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The Clearingby Benjamin Cavell
An Esquire Best Book of 2003
Synopses & Reviews
"I never killed anybody," he whispers. "But I could. I'm sure I could."
Rumble, Young Man, Rumble opens in a sporting goods store, owned and operated by the members of an amateur paintball team. Logan Bryant, its self-professed star — as politically incorrect as he is knowledgeable about athletic equipment and barbecue grills — guides us through this world of barbells, guns, and protein supplements. And by the end of "Balls, Balls, Balls," we see that it is his insecurity and doubt, not his brawn and confidence, that have shaped him into the sort of man he is.
"Real emotion makes people nervous....Passion is too Mussolini."
"The Art of the Possible" puts us into the mind of an up-and-coming congressman making a bid for a second term. As we follow him from one photo op to another, we see firsthand what he must sacrifice of himself to please the many — from sleep to kindness to integrity. And in a final, heart-wrenching scene, the snapshots line up to reveal a particular truth — that these sacrifices are not borne by him alone.
"All you need to learn is that you can hit him and he can hit you and that it might hurt but you're not going to kill each other."
"Except sometimes," she said. I nodded again. "Except sometimes."
In "The Ropes," Alexander Folsom spends a summer with his father on Martha's Vineyard, getting his strength back after his last boxing match, in which he fared the worse. Trying to work, trying to play, trying to flirt with the soon-to-be-married daughter of a well-to-do family on the Vineyard, Alex finds himself floundering in most every way as he attempts to reconcile the ends of both his athletic and his college careers — and to find a new, more personal form of discipline.
Throughout his debut collection of nine powerful stories, Benjamin Cavell shows us the darker side of being a "real" man. Along with the machismo, the self-assuredness and power comes a heightened sense of fear and mortality, and ultimately a deeper search for comfort, for someone or something to rely upon. Funny and smart, urgent, fearless and emotionally rich, these are stories without an ounce of fat on them. Though his literary forebears may be Ernest Hemingway and Norman Mailer, Benjamin Cavell speaks in a voice entirely his own.
"Rumble, Young Man, Rumble had me up until the wee hours. This book is dynamite, pure TNT! Cavell's take on the American musclehead culture is perfect, and he writes about it with hilarious irony, mercifully unfettered by the bounds of political correctness. A great new voice in American literature." Thom Jones, author of The Pugilist At Rest
"Benjamin Cavell's stories are air-tight meditations on American masculinity: both celebration and critique, sometimes manic, always precise. Like early Thom Jones; a great find." Richard Price, author of Clockers and Samaritan
"So good I almost passed out; I knew I was in the hands of a major artist. Cavell's men are comic masterpieces of our times. They're funny when they're dumb, and brilliant when they're funny. You'll read these stories and hear them resonate like the best unbridled young male roar." Matthew Klam, author of Sam the Cat
"Understatement is Cavell's game, and in its best moments his spare, confrontational prose reminds us of the young Hemingway....This Rumble is a spectacle not to be missed. You'll want a ringside seat." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Astonishing....Cavell gives us modern men as action figures, and each story brilliantly bends them into yet another bizarre pose....Cavell — in these pungently original stories — has made himself a legitimate contender." Mark Rozzo, The Los Angeles Times
"Neil LaBute couldn't have written a colder, funnier or more brutal collection of stories than this....But it's Cavell's style — practically naked, muscular and tense — that might be the most male thing about this book." The Nation
"[T]he literary equivalent of a right hook....Reading Rumble, Young Man, Rumble is like going 12 rounds with a prizefighter. You're battered and bruised by the time it's over, but you've never felt more alive." Mike Pearson, Rocky Mountain News
"Cavell's writing is lean and mean....It's also perhaps too stripped down to earn the early comparisons to more narratively expansive writers like...Thom Jones — let alone Hemingway and Mailer....Rumble is a promising first round. (Grade: B)" Gregory Kirschling, Entertainment Weekly
"Benjamin Cavell comes on like gangbusters with a set of tightly coiled stories...[A] number of the characters here have bruising experiences...but not all of the slyly satirized machismo here is physical....[An] expert collection." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Cavell's artful characterizations and pithy descriptions make for a rewarding read. Imagine Thom Jones writing about Chuck Palahniuk's characters, and you've got Cavell." John Green, Booklist
"Razor-sharp stories....Benjamin Cavell writes with the kind of hip tone that is a pleasure (if you get it, you're hip, too)....Engaging, funny and heartfelt, Rumble...is a provocative take on the new generation." T.B. Peters, The San Francisco Chronicle
"A forceful debut collection....Though Cavell occasionally comes on too strong, the collection is filled with dead-on, often hilarious dialogue and offers a thoughtful meditation on masculinity and class." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Cavell pushes his ordinary people to extremes that lift their stories out of the ordinary. Some pieces in the collection...stay closer to home, but all this writer's stories convey the urgency that prompts him to tell them." Kit Reed, The Washington Post Book World
"Out of this epidemic of testosterone poisoning emerge a few tales of touching tenderness....Other stories all but freeze the blood — or would if their hair-raising depictions of men overboard weren't so deliciously witty." Amanda Heller, The Boston Globe
In nine remarkable stories, Cavell exposes the darker side of being a "real man." Along with the macho comes a heightened sense of mortality, and a deeper need for something, or someone, to rely upon.
In this widely acclaimed literary debut, Benjamin Cavell stalks the male ego, unleashing a ferocious volley of nine sharply written and deeply penetrating stories.
In Balls, Balls, Balls, we are introduced to Logan Bryant, the star member of the "fourth best paintball team in the tristate area." Despite his knowledge of napalm recipes and his skill during Military Simulations — MilSim, for short — Logan's armor shows fractures with every move he makes. In The Death of Cool, an insurance adjuster has come to realize much too clearly the range of threats that surround him. "Tired of trusting in the other guy's morality," he embraces his paranoia and leaves as little to chance as possible. The Ropes opens in a hospital room after Alex Folsom has sustained a devastating concussion. With both college and his boxing career behind him, he reunites with his father on Martha's Vineyard to assess the damage — both physical and emotional. Rumble, Young Man, Rumble is a ground-shaking announcement of the next heavy hitter in American letters.
About the Author
Benjamin Cavell attended Harvard College, where he was a boxer and an editor for The Harvard Crimson. Rumble, Young Man, Rumble is his first book.
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