I know Daniel Woodrell can write -- his pen is his sword and he wields it with deathly and thrilling precision. Nowhere is that on display more than with his novel Winter's Bone
which left me breathless and humbled and panting for more. The story of young Ree and her perilous hunt for her missing meth-making father is one of rage and pain and beauty, and knocked me flat I loved it so much
. It instantly made it onto my all time favorites list. With this collection of mostly very short stories, Woodrell is unable to cast the same lyrical spell over me, and so it is with huge and devastating regret I give The Outlaw Album
a paltry two stars.
The collection contains some bright moments of fierce-eyed intensity, but overall, the experience feels muted and unsatisfying. Woodrell has proven to be such a vivid, emotive, and wrenching writer, yet here the effect is just too subtle to do its job (a fault that likely lies more with me than with him). I am not the best reader (or critic) of short stories. It is a problematic format for me that I don't swoon over easily. Just getting a whiff of a story is usually not enough; I want more, more, and more! I realize that yes, in some instances less can often translate into so much more
and that's where the short story's power lies, I just didn't feel it here.
In his collection Crimes in Southern Indiana
, Frank Bill is ruthless, his prose savage. There is a shocking, almost overdone, Southern grotesquerie to it all and I loved it!
. In contrast to wild Bill, I came to Woodrell's writing hoping for a tempered, mature, evocative approach to essentially the same subject matter, and while there are hints of that, there are more misses (by a mile) than hits.