BIG LONESOME by Joseph Scapellato


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Scapellato’s first collection of short fiction means to bust the mythologies of the American West.

In these 25 stories, Scapellato moves from the allegorical to the (almost) natural, traversing the territory with a fluid grace. “Cowgirl” takes its title at face value, describing a young woman, “born of a beef cow,” who must navigate a human world that is completely alien to her. “Do I come from myself? Do I come from outside myself? Do I need to know? Do I need new questions?” she asks in a litany that might stand as an epigraph for the entire book. What Scapellato does so well here is what he does throughout these narratives: to take the absurd and make it real. “It was loaded, I was loaded. The bottle was not the only way but it was the way that was available, my husband’s way, the weakest way to make me strong,” he begins “A Mother Buries a Gun in the Desert Again,” the saga of a woman trying to save her teenage son. The truth, of course, is that he can’t be saved, any more than anyone here can be—or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that he must save himself. Certainly, that’s what happens to the protagonist of “Driving in the Early Dark, Ted Falls Asleep,” which closes with a plaintive inquiry: “I want to live awake?” Living awake, of course, is the best that we can hope for, which the figures who populate these strange and graceful stories understand. “It was the kind of day that made you think that thinking about the things that mattered was what mattered,” the narrator insists in “One of the Days I Nearly Died,” which unfolds, for the most part, as a single paragraph. “Was where you were what mattered?”

Scapellato’s debut is unpredictable, witty, and self-aware while remaining heartfelt in the most unexpected ways.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-544-76980-9
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2017