Stories of blood, guts, dog-fighting and sex addiction.
Opening with a story about a broken-handed ex-prizefighter who watches his nephew fall through thin ice, and moving into a story about an alcoholic father who puts all his hopes on an estranged son’s basketball game, Davidson’s debut collection engages the Hemingway-esque tradition of terse prose describing toughened men who suffer while hiding their scars. The characters, wounded, and often wounding others and themselves, rarely seem to get what they want. Often they seem to frustrate their own ambitions: A man who loses his leg to a shark holes up, masturbates and then tries and fails to find love with a pretty young woman who has lost her arms. The dog-fighter turns out not to be able to have children with his wife, and in a midnight frenzy throws himself to his own dogs. The sex addict remains terminally addicted, imagining walls of genitals, attending orgies, unsure he can love even his own child. In the midst of these uncomfortable stories lurk certain fragmentary hopes, and a few reflective insights. At one point, the battered prizefighter claims: “Reach a certain experience level, you don’t fight without reason. You’ve seen to many boxers hurt, killed even, to treat matches as dick-swinging contests.” Nevertheless, these characters seem always to be fighting, swinging dicks and plowing ahead, hurt and hurting.
Thick with bleak characters and thin on redemption, Davidson moves from one unsavory battered character to another. The relentless, unforgiving nature of these difficult worlds makes for heavy reading.