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Pulp and Paper (Iowa Short Fiction Award)by Josh Rolnick
Synopses & Reviews
A farmer perishing under a fallen tractor makes a last stab at philosophizing: “There was nothing dead that was ever beautiful.” It is a sentiment belied not only by the strange beauty in his story but also in the rough lives and deaths, small and large, that fill these haunting tales. Pulp-fiction grim and gritty but with the rhythm and resonance of classic folklore, these stories take place in a world of shadowy figures and childhood fears, in a countryside peopled by witches and skinflints, by men and women mercilessly unforgiving of one anothers trespasses, and in nights prowled by wolves and scrutinized by an “agonized and lamenting” moon. Ervin D. Krauses characters pontificate in saloons, condemning the morals of others as they slowly get sloshed; they have affairs in old cars on winter nights; they traffic in gossip, terrorize their neighbors, steal, hunt, and spy.
This collection includes award-winning stories like “The Snake” and “The Quick and the Dead” as well as the previously unpublished “Anniversary,” which stirred a national controversy when it was censored by the University of Nebraska and barred from appearing in Prairie Schooner. Krauses portrayal of the matter-of-fact cruelty and hopeful fragility of humanity is a critical addition to the canon of twentieth-century American literature.
"In a creditable first collection, Rolnick splits his time between New Jersey and New York. Each setting offers four tales and feature narrators who are often sensitive adolescents grappling with the pain of growing up. The picturesque prose in 'Mainlanders,' recalling that of Donald Hall's stories, finds Tubby Boyd and Nick Swan, high school pals, living on the Jersey Shore and making plays for the bored girls visiting from the mainland. Will Taft, 15, in 'Innkeeping' is happy helping his widowed mother run a beachside B&B until a vascular surgeon from Chicago arrives and the resentful Will plots to sabotage the budding romance. In New York, life is no less complicated. In the most accomplished piece, 'Big River,' Finch, a basement waterproofing technician, argues with his restless longtime girlfriend about an abortion. 'Big Lake' features Flip, 13, a boy from a provincial town who feels responsible for his teacher's drowning death until her husband assuages his guilt. Other tales, such as 'The Carousel,' featuring an old merry-go-round operator on Coney Island, add charm to this satisfying debut." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“I glanced out the window as my train pulled into the station and saw the girl who killed my son.” So begins Josh Rolnick’s powerful debut collection of eight stories, which utilizes a richly focused narrative style accenting the unavoidable tragedies of life while revealing the grace and dignity with which people learn to deal with them. The stories—four set in New Jersey and four in New York—span the wide geographic tapestry of the area and demonstrate the interconnectedness of both the neighboring states and the residents who inhabit them.
About the Author
Josh Rolnick’s short stories have won the Arts & Letters Fiction Prize and the Florida Review Editor’s Choice Prize. They have also been published in Harvard Review, Western Humanities Review, Bellingham Review, and Gulf Coast, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best New American Voices. A reporter, editor, and journal publisher, he grew up in New Jersey, spent summers camping his way through Upstate New York, and has lived in Jerusalem, London, Philadelphia, Iowa City, Washington, D.C., and Menlo Park, California. He currently lives with his wife and three sons in Akron, Ohio.
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