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Refresh, Refresh

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  724 ratings  ·  120 reviews
The war in Iraq empties the small town of Tumalo, Oregon, of men—of fathers—leaving their sons to fight among themselves. But the boys’ bravado fades at home when, alone, they check e-mail again and again for word from their fathers at the front.

Often from fractured homes and communities, the young men in these breathless stories do the unthinkable to prove to themselves—t
Paperback, 249 pages
Published 2007 by Graywolf Press (first published December 2005)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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Nov 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Alan by: Gay Degani
Shelves: short-stories
I really should dock a star because of the over familiarity of the themes - Meltdown for instance is a post nuclear accident story similar to The Road, and in another a father and son come across a body on a hunting expedition, much like Carver's So Much Water So Close to Home - and maybe for its extreme masculinity: women hardly feature except as longed-for or disgusted-by creatures. These are mostly Iraq war stories, but set in the Oregon towns the soldiers leave or come back to and the protag ...more
Margaret Carmel
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a sucker punch I wasn't expecting.

Refresh, Refresh is a stunning collection of short fiction set in Central Oregon. The darkness of the Iraq war touches many of these stories, but this is not a war book. These stories feature the fathers and sons and friends and wives and children touched by that seemingly endless conflict, and what it looks like from rural, poor America. There's so much pain here, of all kinds. Percy explores husbands and wives contending with their marriages, the hor
Joe S
Nov 26, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: short-stories

This is a second collection that reads like a first. Honest to god, these stories came fresh from an MFA workshop, filtered through a thesis reading and went straight to video. He has a workman-like concept of plot -- the stories get to all the right places, but in a plodding, paint by number sort of way with no compelling voice and a lot of sophomoric sloppiness when it comes to language.

I also feel that a good deal of grunting and adjusting of the balls occurred during the making of this
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
Dark, well-written stories about working class families in blue collar jobs who like to hunt and fish, set in the Pacific Northwest. Rather dark.
Jennifer Spiegel
Nov 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star-books
I guess I’m a little cynical. I lost faith in the short story? Did I? Is that it? When I read, I’m hopeful. And, despite my faithlessness, I am sometimes surprised.

Let’s see. I bought their books after reading Richard Russo’s “Horseman,” Roy Kesey’s “Wait,” Nathan Englander’s “How We Avenged the Blums,” and William Gay’s, “Where Will You Go When Your Skin Cannot Contain You?” Lorrie Moore has been pretty influential. Kyle Minor gave me a Flannery O’Connor epiphany with “A Day Meant to Do Less.”
Geoff Wyss
Jul 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
A huge disappointment. The title story (the first in the book) is worth reading, but I can't recommend any of the next three (which is as far as I got before I got frustrated and gave up on the book). Even the first story--which was published in The Paris Review and reprinted in BASS--doesn't hold up very well on a second read. The bad habits that undermine this story (and ruin the next three) all spring from Percy's unwillingness to credit the reader with intelligence: he loves an obvious symbo ...more
Mar 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Percy's stories are impeccable, possibly too impeccable. Nearly always beginning with darkness (a refrigerator dripping blood, a nuclear meltdown, two boys fighting) and never getting any brighter, Percy executes perfectly. Without fail, Percy finds ways to burrow deeper. The stories (all set in rural Oregon) seem almost classical to me (and it's maybe not surprising that I heard about this book via my ex-writing prof) to the point where there is little surprise when characters have heart attack ...more
Daniela Botterbusch
Feb 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
I picked this one up at work - salvaged from the discard pile (perhaps from Maria's old desk...). I had no expectations.
I am wowED. The writing is crisp, clear, descriptive and powerful. I'll comment more once I'm done.
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Birthday book #2/13 in 2019; "Boyhood" theme

Refresh, refresh
Some boys pass time by fighting each other to get strong, and to prepare themselves against bullies especially after being a victim of bullying at school. They really hurt each other too - hit the kidney and peed blood, hit the arm and can't lift it all week. I thought this admirable - find a solution to your problem. Their description of incapable men - "men who rarely shave and watched daytime tv in their once-white underpants. Men wh
May 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Many of the stories are amazing, including Refresh, Refresh; Whisper; The Faulty Builder. Each story has rich, full characters who want something that's hard to achieve. Percy is the master of scences, sensory details and compelling storylines. If I had any complaint, it would be that some of the stories seemed to long.
Rebecca Plaza
Slight but powerful for the right reader, I think. 3 boys, friends in rural America, all with dads or family serving overseas. They digest their questions and feeling with backyard boxing. Tragedy strikes with a marine at the door.
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
The title story was one of the most masterful short stories I’ve ever read. The rest fell a little short. But I appreciated Percy’s bold, raw, vivid storytelling. And how all the stories taught me something - about hunting or rifles or bears or manhood or grief.
Laurel Kathleen
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Damn, dude. Paints a vivid picture of what it's like having your dad away at war in a modern age.
Mark Hennion
Review forthcoming.
Avery Olmsted
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Refresh Refresh” was absolutely refreshing!
Brad Huestis
Oct 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I liked this collection of stories but they didn’t rise to the level of O’Conner, O’Brien or Klay.
Taken individually, Benjamin Percy’s ability with the short story form is to be greatly admired, but as a short story collection his book of short, literary, blue-collar horror stories, Refresh, Refresh, has its flaws.
Benjamin Percy writes about the tormenting pull of assumed identities and destiny, veterans and violent future recruits, absent and otherwise bad fathers, infertility and failing relationships, and hunting, with a few rare glimmers of love, friendship, and redemption.
This collecti
Oct 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
Tumalo, Oregon is the American frontier of today- far different than the John Wayne, plus sized machismo, and tobacco-spitting Wild West of black and white cowboy movies.

Tumalo has many textures. Good and evil don’t fight each other in horseback showdowns; they are confusedly linked like a jelly fish’s tentacles. Pain and loss live on the surface of daily life.

Percy’s Tumalo is firstly a masculine world. A world of omnipresent blood, of knuckle-tearing and sledgehammer-swinging factory work, s
Nick Schroeder
Sep 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Everything I read in my running magazines says that eastern Oregon, especially around Bend, is a great place to live especially for trail runners. After reading Refresh, Refresh I'm not sure that I would want to go for a run in eastern Oregon, much less on the trails there. Mr. Percy portrays a world east of the Cascades where bad things happen to good people, to bad people, but mostly to very ordinary people. At least on the first impression. Conflict is necessary for any story. What Percy does ...more
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The title story of the collection in the most famous and certainly interesting. In Refresh, Refresh Ben Percy explores two abandoned two young men developing violent predilections. The young adults are trying to feel their way into adulthood without the advice and guidance of the their fathers. The misguided energy of the two friends leads them to embrace the vicious aspects of American culture as they try to assert themselves as men. The young men develop with no immediate adult governance and ...more
Jan 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of Benjamin Percy's superb Refresh, Refresh (and there are many), is his almost encyclopedic knowledge of the stories' settings - the names of things, the geography, the feel of a landscape. I think this knowledge works because he grounds this knowledge so meticulously in the action of story. That is, these descriptions are by no means window dressing used to fatten an otherwise underfed narrative - rather, they move the story forward in ways that would not be p ...more
Apr 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
An excellent collection of 10 short stories by Percy, who writes with such masculinity it seems almost foreign to me. But despite topics such as war, murder, revenge and hunting, his themes are universal.

One of the blurbs on back mentioned Percy's eye for detail, which I found dead-on. The descriptions (yes, there are multiple) of bullets entering a person's brain are chilling. But he has soft touches, too, such as in "The Crash" about a father who lost his wife and struggles to live without he
Apr 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a lot better than I thought it would be, since I think so much fiction is already obsessed with masculinity and I generally think, well, that as a subject it's kind of a reflexive dead end.

But this book, as much as the big M is its subject, varies the formula some by introducing some hardcore genre elements, like in the story "Fallout," which is the first post-apocalyptic story in the midst of a literary collection I can recall, and some stories that are, well, just nasty. "Whisper" is
Dec 01, 2007 rated it it was ok
There is a lot of blood in this book--hunting, fighting, accidents, murders.

My favorite stories were: The Killing, Meltdown, and Refresh, Refresh.

The protagonist of The Killing is exceptionally well etched: a Vietnam vet who keeps his amputated foot in a bucket of formaldehyde in his taxidermy studio in the woods. His grandson is staying with him while his daughter gets pounded on by her latest swaggering boyfriend.

Meltdown dovetails with my apocalypse obsession (thanks for that, Adam Johnson)
Jordan Maieli
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Good Reads
My goodreads book was called Refresh Refresh. By Perry Ponsoldt, Danica Novgorodoff, Benjamin Percy, James Ponsoldt. My book was very different from other books. I enjoyed reading this book. I enjoyed it because this book had images and pictures with text to read almost like a comic book. This made reading the book more enjoyable for me. This book wasn't long and wasn't challenging to read. If you're not a big reader then you would enjoy reading this book.

This book is about a teenage b
Catherine  Mustread
Oct 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories, oregon
Bleak, emotional, and gritty, with a touch of horror – I liked these ten well written "manly" stories -- which include stories about hunting, fishing, revenge against daughter's abusive boyfriend, fathers, sons, work and mates. Love the central Oregon locale. My favorite story, Meltdown, about post-apocalyptic life in Oregon is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy. Although I read in an interview with Percy that he likes to put the strongest stories first in his story collections – he has another book ...more
Sep 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
One of the greatest characteristics of short story collections is the ability to read them in pieces. It's also what makes them easy to come back to: no long commitment, a choice to skip stories you've read before and didn't like, or an even deeper reading of those you have.

Percy's REFRESH,REFRESH benefited greatly from multiple readings. While the first time through I enjoyed the fast pace, and terse, declarative, muscular language, subsequent reads focused on the well-designed structure of th
Courtney Wendleton
Jan 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Choppy and jarring, not just in the story line, but the paragraphs don't seem to flow together in some places. It also jumps tense, one minute they are in the present and then in the same section of story they are in the past. It goes from "We were doing..." to "We all did..." to explain what they were doing now. It reads as if it takes place in the 70's instead of 2000's, we can't get a good read on the boys' ages because one minute they are in high school, then they are out back smoking cigare ...more
Jan 13, 2008 rated it liked it
I may be biased, but I think the title story here is really amazing. The rest of the collection, though, only spottily holds up, with solid and good stories but nothing as mindblowingly good as "Refresh, Refresh." I would still recommend it, though, as I think it gives a really unique take on the war in Iraq -- describing it through the peripheral affects on those it leaves behind and the culture of violence it has both created and has been created by. I also didn't realize at first that this is ...more
Feb 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
I can't remember what led me to get this from the library, but I'm glad I did since I interned at the publisher in college.
These are difficult but powerful stories. They all take place in central Oregon, which, I didn't quite realize, is a very different place from the Portland/Wilamette Valley area I'm familiar with. In a way they explore "maleness" in the 21st century, which often takes a brutal form. Not what I normally enjoy reading but the writing pulled me in.
One thing that struck me was
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Benjamin Percy is the author of four novels, The Dark Net (HMH, 2017), The Dead Lands (Grand Central, 2015), Red Moon (Grand Central, 2013) and The Wilding (Graywolf Press, 2010), as well as two books of short stories -- Refresh, Refresh and The Language of Elk -- and a craft book, Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction. His fiction and nonfiction have been published in Esquire (where he is a contributing e ...more

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