Fiction. "Hard, brilliant, and dark as coal, this brand new and necessary volume captures Appalachia today, a place where the old bedrock verities of family, community, belief, work, and the earth itself are all in painful "Upheaval" to use the title of Chris Holbrook's story herein. From manic to elegiac to rough, raw, beautiful, and heartbreaking, these stories will strike the reader as both absolutely true and as unforgettable, like the high pure ring of an ax on a cold winter morning, vibrating across distance, hanging in the air long afterward" Lee Smith."
Charles Dodd White is the author of four novels, a short story collection, and a memoir. He has received the Appalachian Book of the Year Award and the Chaffin Award for his fiction. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he teaches English at Pellissippi State Community College.
Started reading this collection and realized I'd read it before but had never posted a review (sorry Charles!). Some of the writers I was already familiar with: Rusty Barnes, Chris Offutt, Scott McClanahan, Ron Rash, and John McManus, and it was great to see their stories represented here. Others were new to me and that is the great benefit of a collection such as this: to find kindred spirits to writers you already enjoy. So this collection introduced me to: Sheldon Lee Compton, Alex Taylor, Chris Holbrook, Crystal Wilkinson, and Mindy Beth Miller and I've bought books by some of them. The writing in all of these stories is superb, that is almost a given in this kind of collection, so really you cannot go wrong by buying and delving into this one. What interests me is the regional focus. I live on the water on an island in the Pacific Northwest. Appalachia is in some ways as remote as India. So just the focus on a different way of life is exciting to me. Although, funnily enough, not forty miles away, in the foothills of the cascade mountains, we have a town known for its "tar heels." The vegetation is different, but maybe not so much else! And that is one thing this collection reinforces: as different as we are in some of our regional peculiarities, in the big picture, regardless where we live, we all share the same basic human concerns.
This collection had a few stories I really loved and lots that were so so. The underlying themes were poverty, depravation, and violence. I wish I could be more positive about the collection, but I honestly could not recommend it to anyone and I was just glad to finish!
This collection brings together some of the finest voices in American fiction. Specifically, these are the voices of a fascinating region: Appalachia. The publisher, Bottom Dog Press, has brought forth some stunning work from this region, and it is mighty important material - perhaps one of the most important areas of regional fiction, a region too often overlooked.
I reviewed this collection when it was published, for the New York Journal of Books. Here is some of what I said at the time: "Degrees of Elevation: Short Stories of Contemporary Appalachia brings together 17 gifted writers whose voices are as unique and striking as the region about which they write.
Editors Charles Dodd White and Page Seay have gathered some of the finest storytellers of this region, some writers, in White’s words, “not yet established” and others whose names will be recognized. Ron Rash, for instance, was recently awarded the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award for his own collection of short stories. But whether these writers are still emerging, or whether they have managed to move beyond regional recognition, each casts an unflinching eye toward a region of America that exists in the mists for most of us, offering us glimpses of its raw reality. The lives and choices written about in this collection are hard-edged; there is no romanticizing."
This is an excellent collection, well-constructed by Charles Dodd White, who himself is an exceptionally talented writer from the region. It really belongs on everyone's bookshelf, if you care about high-quality literary fiction.
Quotable: I knew about Tallboy’s group therapy. I knew he’d met his girlfriend, Chelsea, there. Miss Mattie said it wasn’t helping him none to sit around with people as bad off in the head as he was.
Anger management classes after the divorce had taught him only one thing – everybody was angry at something, just some more than others. But it was always something, and usually that something was small at first before it caught fire enough to burn entire towns, entire families, into heaps of ash. By then, it was always too late. Always too late.
Top fiction from a region of writers and storytellers. Charles Dodd White and Page Seay do an excellent job of bringing the world of Appalachia today to the front. Fine writers include Silas House, Chris Holbrook, Ron Rash, and others. Highly recommended.
There are some wonderful stories by many authors I didn't know. Short stories are not popular, but this is definitely a collection worth reading. I don't think literature from this geographical area of the US gets the attention it deserves.
We picked this set of short stories to read in our local bookclub because we had previous read longer works by Ron Rash, Chris Offet, and Silas House -- also, it is fun to mix in a set of short stories once a year, to mix up the discussion group a little bit.
I don't know how to describe the set of stories other than saying, in most of them, it is more like a glimpse of life than the full story. You jump right in and then the door is shut before you know what's happening. All of us felt like we were eavesdropping on a life almost, unsure how the story would end, but in every case, sure it wouldn't end well.
Contemporary Appalachia. Gritty, raw, at times riveting. Truly a patchwork of short stories, 16 authors offering up a mix of beauty, truth, despair, drugs and everyday life. Rating this book is unfair to some of the writers; some were outstanding, some average, some too mediocre. Overall, three stars average. A few of the stories were so pure Appalachia, which I read this book for. Others could have taken place in Any Town, USA. Degrees of Elevation. Personally, that describes the varying degrees of the authors' abilities to intrigue the readers. The few good ones were great!