Each of the crystalline worlds Cary Holladay brings us in the short stories and novella that make up Brides in the Sky has sisterhood, in all its urgency and peril, at its heart. In the title story, two women in 1850s Virginia marry brothers who promptly uproot them to follow the Oregon Trail west, until an unexpected shift of allegiance separates the sisters forever. Elsewhere in the book, a young boy’s kidnapping ignites tensions in a sorority house; frontier figure Cynthia Ann Parker struggles upon her return to her birth community from the Comanche people with whom she’s lived a full life; and in a metafictional twist, a gothic tale resonates in the present. In the novella, “A Thousand Stings,” three sisters come of age in the 1960s over a long summer of small-town scandal and universal stakes. These are just some of the lives, shaped by migrations, yearning, and the long shadows of myth, that Holladay creates. She crafts them with subtle humor, a stunning sense of place, and an unerring eye for character.
Brother's Ghost: A Novella
Stephen Spotte Northwestern University Press, 2012 Library of Congress PS3569.P625B76 2012 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
When the young narrator of Brother’s Ghost happens upon a warehouse filled with corpses of the “disappeared ones,” victims of his country’s brutal military regime, he is forced to flee his home and family and strike out for the interior. There he reunites with his long-estranged mother, a member of an indigenous tribe of Indians living deep in the tropical rainforest. Mistaken for the ghost of his deceased twin brother, the narrator takes his brother’s place in tribal society, learning to hunt and fight but never escaping the memory of his former life in the city. Scientist and author Stephen Spotte’s compact tale captures the tensions of this unnamed South American country, of its cities and interior, and the confusion of straddling two cultures while belonging to neither.
Set primarily in the lonesome southwest desert lands of the 1920s, this novella is a powerful story in which landscape reflects and defines character. In this beautifully written tale, a promising young politician, Grant Arliss, flees from this pressure-ridden life in New York City to the serenity of the desert’s open spaces.
There, he finds not only a place to sort out his confusion but also a remarkable woman, unlike any he has met. In his eyes, Dulcie Adelaid is an aloof creature of the desert who relies only on herself. Challenged and yet inhibited by the desert’s unrelenting force, Arliss admires Dulcie’s instinctive ability to thrive in the harsh country. She also provides a spiritual sustenance that he has never found with any other woman. Together they engage in lively conversations about his political convictions and her beliefs and values. Inspired, Arliss returns to New York where he delivers eloquent speeches to an overwhelmingly supportive constituency.
Placing Cactus Thorn in biographical, feminist, and literary perspective, Melody Graulich's commentary discusses how Austin’s themes are timeless in setting and moral tone. Foreword and afterword by Melody Graulich.
Dramatically compelling and historically informed, The Death of a Confederate Colonel takes us into the lives of those left behind during the Civil War. These stories, all with Arkansas settings, are filled with the trauma of the time. They tell of a Confederate woman’s care of and growing affection for a wounded Union soldier, a plantation mistress’s singular love for a sick slave child, and an eight-year-old girl’s fight for survival against frigid cold, injury, starvation, heartbreak, and lawlessness. Here are women holding down the home front with heroism and loyalty, or, sometimes, with weakness and duplicity. Will a young belle remain loyal to her wounded fiance? How long can a caring nurse hold her finger on a severed artery? And how does anyone comprehend the legacy of slavery and the brutality of war? The Death of a Confederate Colonel triumphs in its portrayal of desperate circumstances coated in the patina of the Civil War era, the complexity of ordinary people confronting situations that change them forever.
Hailed as one of the most important Hispanic writers of his generation, Ilan Stavans is a celebrated storyteller whose work has been translated into a dozen languages and has garnered numerous international awards. The Disappearance: A Novella and Stories contains three masterful gems. The novella, “Morirse está en hebreo,” is a thought-provoking meditation on continuity and tradition among Mexican Jews; “Xerox Man” is an intriguing story about a book thief with a bizarre theological obsession; and the title story, “The Disappearance,” is the resonant tale of a Belgian actor who kidnaps himself in an attempt to respond to neo-Nazi groups. Together, these three pieces offer an unforeseen vista of Jewish-Hispanic relations and confirm Stavans’ reputation as an original literary voice.
A collection of related stories that deal with the anxiety, pain, and ennui of addiction and withdrawal
Drain Songs gathers five stories and a novella focused on the many trials of modern life—addiction and depression, mania and disorder, attempts and failure at keeping the worst at bay. Grant Maierhofer’s stories focus on characters in varying states of disarray and stuckness, continuing his literary project of analyzing lives on the fringes of sanity and society. The novella “Drain Songs” is a harrowing narrative focused squarely on addiction and recovery, twelve-step programs, and codependency.
In all of these tales, Maierhofer takes a bee’s-eye view of protagonists from all walks of life, from the working class to the academy, from janitors to professors, embodying the commonalities of men and women struggling with very fundamental elements of survival, perspective, and identity—attempts formal and informal to contend with the trials that forever engage and perplex humanity.
His evocative prose conveys both despair and resignation as well as stultifying, brain-deadening routine and repetition. Still, these stories transcend angst and tilt toward agony and ecstasy and the hope of redemption.
Dust Devils: (A Novella)
Robert Laxalt University of Nevada Press, 1997 Library of Congress PS3562.A9525D8 1997 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
An action-packed story set during the violent and conflict-ridden days of the early 20th century, Dust Devils takes place in the rugged mountains and deserts of Eastern California and Northern Nevada. Ira Hamilton, the teenage son of rugged Indian-hating rancher John D. Hamilton, wins the bronc-riding competition at a local rodeo and comes away with a special prize: a beautiful Arabian colt. But the horse is soon stolen by Hawkeye, a notorious local rustler. Accompanied by Cricket, a young Paiute who has been his closest companion since infancy, Ira vows to retrieve his prize. On the way, Ira must find the courage to overcome the challenges of nature and outlaw, and to love the woman of his choice. This vivid tale will thrill readers with its authentic depiction of Nevada's lonely back country, its hardy ranchers, and its native peoples. Ira Hamilton's adventure shows us the last days of the Old West, when cowboys, sheepmen, and Indians still struggled to survive and overcome their long-standing animosities, and violent men rode boldly and unhindered across the harsh landscape.
Greetings from Cutler County is both a nonstop ride of tragic hilarity, and a piercing look at the complexities of youth.
In one northern Michigan community the lives of desperate small-town dreamers are examined through an ensemble cast as earnest as they are outrageous, and as compelling as they are heartbreaking. The lovers, crooks, failures, and survivors of Cutler County are so flawed and genuine you can't help rooting for them-no matter how foolish or hopeless their pursuits may seem.
The stories take place in Cutler County, Michigan. Most of the characters are young men who think of themselves as losers and outsiders. Short on cash, popularity, and the ambition needed for success, they nevertheless are able to examine their failings with the self-knowing humor and resignation of the perpetually thwarted ne'er-do-well.
The stories are inseparable from the stark shoreline of their Lake Michigan settings-the cavernous woods and vast inland lakes that shape life in northern Michigan-and create a landscape as rugged and dramatic as youth itself. Greetings from Cutler County explores the common triumphs and tragedies of coming of age, while providing a rationale and humor that is uniquely and unforgettably its own.
This work by Diane Williams delves into the strange relationships of men and women. From marital betrayal to spousal abuse and unrelenting desire, Williams illuminates the lives of her characters in prose as sparse and stark as it is beautiful. These stories are as short as prose poems and as complex as novels. In them, meanings remain ambiguous and consequences seem uncertain. In the novella “On Sexual Strength” she describes the intense and sometimes strange relationship between two neighboring couples and the rage that comes with adultery, and a narrator whose social inadequacies and lack of inhibitions lead to destruction.
The world Williams creates is a sensual place where quiet epiphanies—such as the one that occurs after an extramarital affair— are also possible: “It was like
My Trying to Have a Tender-Hearted nature. This is how love can be featured.” Such flashes of insight and emotion glue together the fragments of life Williams lays before the reader, and the reader rejoices at the revelations.
The novella and two short stories that make up this volume were written at three different periods in Makanin's life, yet they are united by their narrative and stylistic invention, their range of human emotion, and the profound humanity of their prose. Though banished and suppressed in the Brezhnev era, Makanin is now recognized as one of Russia's leading writers.
In his celebrated short story "The Prisoner of the Caucasus," two Russian soldiers take a Chechen prisoner during the war, and as events unfold, Makanin reveals the casual brutality of the war but also the secret truths of the character's lives. In the novella The Loss, Pekalov, a drunkard and dreamer obsessed with the idea of building a tunnel under the Ural River, disappears in a ditch while working and is made a saint by the people of his village. "Klyucharyov and Alimushkin" tells the story of what happens when one man becomes remarkably lucky while the other loses all his luck.
Set in the Middle Ages but written in the early twentieth century, Eça de Queirós's novella, Saint Christopher, is a powerful indictment of those who profess the value of morality but who do not practice it. The narrative is just as relevant today -- when issues of religion, hypocrisy, and social justice are more urgent than ever -- as it was when it first appeared in 1912. Written as though it were the product of a dialogue between Jesus and Proudhon (whose theories animate much of the narrative), Saint Christopher challenges today's ethically motivated reader to do what the narrative's protagonist does, that is, take up the cause of the wretched and abused of this earth.
Walking: A Novella
Thomas Bernhard University of Chicago Press, 2015 Library of Congress PT2662.E7G413 2015 | Dewey Decimal 833.914
Thomas Bernhard is “one of the masters of contemporary European fiction” (George Steiner); “one of the century’s most gifted writers” (Newsday); “a virtuoso of rancor and rage” (Bookforum). And although he is favorably compared with Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, and Robert Musil, it is only in recent years that he has gained a devoted cult following in America.
A powerful, compact novella, Walking provides a perfect introduction to the absurd, dark, and uncommonly comic world of Bernhard, showing a preoccupation with themes—illness and madness, isolation, tragic friendships—that would obsess Bernhard throughout his career. Walking records the conversations of the unnamed narrator and his friend Oehler while they walk, discussing anything that comes to mind but always circling back to their mutual friend Karrer, who has gone irrevocably mad. Perhaps the most overtly philosophical work in Bernhard’s highly philosophical oeuvre, Walking provides a penetrating meditation on the impossibility of truly thinking.