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Breaking It Down

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In Breaking it Down, Rusty Barnes lays bare the lives of the vulnerable as they traverse the difficult paths of love. Short and punchy, these stories show the cumulative effects of heartbreak and simple dreams while keeping a reserve of hope in even the darkest of circumstances.

104 pages, Paperback

First published November 8, 2007

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About the author

Rusty Barnes

45 books206 followers
Rusty Barnes is a 2018 Derringer finalist and author of the story collections Breaking it Down (Sunnyoutside Press 2007) , Mostly Redneck (Sunnyoutside Press 2011), and Kraj The Enforcer: Stories (Shotgun Honey 2019), as well as four novels, Reckoning (Sunnyoutside Press, 2014), Ridgerunner (Shotgun Honey/Down & Out Books, 2017), Knuckledragger (Shotgun Honey/Down & Out Books 2017) and The Last Danger (Shotgun Honey/Down & Out Books 2018), His fiction, poetry and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in many journals and anthologies, like Dirty Boulevard: Crime Stories Inspired by the Songs of Lou Reed (Down & Out Books 2018), Best Small Fictions 2015, Mystery Tribune, Goliad Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Red Rock Review, Porter Gulch Review and Post Road. His poetry collections include On Broad Sound (Nixes Mates Press, 2016) and Jesus in the Ghost Room, (Nixes Mates Press 2017). He founded and edits Tough, a journal of crime fiction and occasional reviews. Find him on Twitter @rustybarnes23

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Displaying 1 - 22 of 22 reviews
Profile Image for Daniel Clausen.
Author 11 books458 followers
July 5, 2016
This slim volume of short stories punches way above its weight.

When I first saw the volume, tiny with multiple flash fiction entries, I thought I would finish the entire thing within an hour or so of reading. I was wrong, and it turned out to be a great thing.

Many of the stories are so lively and dense that it took two readings just to get caught up in the world. And each story, though small, is a different world. The stories don't interconnect, and you have the feeling that the author knows the universe of each story so well that each four page story could be a novel. That being said, there is a distinct voice that runs throughout all of the stories, with common themes--lost love, quiet dignity and indignity, the rise of the meek, subtle revolutions of spirit.

"Gross Imperfections" and "Class" were two of my favorites and will warrant reading and re-reading. I'm sure you will find your own favorites, and read them over and over again.

In short the book is quite an achievement.
Profile Image for Donald.
Author 17 books78 followers
December 7, 2007
I had the pleasure of meeting author Rusty Barnes at the Boxcar Lounge in the East Village recently. This was the first of a new reading series hosted by Tuesday Shorts' Shelly Rich. He read three stories from his book Breaking it Down, an excellent collection of 18 flash fiction stories in a handy pocket-size paperback.

It's truly amazing what Barnes can accomplish with so few words. A story is considered flash fiction if it is not more than 1,000 words, and Barnes uses even less than that at times. But the characters he creates, their worlds and histories, their dreams, hopes, and regrets speak volumes. His prose pulls you right in, as with this opener to "Beamer's Opera":

Every morning when Beamer milked the cows he sang from his favorite operas, attaching the nozzles to their bags and patting them each on the flank, bursting into vibrato-laden songs of despair and longing while his hands were occupied with his very necessary tasks. He imagined the cows with their deep brown eyes and kind souls were listening to him as he roared forth regret and lust and love and sorrow in an alien tongue.

I definitely recommend this book. I couldn't put it down; as soon as I finished one story, I was on to the next before I even realized it. You might say I read this book in a flash. ; )
Profile Image for Theresa.
Author 2 books10 followers
April 3, 2008
Everything about this book will surprise you ~ from its slender, itty-bitty size to the way Rusty Barnes manages to craft 18 stay-with-you-forever stories in less than a hundred of those itty-bitty pages.

When the book arrived, I picked it up and thought I'd run through it quickly ~ in an evening, say. But as I read, I found myself wanting, NEEDING to slow down and wait before moving on. I read "What Needs to Be Done," for instance, and couldn't bring myself to just plunge ahead into the next story. I needed time to rest the book on my lap and just *drift* in Derry's universe for a while. And this kept happening. I'd read a story, chew hard on my big mouth full of WOW, and be reluctant to leave.

And so the little book I thought I'd breeze through ended up taking me eighteen days to finish because why? Because Rusty Barnes is a flash fiction GOD. Seriously. I now officially worship him.

You should too.

Profile Image for Katie Moore.
1 review2 followers
February 26, 2008
Rusty Barnes proves with this gritty collection two very important points. First, that the short story is most assuredly not a dead art form. People, you can stop spreading that lie. Second he firmly shows me, a very picky woman, that a man can write brilliantly in a female voice. Maybe, just maybe, this book has given me a little more hope for the souls of every man. It is vivid and raw, edgy yet classy. I recommend it to my tattoo artist as well as to my mother.
Profile Image for Andrew.
6 reviews4 followers
July 5, 2017
A fantastic collection of flash, with one jewel of a story next to another. The one called "Beamer's Opera" is one of my favorite flashes of all time. Bravo, Rusty Barnes!
Profile Image for Tara.
Author 22 books543 followers
July 7, 2009
I was lucky to get a copy of this beautifully designed book. The stories don't disappoint, either. Barnes has his own voice, something hard to develop, and stories like "Beamer's Opera" and "Dance" stood out for me. Gritty, humanistic, with no pat endings. I look forward to the next book.
Profile Image for Ben.
Author 37 books243 followers
March 23, 2008
Breaking it Down is genius, sort of the drunken bastard child of Breece Pancake and Raymond Carver, and filled with drowned children, adultery, dead dogs and ultrasounds.
Profile Image for Andrea.
954 reviews73 followers
November 26, 2019
I was so interested in reading this book I unknowingly bought it twice. These are great little slice of life stories that pack a punch.
Profile Image for Karen.
Author 5 books48 followers
June 16, 2010
Rusty Barnes' Breaking it Down is a book of flash fiction which explores the lives of rural working class/poor characters. Products of their environments, the characters often seem to be motivated by sex and violence. For example, the main character in the opening story titled "What Needs to Be Done" tolerates her loveless marriage by having an ongoing affair with her husband's youngest brother. In another story, "Thunder & Putsy" the main character loses his hunting dog in a violent "accident."

There's a toughness in Barnes' characters -- it's as if every character is all tough sinew, rugged muscle, taut skin. We never really know for certain what makes these characters do the things they do, but we can certainly guess from their actions -- which may be perceived as desperate or sad. It's as if every character is operating in survival mode -- and survive is what they do: simply making it through each day seems to be the common goal of all the characters found in this collection.

For all fans of flash fiction, Barnes' collection is a must read!

Profile Image for Dylan.
Author 13 books61 followers
August 7, 2008
Rusty Barnes can slip into any skin. He inhabits God as He shakes some paternal passion into Pink--who's got a Harley parked outside the obstetrician's, a pregnant girlfriend in the stirrups, and an unwanted sonogram in his hand. "You are not moving, and I understand that, beause I'm finally getting through to you," says God, who could almost be leaning in the doorway with a beer, "the least little bit of knowledge has cracked your brainpan, and buddy…" Barnes inhabits a husband watching a woman make love to his wife. They're in a bathroom, he's naked, dispossessed, "wondering what, exactly, that it is about the sound of water on porcelain that is so lonely..." Eighteen flash stories shift from desperation to inspiration across 100 palm-sized pages. Full disclosure: my work's been in Night Train magazine, which Barnes edits. Still. Great book.
Profile Image for Timothy.
Author 20 books73 followers
February 12, 2008

The grit of these stories stays with you for a long time, and better yet, these well written micro/flash stories are moving as well as unforgettable. Things are often not what they seem but in very creative ways. They can be opposite of where the reader thinks they are going or completely over the edge of the cliff the reader is balancing on.

The story "Beamer's Opera," is an amazing tapestry of work which can be viewed in more than one way. It, as all 18 of the stories in Breaking It Down, was crafted in only a few pages. “What Needs to Be Done,” the first story in the collection sets the tone, where in this one, a woman who is stuck in a bad marriage with a drunken southern farmer fuels her life with an affair in the barn with the man's son.

Profile Image for Steven.
Author 2 books91 followers
September 20, 2010
Earthy, gritty, and real. These stories and the quality of the prose reminded me of Chris Offutt and Larry Brown.
Profile Image for Donna.
Author 64 books42 followers
January 26, 2008
As I read—or more accurately, devoured—Rusty Barnes’ collection of flash fiction, I couldn’t help thinking of an exquisite Japanese Buddhist meal with its a tray of tiny dishes, each serving up a tidbit of austere, perfectly-crafted, and ultimately enlightening fare. Fresh images and elegant prose make a bracing contrast to the gritty and all-too-real characters who populate these brief tales. Often unable to inarticulate their desires and despair, they ultimately do find the strength to do “what needs to be done” as the title of the opening story suggests. I was particularly impressed with the exploration of sexuality in many of these stories. Adultery, partner-swapping, disappointed housewives taking out their frustration in the arms of visiting handymen—Barnes pierces through the clichés to touch the tender, wounded heart of erotic desire. My only problem was that I found myself racing through the stories to find out what happens next and finished the book all too quickly. This is one of those rare dishes indeed—a literary page-turner. Fortunately, this is a book that will only get better with repeated readings.
Profile Image for Kirsten.
Author 1 book7 followers
February 14, 2008
Many thanks to sunnyoutside for publishing a book I can carry in my back pocket, and to Rusty Barnes for writing such a wonderful collection of stories. The characters in Breaking it Down--a collection of 18 very short stories--live on rural farms as well as behind the facade of well manicured lawns. The writing is sharp and clean, the situations often tragic, and the endings leave me touched by the humanity of characters driven to cheat on partners, ignore phone calls that may be from their child, or remain in unhealthy, even destructive, relationships. The world in Breaking it Down is not a kind place, but it is a striking one filled with heartbreak, loneliness, and imagination. I enjoyed the collection very much.
Profile Image for Samuel Snoek-Brown.
Author 12 books50 followers
March 22, 2014
While these stories are all more vignettes than the fully developed short-shorts of Barnes's stunning Mostly Redneck, all the other Barnes hallmarks are here: the stark but poetic prose, the attention to character detail that feels quaint until it slaps you in the face, the quiet enormity of everyday lives.... It's a fast read, and sometimes it feels too fast, but only because Barnes's writing is addictive and you end each story craving the next fix. Thank goodness I now have Barnes's first novel, Reckoning, to look forward to! In the meantime, this is a beautiful little book -- another gem from both Barnes and sunnyoutside press.
Profile Image for Jayne.
29 reviews66 followers
February 24, 2008
A magnificent read. Barnes' characters are full of longing and hope, even as they stand in dark or bleak places.
Profile Image for Hosho.
Author 31 books86 followers
November 20, 2015
A terse, and well-made collection of stories. It was my first Barnes book--and I'll be getting others!
Profile Image for Rauan.
Author 12 books41 followers
March 8, 2009
A small, but handsome, book of short and hard stories I really enjoyed.
Displaying 1 - 22 of 22 reviews

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