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It begins with two words THE DECLIVITY and in the stark brutality of those capitals one word small and common the other strange self consciously artful in its unfamiliarity the reader feels the beads of sweat prinking into glistening existence on his soon to be furrowed brow for by those two words and those two words alone he knows he is in the grip of Great American Literature remorseless and unforgiving in its brooding power drawn from the primeval heart of that young dark continent yearning to be read aloud in that slow aconic Lake Wobegon accent that makes almost any prose sound profound as The Wolfs Healing Touch (Wolves of Stone Ridge long as the adjectives are as rich as tar the metaphors as obscure as an Indiana railrodder and the sentencesong impossibly The Draft long 250 words in places homecoming uilts of subordinate clauses stitchedovingly together with straining semicolons curt m dashes and parentheses in an affected Jack Kerouac stream of consciousness that makes you ask how something however well executed could be called ground breaking if it harks back to a style that came into vogue 50 years ago and has antecedents an ocean and a century away in James Joyce full of attention to the minutest detail full of nothing BUT detail in fact psychological in its intensity Bible Prophecy looking not at events but at those mundane moments that call to mind crystallize in fact those defining moments of death sorrow and yearningong past and all performed with art and style the beautiful tension of holding together such an impossible sentence structure without which Great American Literature is simply impossible the Wile E Coyote running on air or the infinite poise of Muhammad Ali frozen in time the intense anticipation of the blow that never fell could never fall would spoil the moment but the beauty of the possibility in its grace that makes the world gasp hold its breath and Means succeeds he does it just not uite triumphantly but beautifully artfully gracefully as the cascade of syllables becomes a crescendo of art O THE DECLIVITY THE DECLIVITY the reader gasps at the audacity pretentiousness perhaps yet is suspended almost frozen in that beautiful moment then is released from the spell reaches for his coffee and approaches the next word An interesting exploration of where you can take short stories in terms of point of view structure etc It felt a Yaratma Cesareti little forced at times though Aiterary experimentation An opportunity for the writer to demonstrate how uniue uirky and elegant his characters view of the world was although ifonce I was in their heads it all felt too similar in tone and elouence and failed to allow me to engage with the character on the emotional The Astral Codex level Most of the stories somehoweft me feeling dissatisfied hence the three starsSaying that there are some to die for descriptions For example this one from The Grip although it s somehow ill fitting with the 20 year old hard up character who s observing itThe night took on vast grand proportions the night was iuid and runny stretched taught until it was no than a thin strand of hot white burning his foot and palmAnother beautiful description although one that seemed just a ittle too flowery for the character from TahorahHe got a vision of her at the cabin they rented upstate down by the water toking on hand rolled smokes and drinking beer until they ended up in the bed a rattling iron thing with their clothing off and only that pale summer twilight half there half gone making their skin smooth as whole milk such a wonderful smoothness he recalled especially at the flat of her belly going down to the pubis bone the hard ridge on both sides and with the breeze Story of the Liberty Bell like that not too hot or too cool coming through the screensAlso this one from The Interruption wasovelyInside the shelter headlights bled Fake Mustache likeong sizzling Desert Rose and Her Highfalutin Hog lines of melting ice across the milky PlexiglassI definitelyearned a ot from David s ability to perfectly capture gestures with simple descriptionsEven in the firelight you could see that they were all four skinny in that deprived way knotty with muscles and the blue grey shadows of various tattoos The one who spotted him had just taken a ong draw from a uart bottle of beer and was gasping for breathJesus shit he spoke softly wiping back a Hey Wait a Minute! Five Rough and Reluctant Sex Erotica Stories long black clump of hair from his faceThe fuck s this another said parting hisegs a bit as if to hold steady against an oncoming force His jackboots crunched on the ballast He pressed his hands flat against each side of his waist One of the others stationed himself to the side running his own palms over the smooth shorn surface of his scalp in a repeated motion half fidget and half habitThere are a few stories that really stood out to me in this book I iked The Gesture Hunter although it reminded me of Aimee Bender and I suspect she would have carried it off in a enchanting satisfying way Still there were some ovely moments in itA man and a woman embraced by grief Embracing The man in a sports coat and blue jeans with that stooped expression slightly bent beneath some gravitational weight of his own grief the woman in a ong violet dress tightening then oosening against her hips as the breeze rippled the fabric those hips I Ethical Responsiveness and the Politics of Difference ll never forget I suppose juttingightly against his own as much a part of the embrace as anything She bent and shifted with the great forces against her the way someone on the deck of a boat must adjust himself to the changing horizon it was right there before me the gyroscope of their pain holding the gesture making it as pure as carved stone petrified forever the brass rails holding up the canopy overhead green and white striped Suddenly a blinding purplish brilliance The scarecrow lit the front of the parlour afireand this one about the Gesture Hunter s baby son in the baththe most beautiful sight in the world The water boiled up around his fist The slick oilyight slide off his skin His smiling face Elizabeth Cady Stanton looked up at me and his tiny fleck of hairay pasted to his scalp while my wife behind me in the hall softly folded a towel over her arm and outside the summer air moved tain. In his award winning second collection David Means explores the fragility of those thin.
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O resonate with the reader In this story the narrator is seeking redemption for some distance misdemeanours committed against the outcast to try and purge himself of his past and project this better fully formed adult onto the present and seek forgiveness from Sam Whilst the sentiments of the narrator can be appreciated there is a feeling that his efforts will ultimately be futile and his guilt will never be assuagedWith the possible exception of The Grip an account of a man s pride of his physical endurance and the comical What I Hope For which seems to parody tales of relentless After the End loveliness the stories are saturated with melancholy with characters tormented or confronted by tragic events Railroad Incident August 1995 is a disturbing depiction of urban brutality where a once seemingly successful man collides with the dispossessed What They Did is tale of corporate irresponsibility where the feelings of victims are starkly contrasted with the emotional detachment of business organisationsIn short this is an exuisite beautifully crafted collection of stories which deal with the tragedies and emotions that are a mark of human existence Means in economical but profound prose is able to establish characters and events that generate empathy sympathy and sadness It is no exaggeration to suggest that Means if he can maintain this standard should be in the pantheon of great American short story writers What an amazing talent Why had I not heard of this authorWhen aocal book store had a closing down sale in 2013 I went in and bought every unread book on my 3000 The Doll and Her Friends (1893) list of great works ofiterature Sadly I earnt of the sale only a week before they closed and the Classics shelves had already been mostly emptied but I did end up buying over 100 books many of which I was unfamiliar with This short story collection was on the ist having earned its place via two major US Nightbane World Book One literary awards it won the 2000 LA Times Book Prize and was a finalist for the 2000 National Book Critics Circle Award but since then it certainly hasn t been a reading priority for me as its current score of 803% ranks it a modest 1825 out of 4225 on my current Great LitistIn any case the one bright spot of The All New Jonah Twist lockdown during the COVID 19 pandemic has been the extra reading I ve been able to do during my enforcedeisure time Having recently completed a course on writing short stories I ve been working my way through the short story collections in my ibrary to see how the best writers do their job And so to David MeansThis collection opens with Railroad Incident August 1995 Wow what an opening Means not only knows how to construct an engrossing story and to include the fine detail that makes the narrative come alive he adds a poetic ayer that sparkles with cleverness Take this paragraph as an exampleTo the guys who spotted him a uarter mile Legon Ascension (Legon Series later he came out of the hazy airike a wounded animal nothing but a shadow down the tracks moving with a strange hobble that didn t seem human There were four of them their own shirts off nursing a small fire of twigs barely producing flames but PMS lots of whitish smoke slinging in the heavy air Even in the firelight you could see that they were all four skinny in that deprived way knotty with muscle and the blue grey shadows of various tattoos The one who spotted him had just taken aong draw from a uart bottle of beer and was gasping for breathImpressive But for me the most outstanding feature of this story indeed of nearly all the stories in this collection is the way Means takes brief detours from the plot to flesh out the setting the characters the back stories their choice of clothing their musical preferences their workplace or domestic problems And not just the main actors but the cameo appearances the Reverend Simpson of the Alabaster Salvation Church of Haverstraw or the nameless engineer of the freight train who has a good job even if things weren t going the way they should in the world It was a good good jobThere are thirteen short stories in this collection and they cover an impressive range of topics characters and situations although there s a unifying theme of the difficulty of the human condition This is not a book for the comfortably middle class reader who hurries the children into the SUV so that they don t see the homeless man and end up asking awkward uestions about the wet spot on his pants or why he was talking to himselfThere s Coitus in which the man s mind drifts to other places when it should be firmly anchored by the flesh or What They Did a single paragraph eight pages in The Two of Swords length about theegacy of a shoddy property developer or a friend s disappearance in Sleeping Bear Lament There s the two page What I Hope For that opens with I don t want anyone to die in my stories anyOne of the grimmest stories and there are plenty that could be described as grim is The Interruption which chronicles the intersection of two very disparate groups by way of a tedious wedding reception there are the newlyweds and their guests and the DJ and outside in the snow drifts is a group of homeless men trying to survive the coldest night of a harsh winter David Means is ruthless in his portrayal of the best and worst of humanityThis was a truly exceptional collection of short fiction powerful vivid disturbing realistic sparkling with wit poetic uncompromising beautiful It deserves than the score my algorithm gives it but 803% is still great Sinfully Damaged (Master Mistress, literature and ualifies as five stars Iook forward to reading of David Means especially The Secret Goldfish Stories which was shortlisted for the inaugural Frank O Connor International Short Story Award in 2005 1Again a faint breeze came He moved forward along the tracks ABCs of Baseball leaving a pad print full of blood behind him on each tie Ahead of him the tracks curved farther into the darkness to hiseft and overhead the steel girders and chutes of the stoneworks 6The night took on vast grand proportions the night was Ēna liuid and runny stretched taut until it was no than a thin strand of hot white burning his foot and palm. Gaging hased the New York Times to call Means one of our most talented younger writer.
Ted with Taken By the Sheriff the Deputy Too! lavenderThe weirdness of The Widow Predicament and the experimental way he spins out hypothetical scenarios was really fascinatingThe story that most gripped me was Assorted Fire Events The description was incredible the emotional primal connection between men and fire Ioved it There s so much wonderful stuff in this story Just one exampleThe plot of fire is nebulous and serene wildly fanatic and calm at the same time trailing up curtains and along the undersides of carpet padding taking its own sweet time and then conversely becoming diametric Kentucky Grandmothers logarithmic taking big gulping gorging sweeps of the floorboards and runners until it sings sweetly the fantastic house burningament blasting out of the windows and Štěky Broka Špindíry licking the roof eavesIn conclusion I guess I d say this book is really worth a read if you re a serious writer David is certainly talented and there is much toearn from here Only The Widow Predicament and What They Did really made any impression on me the former so than the The Blackmailed Secretary latter Having the opposite problem here that I did with Amy Hempel her stories are soightly written that the impact eludes me while Means s stories are overly dense and the impact is If the Magic Fits (100 Dresses, lost somewhere among all his words Il give another collection a go for the sake of it but I don t have high hopes Means stares straight into the parts of Improve Your Communication Skills life we prefer toeave in the dark and this collection is a haunting beautiful result of that bravery I picked up this collection of short stories after reading Means story Two Nurses Smoking in the New Yorker a couple weeks ago This collection feels Decadent (Wicked Lovers like Two Nurses s divorced uncle The stories are driven by the same obsessions withoneliness imperfect When Digital Becomes Human love and blue gray semi abandoned small towns on the Hudson River However while Two Nurses is hopeful finishing on the upswing of an unlikelyove these stories tend to focus on Intermix Nation life s downswings They dwell in moments of despair the self doubt of a cheating spouse the mood swings of a grieving widow the haunted guilt of a mother who outlives her daughter These stories feel so muchike a winter on the Hudson the very setting in which so many of them take place They re full of De-cluttering Your Closet loneliness but in being placed together the stories bring each of theironely characters together in the common struggle of De Brandende Brug (De Grijze Jager, living aife in contemporary America The characters are Humanizing Big Data lost stuck in aiving purgatory which isn t as repulsive as it may sound Instead the collection draws you in invites you to bask in the uncertainty we all feel but don t dare to acknowledge 2007 notebook 1st story is so kick ass you have to put it down and take a breath Other stories not as good good but wandering too self conscious for me at times eg he dismisses a character we won t hear from her again Current read Mixed feelings I figured I was overdue for some fiction and opted for this book of short stories acclaimed as one of the best in recent times Tbh I m not sure I agree The author certainly knows how to paint a picture but his writing style full of Bonds of Need (Wicked Play, long sentences that just keep goingike streams of words burbling and cascading on and on piling description upon description gets a bit tiresome So does the repeated theme of death which combined with this meandering melancholic monologue style of writing makes for depressing reading Short stories should have impact of course and these certainly do but at the same time it feels a bit easy to grab some grim topic Scoring Points like suicide or a fatal accident or a fatal bashing that sike 3 of the first 4 stories and Life Is Unfair (Malcolm in the Middle, leave the reader feeling reflective even uneasy I was impressed at the end of the first story but by the third or fourth it was all getting a bit old both stylistically and thematically Elouently told these stories would be a decent accompaniment for aong bus or ferry journey on a moody grey day but right now I can t really be bothered with any of em although unfortunately the Book Depository stork is yet to drop off my next purchase More serious subjects than I usually ike to read but still interesting The sheer scope of a novel allows authors to develop plots and craft three dimensional characters that can stimulate readers the short story writer denied this uxury needs to be an exuisite artist to achieve audience engagement David Means embodies this excellence in an astounding first collection of storiesThe title of this work Assorted Fire Events alludes to one of the pieces contained although it can serve as a characterisation of the work as a whole as many of the stories deal with those significant events in The Billionaires New Assistant (The New Dominators, life often destructive and dramatic that define who we at that time and whatever our intentions continue to intrude on our existenceong after their occurrence This sense of being imprisoned by the past is most effectively articulated in Coitus and Sleeping Bear Lament where characters engaged in everyday activities are suddenly hit by memories of traumatic events In Coitus Means skilful writing is able to establish from the onset a profound sense of unease even before we know anything of the characters or their situation as he depicts a sex scene with factual detachment Whilst the initial thought is of a relationship in decline as the parties robotic motions deprive the act of any intimacy Means shows that it is the male characters guilt over two separate events a past bereavement and betrayal that eads to the sense of disengagement although with Means subtle writing the sense of a relationship doomed can be inferred In the confines of this short piece the reader s curiosity can not be totally satisfied as a tidy resolution is not forthcoming but it is a testament to Means abilities that in the space of 14 pages the reader is stimulated to trace the permutations of the tale beyond the printed pageSleeping Bear Lament is a beautiful and moving reflection on a class outcast Sam Although set in America the sense of a school pupil who is treat as pariah because he is impoverished or in some senses different is a universal experience that cannot fail Gs that we cherish most His incomparable distinct voice often wildly humorous always en.
David Means born 1961 is an American writer based in Nyack New York His short stories have appeared in many publications including Esuire The New Yorker and Harper's They are freuently set in the Midwest or the Rust Belt or along the Hudson River in New York