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Johnny Too Bad: Stories
"I came to John Dufresne's story collection Johnny Too Bad skeptically, and then I picked it up and read it straight through without stopping. The thing is, I am not among Dufresne's core fan base (which is substantial), although I have no doubts about the scope of his talent. Somehow the things that have always bugged me a little about his novels — the insistence on tragicomic balance, the intrusive authorial voice, the whimsical Wal-Mart surrealism — became the very qualities that make these stories irresistible. Go figure." Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com (read the entire Salon.com review)
"Happily, Dufresne treads the fact and fiction line softly, and it never feels like the ham-fisted, tired literary gimmick you might imagine. Johnny Too Bad reads more like a mindscape: a heady mix of hope and regret, imagination and wonder....The writing in Johnny Too Bad can feel sketchy, present tense, as though the author is anxious that he will run out of time. He is that, too, of course, and it is a testament to the precision and originality of his voice that that anxiety is palpable." Anna Godbersen, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
Here are people caught unawares by trouble and opportunity in the act of going about their daily lives. A romantic woman, involved with her married boss, is proposed to by a Bulgarian on a tourist visa in search of a green card and must choose between a wedding and a love affair. A doctor who has killed two women escorts a flamboyant woman home to tell her about his rage and her foolishness. Four young brothers wander into a man's backyard claiming to be foster children. They share lunch and search for the foster home that doesn't exist. After a man tells his wife that he's leaving her and his children for his new lover, he's found dead in the morning. It's up to our literary hero to solve the mystery — murder, he wrote.
A cross between William Faulkner and John Irving, John Dufresne masterfully charts the power of truth and lies and the magic hidden in the mundane.
"A smalltown policeman obsessed with a crime of passion; a hyperactive hound who prefers a Barbie to a bone. The vagaries of man and beast are fodder for acclaimed novelist Dufresne (Louisiana Power & Light, etc.) in his energetic second collection. Southern Florida is the setting, a place whose sultry clime seems to foster off-kilter displays. (Indeed, Dufresne's relentlessly skewed perspective means these 18 stories are best savored over the course of several days.) Florida is 'tough on fiction writers,' says the narrator of 'Squeeze the Feeling.' 'How do you compete with daily life?' Dufresne writes of the betrayals that level romantic relationships, wondering how 'you could go from finishing each other's sentences to not talking for twenty years.' In the 18 linked entries of the title story, a woman has a love child with Bigfoot, a dog named Spot performs Shakespeare (sort of: he runs for the door when an ersatz Lady Macbeth rubs her hands and orders him 'out') and two lovers wait out a tornado by curling up in a tub. 'Life doesn't get any sweeter when you grow up,' laments betrayed husband Rance in 'Talk, Talk, Talk.' But in the writings of Dufresne, whose tales are marinated in melancholy and sprinkled with wit, it is the piquant nature of the journey that keeps readers engaged. Agent, Richard P. McDonough. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A cross between William Faulkner and John Irving, Dufresne masterfully charts the power of truth and lies and the magic hidden in the mundane in this collection of colorful stories.
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