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Ancestors and Others: New and Selected Stories Hardcover – October 27, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Chappell's newest culls from a lengthy, productive career; the result, a broad, richly textured anthology that exquisitely captures the author's contribution to Southern literature. The title story is classic Chappell: as a North Carolina couple is visited by laboratory-resurrected Civil War–veteran forefathers, elements of Southern culture are explored through fantastic plot twists. This supernatural streak runs throughout, illuminating subjects as diverse as family, astronomy, gender and deer hunting. Sometimes the extraordinary is rendered subtly, as in Duet, where a bereaved man learns to express himself musically following the death of a friend. Sometimes the magic comes intensely to the forefront, as in Linnaeus Forgets, where the father of botany is visited by tiny flying people. Sometimes, as with The Three Boxes, Chappell's writing becomes more thought experiment than fiction and his style succumbs to the weight of allegory. At its best, however, Chappell's careful, evocative prose surprises with the quiet power of its descriptions. (Nov.)
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From Booklist

After “The Overspill,” a stunning short piece that forms one bookend to these 19 stories, readers may expect Chappell’s collection to contain more of the same: achingly precise vignettes of childhood in rural North Carolina. The first full story, “Broken Blossoms,” does nothing to contradict that impression. Then comes “The Three Boxes,” a parable about race that is set in some place beyond myth. And then “Ember,” a spooky, folkloric tale appropriate for an embering hearth on a wild and stormy night. Fans of Chappell, who is also a poet and novelist, know his wide range of interests and the diverse array of styles he uses to explore them, but for new readers this will come as a revelation. From a hunting story, told in closely observed vernacular, that is really about war (“Tradition”) to a humorous tale of the supernatural that is really a takedown of postmodern literary theory (“The Lodger”), Chappell writes with feeling, intelligence, and a sense of adventure. Many of these stories have been collected before, but it’s a worthy assemblage all the same. --Keir Graff

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