NOBODY KNOWS HOW IT GOT THIS GOOD: Short Stories from the Deep South
AMOS JASPER WRIGHT IV
$25.95 hardcover, available now
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Rating: 4* of five
The Publisher Says: Winner of the Tartt First Fiction Award
"A finely crafted collection that perfectly evokes a place and culture." - Kirkus Review
"He successfully combines the anarchic nihilism of Hunter S. Thompson with the deeper, exploratory writings of William Faulkner, identifying the cancers of his chosen corner of the American South and providing not solutions so much as requiems." - Kirkus Review
A used car salesman finds himself embattled with a local gang. A U.S. Census enumerator disappears in the Black Belt. A former Birmingham fire fighter is haunted by his involvement hosing peaceful protestors during the Civil Rights Movement. A riverboat captain recounts his time working for a mining company while sailing down the Black Warrior River. A newlywed couple’s honeymoon is botched by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A lynching survivor tells the story of his near-death experience.
Through sixteen stories sharing common environments and characters drawing heavily on the author’s experiences growing up in central Alabama, Nobody Knows How It Got This Good explores themes of racial injustice, class, the Civil Rights Movement, environmental catastrophe, imprisonment, suburbanization, and the perennial themes of love, life and loss. Though set in the Deep South, these stories aspire with humor and pathos to address national dilemmas.
As is my wont, I will use the time-honored and very efficient Bryce Method to view the stories as they come.
The Jaguars of Southtown permaybehaps it helps to know that the stories are Birmingham, Ala., in it splendid decaying fetor; I know some folk from there so I wasn't lost, but I can think of many who'd struggle with specific location anxiety, what am I missing?-itis. Page 18 contains a w-bomb. I'd hand this a 3.5-star rating for its cruelly clear eye on a particular Rabbit Angstrom-y man manqué.
Nobody Knows How It Got This Good says the Mayor at the opening of the shiny new Wal-Mart ("before they took out the hyphen") he's been courting for years. Offering the usual roll-overs of lowered taxes and people desperate for a paycheck, any paycheck, even one "you cash all three figures of" at the payday loan place. I promise you most of these good folk don't have bank accounts anymore, banks do not want this tiny little pie even if it's all to themselves. So the spiffy obsequies of opening the place lead the narrator to reflect that:
It was some kind of Mardi Gras meets Donner party.Pizitz even figures in the introductory page, a list of the retailers now gone from the world , done in by the class war on labor that killed Fairfield, Alabama. What rises when incomes fall, children? That's right, reactionary politics and social attitudes do! Gold star, Muffin, for remembering what happened to bring us to 2020.
The parking stall stripes were white as a grand wizard's starched bed sheets.
Settling Down in Peckerwood
Miscreant Populations and Their Effects on Jim Crow Methodologies of Street Paving in the Industrial South
Tilting at Windmills
Twenty-Six People Per Square Mile
Ave Maria Grotto
The Song of the Abyss Eater
The Last Suppers of Violent Men Executed by the State
When Christ Returns to a Slave State
Down the Black Warrior I Sailed to Byzantium
Last of the Old Guardsmen
Long Hot Summer of 2018