Synopses & Reviews
Fierce, searing, and darkly comical, Garriga's debut collection of short-short fiction depicts historical and imagined duels, re-envisioning in a flash the competing points of motivationcourage and cowardice, honor and vengeancethat lead individuals to risk it all.
In this compact collection, settling the score” provides a fascinating apparatus for exploring foundational civilizing ideas. Notions of courage, cowardice, and revenge course through Michael Garrigas flash fiction pieces, each one of which captures a duels decisive moment from three distinct perspectives: opposing accounts from the individual duelists, followed by the third account of a witness. In razor-honed language, the voices of the duelists take center stage, training a spotlight on the litany of misguided beliefs and perceptions that lead individuals into such conflicts.
From Cain and Abel to Andrew Jackson and Charles Dickenson; from John Henry and the steam drill to an alcoholic fighting the bottle: the cumulative effect of these powerful pieces is a probing and disconcerting look at humankinds long-held notions of pride, honor, vengeance, and satisfaction. Meticulously crafted by Garriga, and with stunning illustrations by Tynan Kerr, The Book of Duels is a unique and remarkable debut.
"The contesting spirit of 'one last chance at revenge' sets the stage for this riveting flash fiction collection composed of tripartite narratives of battles both historical and imagined. In Garriga's debut work, two opposing combatants voice their account of events leading up to the conclusive moment of their duel, followed by a third perspective of a witness. This unique form allows for an intimate study of individual motivations and their final decision for combat, told in a descriptive and lyrical language that transports readers across time and continent, seamlessly occupying minds of both the famous and unfamiliar. In 'First-Called Quit: Pelham v. Vanderhosen,' a plantation owner fights a foreman of another plantation for roughing up his slave. Enraged at the blatant disrespect, he vows, 'no matter the rules, I'll not call quits or hear them neither until I am satisfied.' Abel and Cain duke it out just East of Eden in 'Slouching Toward the Land of Nod: Abel v. Cain' with God as their Eternal Witness. In 'It's a Family Affair: Sellers v. Sellers,' a family in Iowa pits their troubles against each other in couples counseling. While some stories are stronger than others, overall Garriga triumphs in his compelling portrayal of the tension between vengeful characters as justice is duly served. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Michael Garriga's prose is rich with idiom and tension, taut and visceral as the stories he tells. He writes exclusively of getting even, settling scores, honor, bullying and cowardice. The language has biblical force and rhythms, and he goes inside these characters and brings them to us direct from their deepest parts."
Daniel Woodrell, author of The Maid's Version and Winter's Bone
"Lovers of language at its thrumming, pulse-driven peak, fiends for characters staggeringly alive, twitching addicts of images grotesque and glorious, Michael Garriga is your man and The Book of Duels your new obsession. With his Duels, Garriga defies classification, transcends form, and gives us neither prose, poems, or prose-poems, but a work of unassailable linguistic art."
Kent Wascom, author of The Blood of Heaven
"Garriga has instantly established himself as both a master of that profoundly modern literary form, the short short story, and a master of the human condition. The Book of Duels is one of the most extraordinary first books of fiction Ive ever read."
Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
"Michael Garrigas truly original and often darkly funny stories in The Book of Duels are as full of heart and blood and guts as the work of his great heroes, Cormac McCarthy and Barry Hannah, and he shares with those writers a hard-won vulnerability at the word-drunk nub of everything."
Mark Winegardner, author of Crooked River Burning
"The Book of Duels is a beautiful, brutal collection, bridging the distance between prose and poetry. Garriga bears down on our legacies of racism, violence, and vengeanceat turns historically precise and otherworldlycreating an acute awareness of our human frailty and relentless desire for love."
Julianna Baggott, author of the Pure Trilogy
"There are a lot of great storytellers published today, but it takes a great writer to tell a story in so few wordsand Michael Garriga does it brilliantly. Told candidly from the perspective of each duelist and a witness, The Book of Duels delves into the final thoughtsof honor, of love, of hatred, of anger, of Godof those facing death. Gritty, and often darkly humorous, this debut collection will make readers take note of flash fiction."
Lindsay Pingel, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL
About the Author
holds a Ph.D. from Florida State Universitys creative writing program. His short fiction has appeared in New Letters, Black Warrior Review, storySouth, Southern Review
, and elsewhere. Garriga lives with his family outside of Cleveland, OH, where he teaches creative writing in the English department at Baldwin Wallace Unversity. The Book of Duels
is his first book.
Tynan Kerr was born in St. Paul, MN. He received a B.F.A. from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He currently lives in South Minneapolis.