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Allegheny Front

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  210 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Set in the author's homeland of West Virginia, this panoramic collection of stories traces the people and animals who live in precarious balance in the mountains of Appalachia over a span of two hundred years, in a disappearing rural world. With omniscient narration, rich detail, and lyrical prose, Matthew Neill Null brings his landscape and characters vividly to life. ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published May 10th 2016 by Sarabande Books
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Average rating 4.06  · 
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Richard Derus
May 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My new review! ALLEGHENY FRONT by Matthew Neill Null

My first monthly short-story collection review for The Oak Wheel! Since this is National Short Story Month, a few other favorites might appear as well. Sarabande Books and Matthew Neill Null collaborated to produce a beautiful book, and a beautiful literary work. Lydia Millet deserves our thanks for selecting ALLEGHENY FRONT as the 2016 Mary McCarthy Prize for Short Fiction.

I'll post the whole review next week sometim
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When I was a grad student, I taught a course in creative writing. The first day I had the students write me a letter about their writing experience. One fellow, a freshman, wrote, "I like to go for the guts!" I spent the the better part of the semester trying to persuade him that in fiction the relationship between viscera and a visceral response in the reader is a tricky one. Not necessarily inverse, but not quite complementary either. Regardless, he kept drenching his prose in blood, sweat, te ...more
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is what a short story collection should be. Varied, gritty, unpredictable, concise, clever, and heavily rooted in place. Clearly written by someone "from there"- much like Silas House can write of somewhere, in full disclosure, without demeaning the parts others would leverage in purely stereotypical ways. Except this West Virginia is much rawer than Silas House's version of Kentucky (not to say it is, but it's certainly written that way).

Favorites were "Gauley Season", "The Island in the
Courtney Brown
A near perfect collection.
lucky little cat
These stories are grim, authentic, elegant, spare. They will stay with you: I belatedly (one page in) recognized one that was previously published three years ago. I'd read it once, recalled it vividly, and now that I've read it twice it'll undoubtedly be with me for a lifetime. Totally worth it for writing this good. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to find someone who loves me and get him to hold me. Now. ...more
Jun 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Although I've spent precious little time in West Virginia, these stories gave me an appreciation for its condition in the early 21st century. Modern industry and land use have destroyed the natural habitat for many native creatures, and in the process disrupted the traditional ways of life for people in the region, which included farming, hunting, and fishing. The demise of mining and manufacturing has now left many of those people without meaningful employment, consigning them to low-end servic ...more
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Another short story collection that blew me away this year. VERY gritty and displayed much of what I dislike about people. This is rugged terrain and men kill one another but they kill animals more. Don't let that turn you away, though. Well, maybe it might. Lidia Millet's introduction to the book sums up the collection perfectly. Read it. If you are still turned off, then fine. But I bet her exquisite words will make you want to turn the page and venture into this world.

*Also, I can't express
Jun 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the best new short fiction writers of the last few years now has a collection out. Deep, dark, Appalachian Gothic.
Jun 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Loved it. Really well written. It reminded me why I love the Allegheny Mountains and short stories so much.
Sep 12, 2016 rated it liked it
The wild wild West Virginia.
Bears, birds and bumpkin bravado.
All fine writ in mountain style.
Brett Beach
Mar 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In Allegheny Front, Matthew Neill Null’s first story collection and the winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, the author returns to the West Virginia territory he mined so beautifully in his thrilling first novel, Honey from the Lion. “The bolderfields, the spaces empty of people—a lonesomeness city-dwellers could never comprehend,” he writes of the setting. “Sometimes it seems you know animals more intimately than people.” In these nine stories, Null continues the work he began in ...more
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
DNF, and surprisingly so... i enjoyed Null's 'Honey From The Lion' immensely, but he is hardly the first author to succeed at the novel and fail at the short story for me (i find that short stories are much harder to master than the novel, less room for error and less space to display and fine tune one's talents)... i think the short story crushes Null's depth, as it lacks the space for him to develop and elucidate and describe... he seems to know his subjects well, but for me he tries to put to ...more
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I give this a 4 because I recognize that it is fantastic writing but I'm adding the caveat that the subject matter is not my usual cup of tea. It's out of my comfort zone, a really powerful read, but it took me three months to get through this 165 page book. This is a - for lack of a better descriptor - mountain manly collection of short stories. It's about bear hunting, and log running, and mining, pioneers, and hard living people in gritty settings. It's also about nature and female scientists ...more
Brett Starr
Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A book that has been on my "to read" list for awhile. Finally sat down with it & I was very impressed.

All 9 stories in "Allegheny Front" take place outside & involve animals; natural and human. These stories involve nature, rivers, disease, hunting, logging.

This collection of stories is very well written & researched. The stories range from 4 pgs in length, several are 20 pgs in length, with the longest being 32 pgs.

My favorites included -

Something You Cant Live Without
The Slow Lean of
Jody Sperling
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
The logging story, the bear story, and the other bear story with the murderer were all amazing works of art. "In the Second District" is unforgettable. The tone of that story is different than each story in the book with crisp clean lines and vivid imagery. The narrator felt so personal and so real. ...more
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
1.5 stars. I just couldn’t get into the stories.
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
These are amazing short stories, often grim but alive with the natural world and the language of the people of the mountains and the hollows. Not patronizing, Null knows these people and beautifully writes of their reality past and present. His characters have a deeply felt sense of place, one that it is not at odds with the need to exploit all things wild and beautiful for survival. The book gives insight into people from a part of America that voted for Trump, people who don't often see themse ...more
H R Koelling
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such an amazing collection of short stories. Some of the best fiction I've read in a very long time.

The author's inclusion of, and appreciation for, our natural surroundings breathed an extra dimension of life into these stories. There aren't many authors, outside of those who write exclusively about their interactions with nature, who can so seamlessly weave the behaviors and pervasive presence of animals, birds, and fish so effortlessly and beautifully into a character's narrative experience l
Corielle Hayley
Jun 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I bet you'll see this one on a lot of best-of lists this year, if you haven't already. It just came out, but it's had a lot of hype -- and it lives up to it!

"She was charmed by the motions of trout. How they take their forms from the pressures of another world, the cold forge of water. Their drift, their mystery, the way they turn and let the current take them, take them, with passive grace. They turn again, tumbling like leaves, then straighten with mouths pointing upstream, to better sip a may
Ryan Mishap
Jul 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
With gorgeous description and nuanced depth, Null brings to life the animals and landscapes of the titular area and the roles and subsequent choices people play when interacting with nature and each other.

I feel like I want to unpack each story individually, but I promised that my Goodreads reviews would remain short.

That said, these stories have layers, great writing, interesting story-lines and you should be reading this right now.

The only thing that kept it from 5 stars was that the depth and
Sep 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Another book I grabbed based on the cover. I loved the graphic and textural quality. I was not prepared for a book of short stories introducing me to the hard side of nature. Though some of them made me cringe, I was left fairly satisfied at each end. Overall, I enjoyed this book. Though I wouldn't say that I'd have read it on purpose, knowing what it was. ...more
Aug 07, 2016 rated it did not like it
08.07.2016 NY Times "Southern Fiction" Shortlist recommendation; not at any Madison Co. Libraries;
12.31.2018 I am not sure when, but years ago I got this novel via InterLibrary Loan and couldn't finish it
Dec 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
A really good collection of stories set in rural areas of West Virginia. Different time periods and life paths, with the converging themes of living off the land and interacting with animals. And showing us city folk how the rural people live.
Billie Hinton
May 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Reviewed for
Jeff Duffield
May 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
This fella wants to be Breece D'J Pancake. He doesn't quite get there, but he comes close at times. Well worth a read. ...more
Aug 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Chilling, brutal and beautiful. A spare yet revealing portrait of a corner of the world and the people that inhabit it.
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I feel the author did a fine job in describing the terrain of West Virginia but the stories were so incredibly boring that this should be a one star review.
Lauren Mach
Nov 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the best collections of short stories I have ever read. I refreshingly brutal and honest look at life in rural West Virginia.
Carla Lovell
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Whew! That was dark but well written!
Apr 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: new-lit
West Virginia is trendy now. I thought that there was too much detail and trying too hard to be real West Virginia, it got in the way of the story. The stories and characters are good, but they could be cut in half and be more powerful.
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Matthew Neill Null is a writer from West Virginia, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a winner of the O. Henry Award, the Mary McCarthy Prize, and the Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is author of the novel HONEY FROM THE LION and the story collection ALLEGHENY FRONT.

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“For a long while, he sat on the steps and sharpened the chain-saw blade with a round file, dipping it in bar-and-chain oil and raking it over each tooth with sleek, grating sounds. He lost himself in the rhythm of the labor. A victory over tears is a small thing, but it was his. The sky went from indigo to blackness, and he saw nothing ominous in it, nothing but cold stars wheeling in their course, a course determined by the same firm hand he hoped was guiding his own. But satellites, too, crossed the sky in sly, winking arcs. Sull knew that. He could not let himself be confounded. He went inside, to sleep beside his wife.” 1 likes
“{W}hy did she go into the field? A twinge of pleasure, of knowledge. Her dad would pull over to the side of a bridge, and they would watch from above, before he slipped down the bank to catch them. She was charmed by the motions of trout. How they take their forms from the pressures of another world, the cold forge of water. Their drift, their mystery, the way they turn and let the current take them, take them, with passive grace. They turn again, tumbling like leaves, then straighten with mouths pointing upstream, to better sip a mayfly, to root up nymphs, to watch for the flash of a heron's bill. The current always trues them, like compass needles. When she watches them, she feels wise.” 0 likes
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