Not every piece in this thick volume is noteworthy, but those that are shine, and the cumulative effect is powerful. A...

EYES GLOWING AT THE EDGE OF THE WOODS

FICTION AND POETRY FROM WEST VIRGINIA

Sixty-three contemporary writers from West Virginia provide a sense of place through its people.

Editors Long (Out of Peel Tree, 2014) and Van Gundy (A Life Above Water, 2007) bring together fiction and poetry to show a region as diverse as the people who make it up. The characters in these pages struggle to understand and to be understood. There is the Hindu grandfather in Rahul Mehta’s “Quarantine.” He is a stubborn man who insists on tradition and frustrates his grandson, but—like his grandson—he does not feel like home is where he belongs. In Jonathan Corcoran’s “Through the Still Hours,” a now-loveless gay couple celebrates their fourth anniversary with a crowd of straight friends. It's a sad, lonely affair for the protagonist. “This means a lot to them,” his partner stresses. “We’re the only gay couple they know.” Voices of children and the elderly feature prominently. The child of Scott McClanahan’s “Picking Blackberries” is rendered in beautiful, realistic detail, from the hat he longs for and then resents to the Velcro tennis shoes that he believes give him special speed. An excerpt from Jayne Anne Phillips' novel Lark and Termite is particularly memorable. A young girl takes care of her nonverbal half brother, a boy nicknamed Termite. It is clear she will be his caretaker all her life. She can see him as others do, but she knows him much more deeply. “I think he’s in himself like a termite’s in a wall,” she says. Similarly, in Jessie van Eerden’s “Edna,” the pain of the eponymous elderly protagonist is only one part of her dynamic character. Nostalgia is a frequent theme in many of the poems and stories, including those of Ron Houchin, Cheryl Denise, and Kent Shaw. The natural world plays a role too, as in Matthew Neill Null’s “Natural Resources,” which traces the patterns of the bear population and the human causes for it. Even characters with jobs more commonly associated with Appalachia are seen with a depth that makes them new. Maiden Estep, the miner in Sheryl Monks’ “Robbing Pillars,” suffers a loss that is almost magical in its abruptness.

Not every piece in this thick volume is noteworthy, but those that are shine, and the cumulative effect is powerful. A collage of a region that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943665-54-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Vandalia Press/West Virginia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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