John Luiz's Reviews > Dogfight: And Other Stories

Dogfight by Michael Knight
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's review
Jun 10, 2012

it was amazing
Read from June 02 to 10, 2012 — I own a copy

This review is from: Dogfight: And Other Stories (Paperback)
I've read just about everything Michael Knight has written, and have enjoyed his work immensely. This is his first story collection, originally published in 1998, but republished in 2007, with a new story, "Smash & Grab," replacing one ("Poker") in the original book. I had read his second collection, "Goodnight, Nobody" first. There was a marvelous story in that one titled "Blackout" that felt in the same vein as the Martin Scorcese movie, "After Hours," exploring craziness that happens after the sun sets on, in the story's case, a suburban neighborhood. This entire collection feels like an extension of that theme, as it looks all the social and familial dysfunction of residents and neighbors in the suburbs. Usually they're told through the eyes of men who haven't quite figured out what their relationships with woman should be, or even more simply, figured out women at all. All the stories are wonderfully told, with characters you can immediately relate and wonderful gifts for detail that make them and their worlds come alive on the page. All the stories are straightforward, realistic tales, so there's none of the surrealistic stuff that many writers feel obligated to add to collections to demonstrate their writing chops.

The 10 stories, mostly set in contemporary Alabama, in this version of the collection are:

1. Smash & Grab - 13 pp - When a robber breaks into a house, he unexpectedly finds a teenage girl, who has more than a few surprises in store for him. It's ultimately a very funny story about the complexities of familial relationships.

2. Now You See Her - 17 pp - A widower and his 13-year-old son both become obsessed with a beautiful women who lives next door and parades naked around her curtain-less apartment.

3. Dogfight - 19 pp - A wonderfully told mash-up of misery in the suburbs. It begins with a brutal dogfight, then one owner sleeps with the owner of the dog who had attacked his. The adulterer's ex-wife lives in the house behind his, and he finds himself getting close to her again when he shares the news of his affair. But when the cuckolded husband finds out, another vicious fight breaks out between the two men.

4. Gerald's Monkey - 18 pp - A young man works in his uncle's ship-building boatyard one summer and learns grim lessons about life from the welders he works alongside.

5. Sleeping with My Dog - 14 pp - A mosaic craftsmen becomes consumed with jealousy when his vivacious takes business trips with her lascivious boss.

6. Amelia Earhart's Coat - 15 pp - A 10-year-old girl worries that her father will run off with Amelia Earhart after she sees them exchange a kiss. (It's the one historical story in the collection with a setting out of Alabama, too, in this case, a rich estate in Rye, New York.)

7. A Bad Man, So Pretty - 21 pp - A 16-year-old boy lives in the shadow of his wild, violent other brother.

8. The Man Who Went Out for Cigarettes - 8 pp - A man who works on a charter fishing boat struggles with the hardships of living with a wife who was crippled in a car accident.

9. Sundays -- 15 pp - Wiley is a single Latin teacher who lives in a cul de sac with a bunch of divorced, widowed, or unwed mothers and enjoys being the sole object of their flirtations. But when another male teacher gets invited to the neighborhood's routine Sunday night potluck dinners, with more on his mind than casual flirtation, Wiley has to question his connection to all these women and their children.

10. Tenant - 15 pp - A college professor lives as a tenant on a piece of land that was once a Southern plantation, while carrying on secret relationship with a student at the community college where he teaches who is four years older than he. His normal routine is disrupted when his 75-year-old landlord kills herself by burning the main house down, leaving a German shepherd who haunts the property, lost and lonely after its owner died.

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