A shady financier visits his small hometown, a middle-aged
divorcé emerges from a life of drastic austerity and self-denial, a
sick and dying professor discovers the healing touch of a former
student. From the South African veldt to the barren Utah desert,
from the green lawns of suburbia to moonlit Pueblo ruins, the
people in Paul Rawlins's debut story collection brave the Big
Questions about relationships, love, and death, finding more often
than not that their happiness to just get by is not enough. Asking
for truth or understanding, but hoping the answers will be simple,
they struggle with feelings often too deep, too new, too
disquieting to articulate.
The voices we hear most often belong to men-good men who have
somehow come up short on love, answers, peace, time. Like the pro
football player with a torn-up knee in "Big Texas," the
HIV-positive teen in "The Matter of These Hours," or the recovering
heroin addict in "August-Staying Cool," they find that age,
accident, or self-made circumstances have stolen their abilities,
stung their pride, or worse. Dangerously distanced from the women
they should have loved more, they draw closer to buddies, brothers,
fathers, and sons.
But like the alkali flats in "Good for What Ails You," transformed
by flash-flooding into an inland sea, Rawlins's characters show
themselves capable of quick and fundamental change. Farmers and
soldiers, athletes and scholars, rebels and high rollers, they fit
our preconceptions only in the shallowest sense. In the ways they
connect with Rawlins's elemental imagery-sun, water, earth-these
people play with our essential notions about men and women as they
surprise themselves about their strengths, about what they really
desire and what others desire in them.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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