Book 35 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from April 10 - 12
The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell
Summary (via the book jacket)
Twelve timeless tales of those on the fringes of society.
Daniel Woodrell is able to lend uncanny logic to harsh, even criminal behavior in this wrenching collection of stories. Desperation - both material and psychological - motivates his characters. A husband cruelly avenges the killing of his wife's pet; an injured rapist is cared for by a young woman until she reaches her breaking point; a disturbed veteran of Iraq is murdered for his erratic behavior; an outsider's home is set on fire by an angry neighbor.
There is also the tenderness and loyalty of the vulnerable in these stories - between spouses, parents and children, siblings, and comrades in arms - that brings the troubled, sorely tested cast of characters to vivid, relatable life. And, as ever, "the music coming from Woodrell's banjo cannot be confused with the sounds of any other writer" (Donald Harington, Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
The author has a very vivid writing style. Very bleak and unsettling. It was my first time reading him and while I had some troubles with the format of these short stories, I would absolutely read his fiction novels.
With the majority of the stories, they didn't feel complete. Either the timing would be off (it would be over just as I was getting invested) or it would feel like I was missing part of the story, like I had picked up a book and started reading the middle chapters. And I'm fine with ambiguous endings but getting to know a character or situation well enough to read between the lines is almost impossible in short stories; they needed more resolution.
The exception to this was the story "Night Stand". It had a full arc and was the perfect length. "Uncle" was incredibly creepy as well.
When the complaint is that I wanted more of his words to read, that's a good problem to have. Little phrases would say so much, like when he talked about a man's belongings and said "Several pictures of his daughters were saved and brought along, but none of their mother". Or there would be phrases that were so unique, like when someone didn't want to repeat something he'd already done and explained it with "I don't chew my cabbage twice" or describing a man as being "of two-shot killing size, as death would have to scream its presence a while to make it known to the ends of his form".
Even though this particular book wasn't for me I look forward to reading more of his work.
A Few Quotes from the Book
"If they ever catch who took my daughter, I'll probably know him. Maybe I've known him my whole life; maybe he's only a familiar face and name. I might have given him credit at the store, let his tab ride till next Friday or the one after, carried groceries to the car for his wife, cut two pounds from a chub of bologna and shaved it paper-thin the way he likes. Maybe he leans on the counter and repeats his favorite jokes, and I laugh at the right parts while recalling the sound of his mitt snapping shut when he shagged fly balls long ago.
I suspect everybody around here and nobody special." ~ from "Florianne"
"At some point inside that addled calmness the heavy curtains parted and he thought he spied a good way out, an answer to it all - stepped to the back stoop and sat and erased his problems in this world, maybe not the next. He died gushing blood on the second step of the back stoop, the step we keep painted black." ~ from "Black Step"
"There was a time I [loved Cecil]. It was a love that any daddy would have. But that was way back. If I love Cecil now it is like the way I love the Korean conflict. Something terrible I have lived through." ~ from "Two Things"