Books by Jim Grimsley

HOW I SHED MY SKIN by Jim Grimsley
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: April 14, 2015

"Although proud that he and his classmates made history, the culture of hatred he recounts in this revelatory memoir still, he notes sadly, persists."
After a court decision, children struggled to enact integration. Read full book review >
KIRITH KIRIN by Jim Grimsley
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
Released: May 1, 2000

"Grimsley's backdrop's and quantum-magic ideas are deeply considered and impressively detailed, but the rest is obvious, overly familiar, and weighs a ton."
Fantasy from the southern playwright and author of Comfort and Joy (1999), etc. Blue Queen Athryn Ardfalla, refusing to yield her throne to the Red King, Kirith Kirin, as tradition and law demand, has allied herself with an evil wizard, Drudaen Keerfax, and has grievously oppressed the people. Kirith Kirin, keeping to the forest of Arthen where the queen cannot go, plots to remedy the situation. His seer, Mordwen, in response to a prophecy, sends for young sheepherder Jessex to tend the lamps at the forest's shrine. But Jessex, the son and grandson of witches, has more talents than are apparent. Three weird sisters—the Fates, in effect—spirit him away to a magical lake, where they teach him magic in a sort of time warp. Then Jessex learns that the queen's witch, Julassa, has killed his family and captured his mother. Kirith Kirin, meanwhile, falls in love with Jessex. Constrained by the sisters never to use his magic, Jessex progresses rapidly, resisting Drudaen's blandishments—until Julassa threatens to annihilate Kirith Kirin and his armies in battle. Jessex kills Julassa, but the sisters agree that this too is part of his development, while they wait for a major-league wizard, Yron, to show up. Finally, the war of liberation gets going and Jessex realizes who he really is. Read full book review >
COMFORT AND JOY by Jim Grimsley
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 22, 1999

A rather pale and bloodless coming-out story by Grimsley (My Drowning, 1996, etc.) in which a nice southern boy falls for a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. The McKinneys are the sort of family Europeans usually have in mind when they think of Americans from the Old South. Long-established, genteel, and, above all, rich, the McKinney line is crowded with Confederate officers, gentleman farmers, distinguished jurists, and, lately, respected physicians. Ford McKinney, heir to the family name and wealth, is the third generation to practice medicine. He does so happily and well at a hospital in Atlanta where he meets Danny Crell, one of the hospital administrators. Danny is also from the South, but the Crells are unlikely to have had any dealings with the McKinneys down the years unless one of them happened to be caught poaching on a McKinney estate. But this is still the 20th century, after all, and Danny and Ford fall for each other in a big way. After a long while together, they feel that they should take the plunge and visit each other's family over the Christmas holidays. For Danny, the angst is driven more by class than sex: his family is made up of simple country folk from the backwoods of North Carolina who know all about the odd things that boys can get up to, but who are uneasy around rich kids. All the same, they take to Ford right away. The real hurdle is Ford's Savannah family, who have been pressuring him to marry for years and are already lining up the perfect girl. This is a case of deep denial, intensified by inheritance rights. Can they learn to let go of their little boy? What was it Christ said about the rich man and the Kingdom of Heaven? A melodramatic and somewhat rambling story that lacks much in the way of a focus—let alone a climax—and unravels into a ball of self-absorption in short order. Read full book review >
MY DROWNING by Jim Grimsley
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 1, 1997

A young girl comes of age under duress and in the worst of circumstances, in Grimsley's (Dream Boy, 1995, etc.) delicate, perfectly paced narrative of childhood's pains. Although Ellen Tote is quite advanced in years, most of her story is a reminiscence, and she succeeds so well in bringing it to life that one quickly forgets that she is telling it across the span of many years. Ellen's childhood world, in the rural foothills of North Carolina, was a place of extraordinary simplicity: poor, brutal, and somehow quite innocent in its isolation from the rest of the world. Ellen's family, like most everyone in the region, makes do with very little. The homeless relatives who pass through the house on their way to and from prison, the persistently drunken men and pregnant women, the tormented familiarity with religion that pervades daily life are all drawn with the sort of ease that makes an exceptionally unfamiliar world at once compelling and recognizable. Ellen is a representative of the contradictions that surround her: An unwanted child, sometimes loved, often brutalized, she finds herself quite passionately attached to the frequently ugly and usually crude kinfolk in her life. A recurring dream of her own mother walking into the nearby river begins during childhood and continues into her old age, forming both the impetus and centerpiece of her tale. ``She glares at me coldly, as if I am some fish she has dragged off the end of her line, and she takes me by the shoulder and flings me high, end over end, into the middle of the river, and I sink into the cold, and I am falling forever, and I never look down.'' The gradual sorting-out of her childhood that the dream engenders is as credible and rich as the world that contains it. Moving, vivid, and very real: a work of tremendous, quiet intensity. (Author tour) Read full book review >
DREAM BOY by Jim Grimsley
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

An overwrought account of first gay love, from the North Carolinian playwright and novelist (Winter Birds, 1994), whose ornately lyrical style requires a firmer foundation than is provided by his perilously shapeless plot. Bookworm Nathan, a high-school sophomore, is as lonely as he is bright. The only child of a prodigiously disturbed southern family, he's subjected to unremitting emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of his drunkard father while his morbidly religious mother looks passively on. As the perennial new kid in townNathan's father is a salesman, the family moves around a lot Nathan is used to having few friends, and it is at first his solitude as much as his teenage libido that responds to Roy Connelly, the boy next door who takes Nathan under his wing and introduces him to his classmates at school. Although Roy is two years ahead of Nathan, Nathan becomes Roy's tutor andalmost simultaneouslyhis lover. The brutality of Nathan's family life makes his need for some kind of physical or emotional escape patently clear from the start, but Roy is more of an enigma: He's a seemingly well-adjusted heterosexual with a normal family and a girlfriend, so it's not at all clear what brings him into the younger boy's ken, and this want of motive makes him appear all the more mysterious and ethereal in Nathan's eyes. This ethereality moves beyond the realm of metaphor toward the story's close, however, when the familiar tragedy of star-crossed lovers is surmounted by a magical-realist climax that comes out of nowhere and is yoked by violence onto a plot that seems unsuited for it. By turns rambling and precious, the narrative becomes incoherent by the end. A disappointing second from this award- winning young writer. (Author tour) Read full book review >
WINTER BIRDS by Jim Grimsley
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 1, 1994

Although playwright Grimsley graces it with an effective device—an adult narrator recounts the story to the young protagonist in the second person—this emotional debut staggers under the weight of preciousness. There is no lack of action, as Danny and his siblings and their mother, Ellen, try to stay out of the way of their raging father, Bobjay. Danny is a hemophiliac (his mother tells him he has ``special blood'' and therefore needs a lot of care). The immediacy won by the second-person voice and the suspense provided by the spectacle of hemophiliacs (one of Danny's brothers also is afflicted) constantly in harm's way can't make up for the thin story, which basically consists of the family drifting from house to house as the domestic violence continues. Danny and his sister, Amy Kay, name each house: ``The Circle House,'' for example, with its ring of rooms, announces foreboding and a condition from which there is no exit. Bobjay, who lost an arm in a farming accident, is likely to be set off by the frustration of not being able to work, by the medical bills for his hemophiliac sons, and by jealousy. Feeling that one landlord's willingness to repair the house has more to do with Ellen than with Sheetrock or plumbing, Bobjay gets drunk and goes on a rampage. A major flaw in this work is that the cycles of violence are predictable and indistinguishable, and consequently the novel becomes just another pale addition to the growing Southern cult of Faulkner wannabes. Aside from Bobjay's fling in the truck with Ellen's sister, Grimsley gives few glimpses into Ellen's rationale for staying in this marriage or into her family history. Grimsley succeeds in re-creating Danny's claustrophobia, but the family's isolation makes it difficult to determine when the story takes place. Authentically brutal but not much more. Read full book review >
WINTER BIRDS by Jim Grimsley
Released: Jan. 9, 1994

Although playwright Grimsley graces it with an effective device - an adult narrator recounts the story to the young protagonist in the second person - this emotional debut staggers under the weight of preciousness. There is no lack of action, as Danny and his siblings and their mother, Ellen, try to stay out of the way of their raging father, Bobjay. Danny is a hemophiliac (his mother tells him he has "special blood" and therefore needs a lot of care). The immediacy won by the second-person voice and the suspense provided by the spectacle of hemophiliacs (one of Danny's brothers also is afflicted) constantly in harm's way can't make up for the thin story, which basically consists of the family drifting from house to house as the domestic violence continues. Danny and his sister, Amy Kay, name each house: "The Circle House," for example, with its ring of rooms, announces foreboding and a condition from which there is no exit. Bobjay, who lost an arm in a farming accident, is likely to be set off by the frustration of not being able to work, by the medical bills for his hemophiliac sons, and by jealousy. Feeling that one landlord's willingness to repair the house has more to do with Ellen than with Sheetrock or plumbing, Bobjay gets drunk and goes on a rampage. A major flaw in this work is that the cycles of violence are predictable and indistinguishable, and consequently the novel becomes just another pale addition to the growing Southern cult of Faulkner wannabes. Aside from Bobjay's fling in the truck with Ellen's sister, Grimsley gives few glimpses into Ellen's rationale for staying in this marriage or into her family history. Grimsley succeeds in re-creating Danny's claustrophobia, but the family's isolation makes it difficult to determine when the story takes place. Authentically brutal but not much more. Read full book review >