Pensive, sometimes-explosive stories of life in the rural Northwest in a debut collection.
A specter hangs over Loskutoff’s stories, that of a rural outback in which the federal government is decidedly an enemy and live fire is exchanged. How you feel about some of his characters (“She was a neighbor, a mother. An American. A widow”) may well depend on your take on such things as the Malheur National Wildlife Reserve and Ruby Ridge; certainly some of Loskutoff’s characters are committed to the idea that they are unwelcome strangers in their own land, if with peculiar ideas about what their own land constitutes. “A friend of mine got shot dead yesterday,” says one character matter-of-factly, adding, “Took seven feds with them.” Perhaps less controversial is Loskutoff’s vision of a place in which nature is very close at hand and the violence attendant is even closer: His characters, particularly men, are often likened to beasts (“Carston made a grunting noise like a wounded animal….He was big enough that he could stomp them both, done real damage, but it wasn’t in him”), and in the troubling opening story, the protagonist, having evidenced some sympathy for a grizzly bear with whom he’s sharing territory, kills a cub and wears its skin as a kind of savage declaration of who’s in charge. Loskutoff acknowledges the guidance of his former writing teacher David Foster Wallace, but there is not much of Wallace’s complex layering (or a single footnote, for that matter) in these tales; instead, the governing tutelary spirit is more on the order of Raymond Carver with a little Bill Kittredge and, particularly in that first story, the early Barry Lopez thrown in for leavening. In any event, Loskutoff writes a good sentence, has a fine eye for the meaningful detail, and spins stories that, while certainly not for every taste, are fully realized.
A welcome arrival with the promise of good work to come.