The mood of these six long, finely-written stories from Howard (Tea of Ulaanbaatar) is dark, sordid, and desperate. In the first, "Darkstar," Sailor, born to a prostitute and a "motionless cripple" in contemporary Dublin, seeks answers in what he believes are apocalyptical astronomical events, drawing him deeper into a world of violence and futility. In "Intelligent People Speaking Reasonably," two veterans of the Iraq War marvel at a rural American landscape "untouched by war" and question heroism. Another Iraq War story, "How to Make Millions in the Oil Market," gives the perspective of a modern mercenary: "Blackwater paid five times his Army salary, and people yelled at you a lot less." The most disturbing, and uneven, story in the collection is "Son of Man." Based on Charles Manson's cult, the story suggests a degree of government complicity in the heinous crimes. The title story, another novella-length piece, begins in 1818 and tells the heartbreaking tale of Labelle, a mixed-race orphan journeying up the Mississippi. Unsettled by the rise of technology, he comes to assert that "the Age of Man was expiring." Howard's characters live at the mercy of forces much larger than themselves. The collection etches a disturbing, unsettling vision, told with a brave, unflinching perspective that will unfortunately limit the book's audience. (Jan.)
In these six stories, Chris Howard reasserts his talent for evoking the gritty and the apocalyptic with poetic grace.
Intelligent People Speaking Reasonably follows two Iraq vets adrift in the civilian life of the Pacific Northwest.
Space is Kindness witnesses the unexpected death of Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan from the perspective of a local reporter and a photographer rushing to the crash-site in 2000.
Darkstar takes place in Dublin and follows a young outcast named Sailor through grimy, pre Apocalyptic streets as he tries to find the soulmate he hasn't seen since childhood.
Son of Man tells the story of the Manson family from the perspective of one of its members.
How to Make Millions in the Oil Market contemplates the absurdity of war from the point of view of a Blackwater contractor first in the chaos of Iraq and later in the relative peace of the US.
The epictitle story Prince of the World follows a mixed-race orphan named Labelle as he wanders north along the Mississippi, ultimately caught in the infamous Starved Rock Massacre in Howard's home-state of Illinois.
With a rich blend of sardonic wit and ethical outrage, an unflinching eye for sensory nuance both grotesque and sublime, and a lucid prose that suggests a more cosmopolitan Cormac McCarthy, Howard is probably the greatest literary prophet of doom we have working.” –Jeanne Thornton, author of The Dream of Doctor Bantam
“At his best, Howard can be a truly hypnotic writer ... [who] leaves the reader thirsty for his next work.” –Boston Globe
“Literary stories exploring the dark, cruel borders of realism.” –Kirkus Reviews
Howard (Tea of Ulaanbaatar, 2011) returns with a collection of seven short stories. Howard's imaginative and mortality-obsessed collection opens with "Darkstar," a pre-apocalyptic tale set in dank, dystopian Dublin. Mankind awaits a star's Earth-destroying gamma-ray burst. In lushly descriptive writing--"The web was backlit by the sunset and beads of moisture glistened along its quivering, intricate symmetry"--a young man called Sailor scrounges, nearly starves, becomes half-blind and finds love, solace and understanding only from Liz, a leg-brace–wearing girl whose appliance is surely symbolic of something twisted. "Intelligent People Speaking Reasonably" and "How to Make Millions in the Oil Market" separately explore angst, loss and PTSD. In the first, Chavez and Berryman, wounded Iraqi War veterans awaiting discharge, contemplate their captain's death. In the second, a contract security guard survives a firefight in Iraq, the culmination of which haunts him past divorce and into the arms of a young college student. "Space Is Kindness" follows a jaded reporter as he visits the plane crash site where a state governor has died. His rain-soaked journey becomes a trip through cynicism and ennui shadowed against his companion's nihilism. "Son of Man," fourth in the collection, finds taciturn Vietnam veteran Buzz working as a mechanic for the murderous Manson family. Buzz is a narc, a missive from a phantasmagoric government agency that realizes Charles Manson is the unintended spawn of an experiment gone rogue. The collection concludes with "Prince of the World," a McCarthy-Blood-Meridian-brutal American frontier tale. In 1818, Labelle, half-breed "manchild" of "a scrubber of floors and a beggar and pickpocket and other things," treks north from New Orleans after his mother's death. He encounters mayhem, murder, lynchings at the hands of city mobs, trappers, rogue Shawnees, boatmen and river pirates before he's finally caught up in a merciless, barbarous tribal war-- "leaking red waistcoats…limbs mangled in impossible poses." Literary stories exploring the dark, cruel borders of realism.
|Publisher:||Seven Stories Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)|