I thought the best stories, like "Julie in the Funhouse," "The Haunting of the Linguards," "Mr. Lazenbee" and "The Jaws of Life," were good because Jincy Willett has a comic's sense of impeccable timing. She really knows how to punch you in the gut.
However, I found most of the other stories in the collection sort-of unbearable. They read more like character sketches than stories, which I'm generally ok with except that these characters were all self-loathing, insecure, middle-aged women whom I frankly found pretty annoying. And about as interesting as a used refrigerator box.(less)
OK, so I didn't really finish this one, which is kind of a new thing for me -- not finishing books. I was listening to this collection of short storie...moreOK, so I didn't really finish this one, which is kind of a new thing for me -- not finishing books. I was listening to this collection of short stories on audio, and I was really getting into some of them. "The Wizards of Perfil" in particular was pretty spectacular. Kelly Link has definitely created her own aesthetic with recurring themes of dragon tattoos, spaceships, board games and magic tricks. But I just got bored with it about 5 stories in. This would be a fun book to have around on your nightstand and pick up from time to time when the mood strikes you.(less)
Several people who are absolutely brilliant and whose reading tastes I really admire have told me how much they love Salman Rushdie. But I guess he's...moreSeveral people who are absolutely brilliant and whose reading tastes I really admire have told me how much they love Salman Rushdie. But I guess he's just not for me. This is the third of his I've read -- after The Satanic Verses and Midnight's Children -- and my hopes of finally being turned on to Rushdie were just dashed yet again!
I don't know what it is. He's so playful and whimsical, and I generally appreciate magical realism. I just don't really connect with his stories. Ah well, to each her own...(less)
I've got a literary crush on Daniel Woodrell, who's the author of Winter's Bone and Lawrence Public Library's guest of honor for Read Across Lawrence...moreI've got a literary crush on Daniel Woodrell, who's the author of Winter's Bone and Lawrence Public Library's guest of honor for Read Across Lawrence in September 2012.
Mr. Woodrell first launched his writing career as a crime novelist with his haunting and gritty Bayou Trilogy featuring Detective Rene Shade in the Louisiana swamp town of Saint Bruno, a place where "tempers went on the prowl and relief was driving a hard bargain." Soon after came Woe to Live On, which was adapted into the Ang Lee film Ride With the Devil and explores the dark and twisty undertones of Quantrill's Bushwhackers and their raid on Lawrence, KS. Winter's Bone is one of his most recent works, and familiar as the inspiration for the film that was a multiple Oscar contender in 2010.
Curious to see what Daniel Woodrell had been up to since Winter's Bone, I cracked open his newest book, The Outlaw Album, a collection of short stories set in his ancestral home of the Missouri Ozarks.
To characterize Woodrell's work just as tough and gritty would be to miss out on some of its finer nuances. Following in the footsteps of other southern gothic writers like Flannery O'Connor, William Faulkner and Cormac Carthy, Daniel Woodrell knows a thing or two about how to turn a sentence. His work is infused with eerie dreamlike enigmas, a quality that really shines through in the short story format. In one of my favorites from the collection, "Night Stand," a Vietnam war vet named Pelham is attacked by an intruder and defends himself with a knife that mysteriously appears on his nightstand. The intruder is killed, and for the rest of the story the question gnaws at Pelham: how'd he get that knife? He never solves the mystery, but instead becomes obsessed with his deceased attacker.
The other stories in the collection are equally tragic with fabulous first sentences: "Once Boshell finally killed his neighbor he couldn't seem to quit killing him." "Morrow wondered if he might soon die because of a beautiful girl from his teens he'd never had the nerve to approach." "My brother left no footprints as he fled."
Most of the characters who populate The Outlaw Album are unfussy tough guys who don't suffer fools: handy with shotguns, suspicious of fancy outsiders. But a few have softer sides: the convict with a surprise gift for poetry. The army private who processes difficult emotions by creating fantastical paintings (of cows). The girl with penny-colored hair who wears swan-winged glasses and a crinkled black dress, and whose "words put special color to events." There's beauty and humor to be sniffed out from tragic passages.
In a Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross, Woodrell has said that he likes to write about people who are easy to dislike; he wants to coax the reader into caring about somebody she or he wouldn't usually care about. These are the characters of The Outlaw Album, and if you look closely, you'll glimpse their redemption -- writ however quiet or small.(less)
This is a fun collection of short stories and essays by some heavy-hitting writers including Elizabeth Berg, Andre Dubus III, Sue Grafton, Barbara Kin...moreThis is a fun collection of short stories and essays by some heavy-hitting writers including Elizabeth Berg, Andre Dubus III, Sue Grafton, Barbara Kingsolver, Ann Patchett, Anita Shreve, and Jane Smiley. The collection is organized alphabetically by author's last name, although I think organizing it a different way could have been more interesting and given the book a better flow.
I LOVED several -- Andre Dubus III's "Blood, Root, Knit, Purl" and Barbara Kingsolver's "Where to Begin?" are especially and awesomely extraordinary -- but many of the others blur together into cliche territory, the two biggest culprits being the "I learned to knit from my so-and-so" stories and the "knitting is hard and I'm not very good at it, but I'm still a knitting wannabe" stories.
This would probably be a good collection to dip into here and there, but all together it was a little too much knitting even for me. I started skipping around by the end; maybe I'll go back to it again someday and dip into some of the other stories.(less)
This story collection gives me the shivers, and I WANT MORE. Anchored in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, a tiny border town with Tennessee, I Want To Show...moreThis story collection gives me the shivers, and I WANT MORE. Anchored in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, a tiny border town with Tennessee, I Want To Show You More's 15 stories unpeel like a hallucinogenic onion. Jamie Quatro obsessively explores questions of adultery, death, disfigurement, and phone sex, all within a bizarre framework of Christianity. My favorite of the stories, "Demolition," watches a congregation tear apart their historic Southern building and then head to a cave in the woods to start a holy sex cult (!). I like to imagine Quatro's real-life congregation innocently picking up this book at a church potluck and then getting its collective mind blown. It's a sexy, spiritual, and frightening collection from a writer who seemed to sneak up out of nowhere. I am not going to be patient for her next collection of stories, not at all.(less)