Heather Shaw's Reviews > Upheaval: Stories

Upheaval by Chris Holbrook
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's review
Sep 23, 2009

it was amazing

Chris Holbrook introduces the short story “New-Used” from his collection, Upheaval (University Press of Kentucky, 978-0-8131-9244-4).(/b)

Many of the details and some of the incidents of “New-Used” are autobiographical, probably more so than in any other story I’ve written. My mother has been a seamstress most of her life. My father did work a lot of labor jobs. We did keep a garden that was once or twice stolen from. The incident involving the soda machine is something I remember happening, though it was at an auto garage and the person offering to buy the soda was a man. Also, my older brother was with my father and me. I’ve tried to depict the significance of the incident as I remember having felt it at the time. More likely that what I’ve managed is my interpretation of the memory.

My father drove used cars most of his life and once or twice I went with him to a used car lot. All the stuff about cars is the way I remember feeling about them as a kid and all through my teenage years, just absolute fascination. I have a tendency to romanticize when I write about cars, old beat-up cars especially.

I’ve written a few stories with the issue of a strained father/son relationship, trying to get at the tension felt on both sides. I’m always writing about societal inequity, economic stress and other concerns of eastern Kentucky and the Appalachian South. It’s difficult to get at those issues without drifting into agitprop. For me anything approaching a social commentary has to be buried deeply, really subdued, for it not to ruin the story. The story’s the main objective.

I spent several months writing “New/Used,” though after the first couple of scenes the story came together pretty easily. I think it’s a very obvious story, very simple. The plot is simple, a basic journey story. The structure follows a standard dramatic arc. I tried to keep the ending as restrained as possible. Mark doesn’t come to a complete realization. He’s too young to fully understand the events of the day. He just gets to a point of intensified focus, what I try to portray with the imagery of the half-empty soda bottle and the yellow jacket. I’m still not sure that image works.

Read or download the complete story at ForeWord's Book Club for one week only.

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