man, ron rash is good.
of all the people who write that appalachia-desperation stuff i eat up with a spoon, his writing is just head and shoulders above his peers. he is both muscular and fragile, with a blink-and-you-miss-it quietude. for short stories to have this much depth and impact that they simply haunt the reader…it is quite impressive.
these stories span time and theme, although there are elements that recur: escape, regret, nostalgia, yearning…the typical themes of this kind of literature, to be sure, but rash is just so adept at handling them, they feel fresh and new in his hands.
they are full of people trying to improve their situations, frequently by cutting corners: gambling, stealing, murdering, running away, but this is not a collection of stories about shiftless criminals. there are also stories of great tenderness and sacrifices made for children, for congregants, for former lovers… and even the stories about people who make questionable moral decisions are so sympathetically written, it fills the brain-heart. you mostly want these characters to succeed, to break out of their situations. there is no judgment here; rash is a storyteller, not a moralist. he is a quiet observer and creator.
my favorite stories were cherokee, where the map ends, a servant of history, a sort of miracle, those who are dead are only now forgiven, and three a.m. and the stars were out. but the magic bus has such a great ending line, which can kind of stand as a summary of the collection:View Spoiler »Below, the cow had left the spring trough and stood by the barn’s ashes, waiting to be milked, not knowing where else to go. « Hide Spoiler
not really a spoiler, but some people are sensitive to that kind of thing.
will wrote a much better review for this book, so you should go read his instead.
and in his review, he quotes this passage, which also struck me when i was reading it:
Jody had watched other classmates, including many in college prep, enter such a life with an impatient fatalism. They got pregnant or arrested or simply dropped out. Some boys, more defiant, filled the junkyards with crushed metal. Crosses garlanded with flowers and keepsakes marked roadsides where they’d died. You could see it coming in the smirking yearbook photos they left behind.
which reminded me so much of sweat by oingo boingo (although i prefer country sweat, which doesn’t seem to be on the youtube) i just love stories about the destruction of the promise of youth and the reality of failure. it feels familiar, for some reason. dink! (that is the sound of me ruefully forced-grinning and my dimple popping)
why no five
stars cats, brissette?
i dunno. maybe i am being an exhausted retail-worker. let’s call it four and a half. it’s all arbitrary, anyway.
you can read this in march. unless you are laima, and then you can read it when i send it to you.