SWEET & LOW by Nick  White


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A first collection of short stories by newcomer White (How to Survive a Summer, 2017).

“How well can you know a person?” That question, posed by a therapist, provides a mantra for White’s stories, set in Mississippi and, within its confines, the South of people who are “educated and practical, mostly Southerners with quasi liberal leanings,” to say nothing of a former Miss Mississippi who “came out as a lesbian years after her reign.” The opening story, “The Lovers,” recounts a different kind of love story, a bisexual triangle that operates in all its awkward effort at casualness until the apex “got himself killed in a plane crash, and shit got complicated.” As with much literary fiction, the scenario pushes at the edges of probability but seems plausible—especially in the possibility that that educated, practical, liberal cohort, forming the audience for the ostensibly wronged wife’s podcast, consists of all the dead man’s former lovers, which “would make her, like, the ultimate fag hag.” White verges on fable with the next story, in which a man already in a very bad situation faces down the karma that just might be visited on him by a passing cottonmouth: “It braved to skim across his neck, and Pete could sense each of its tiny ribs as it treaded across his skin, rubbing his flesh like sandpaper.” A highlight is the title story, a fine exemplar of lower-class yearning, in this case to make a fortune as a country music star guided by a slick Svengali: “They’re all so whiney,” says the would-be star of the models he’s guided her to, to which he replies, “Whiney sells.” There’s little whining here, but all the adultery and unrequited longing and even a dead dog needed for a country hit are present. A bonus: White’s unapologetic homage to William Faulkner, known here as “the Author,” turned into an industry by the little town that once shunned him as a boozy menace.

Work that bears the promise of good things to come.

Pub Date: June 5th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-399-57365-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2018


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