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Battleborn: Stories Paperback – August 6, 2013


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Trade; Reprint edition (August 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159463145X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594631450
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #169,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review



Winner of the 2012 Story Prize
Recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters 2013 Rosenthal Family Foundation Award
Named one of the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" fiction writers of 2012
Winner of New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award
NPR Best Short Story Collections of 2012 
A Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, and Time Out New York Best Book of the year, and more . . .


“A real treat… Through remarkably assured writing that manages to be both bristly and brittle, Watkins chronicles despair and loneliness, catalogs valiant fights for survival and desperate please to be heard, and every time has us rooting for her underdogs.” –San Francisco Chronicle

“Dazzling.” –O, The Oprah Magazine

“Although individual stories stand alone, together they tell the tale of a place, and of the population that thrives and perishes therein… The historical sits comfortably alongside the contemporary and the factual nicely supplements the fictional… Readers will share in the environs of the author and her characters, be taken into the hardship of a pitiless place and emerge on the other side—wiser, warier and weathered like the landscape.” –Antonya Nelson, The New York Times Book Review

"The most captivating voice to come out of the West since Annie Proulx - though it's to early Joan Didion that [Watkins] bears comparison for her arid humor and cut-to-the-chase knowingness." –Vogue

“The most exciting book of fiction I read this past year…To me, her gift is akin to that of those rare actors, like a Streep or a Brando, who can totally become a character but retain their own essence through and through…Fantastic stuff.”–Chang-rae Lee, A Year in Reading, The Millions

“Exceptional… A writer of great precision and greater restraint, Watkins is a natural storyteller whose material enriches that gift rather than engulfing it… One doesn’t have to be from the Battleborn state to recognize and appreciate literature that resonates like this.” –The Rumpus

"[A] breathtaking debut… [Watkins'] stories… carry the weight and devastation of entire novels.” –Flavorpill
 
"Absorbing… [Battleborn’s] true setting is a Faulknerian desert of the heart, where the soil is cursed by its precious metals and one’s personal history can be just as toxic. Clear-eyed and nimble in parsing the lives of her Westerners, one of Watkins’s strengths is not dodging that the simple fact that love can be tragic, involving, as it does, humans so flawed, so often tender and yet incapable.” –The Boston Globe

“A powerful new voice that deserves recognition… [Watkins maps] a regional portrait while pausing for detailed sketches, with a strong perspective that blends the romanticized past of Larry McMurtry, heartbreaking characters of Annie Proulx, and bleak timeless landscapes of Cormac McCarthy.” –The Onion AV Club

“As if Watkins’ prose embodies the desert landscape of Nevada itself, the stories are stony, unkind, and harsh, though never unattractive… Beneath these confessions runs a spiritual undertow—that salvific beauty can arise when brutality is brought to light… All of her stories left me feeling purged and oddly cleansed, easily making Battleborn one of the strongest collections I’ve read in years.” –The Millions

"Her incredible talent fills every page of this raw, wild, soaring debut. She may be the coolest real-life literary lady we've discovered in quite a while." –Flavorwire

“As grounded as they are in real places, the stories are fictions, crafted with the skill of an artisan, working from the starting points of Mary Gaitskill and Aimee Bender.” –Los Angeles Times

"These stories are as spare and beautifully austere as the landscape of the American Southwest where they are set, the same landscape that shapes and hardens the characters and refines them down to their fundamental elements, working them until they are all sinewy muscle and steely resolve. This is a stunning debut from an important young writer, and if it is a promise of what’s to come in the future of American fiction, we are in very good hands indeed." –Bookriot

"Vibrant and assured… The settings of Watkins' home state—evoked with craft that echoes Cormac McCarthy or Richard Ford—were the perfect settings for heartbreak." –Time Out New York

"What distinguishes Watkins' work… is her command of time. Nearly all the stories are set in the present, but her characters constantly live with aftereffects of the past. They're not simply "scarred" by history; they're irradiated by it, queasily lit from within.” –Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“[An] assured debut… Here’s hoping Watkins will continue to delve into Nevada’s unsound caverns and emerge with such worthy plunder.” –Dallas Morning News

“Gloriously vivid stories about the human heart.” –Kirkus

“In her debut short story collection Battleborn Claire Vaye Watkins marries character to landscape as well as anyone I have read in years. These stories set in the Nevada desert are gritty and brilliant, and foretell an auspicious literary future for their author.” –Largehearted Boy

"A coolly impressive new voice of the American West." –The Financial Times

"The people in Battleborn… aren’t characters in stories, but human beings perpetually yearning for warmth… Entering the varied lives is akin to watching a tightrope walker high overhead, moving with steady confidence without a net… Watkins writes with precision and care, the sentences themselves as surprising as the events, the dialogue, and the spare description… There is a purity to the prose that is a constant pleasure to read… There is great originality in these narratives… But the generosity and personal sacrifices of the people are as universal as the stars at night." –Chris Offutt, Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Readers... will find much to admire in this arresting collection, which one hopes is merely the first stop along the way for a writer who deserves a sustained literary life." –Library Journal (starred review)



“A fresh, fierce, fabulous collection. Watkins writes like the divine Didion—cool and clean with not a word wasted. Where’d she come from? I’m glad she’s here.” –Joy Williams, author of The Quick and The Dead

“Claire Vaye Watkins is never, ever satisfied with the ordinary. Each story in this brilliant debut surprises. Watkins offers us amazing visions of a funny, savage, haunted West-and one of the most outstanding short story collections in recent memory.” –Christopher Coake, author of We’re in Trouble and You Came Back

About the Author

Claire Vaye Watkins is the author of Battleborn, winner of the Story Prize, the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Silver Pen Award from the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. Battleborn was named a Best Book of 2012 by the San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Time Out New York, and Flavorwire, and a Best Short Story Collection by NPR.org. In 2012, the National Book Foundation named Claire one of the 5 Best Writers Under 35. Her stories and essays have appeared in Granta, One Story, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, Best of the West 2011Best of the Southwest 2013, and elsewhere. A graduate of the University of Nevada Reno and the Ohio State University, Claire has received fellowships from the Writers’ Conferences at Sewanee and Bread Loaf. An assistant professor at Bucknell University, Claire is also the co-director, with Derek Palacio, of the Mojave School, a free creative writing workshop for teenagers in rural Nevada.

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Customer Reviews

Highly recommended for readers of short story and literary fiction.
Victoria Ceretto
She is very to the point in her stories and there are tons of twists in turns in each one.
ASenko
Beautiful, painful, witty and heartbreaking, these stories are magnificent!!!
Maria Jose Navia

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By David Keymer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Boy, can this woman write! Not every story in this collection is perfect but all of them are good, some in parts, but most all the way through, and the best of them are brilliant, revelatory and scarifying, glimpses into aspects of life that most ordinary folk never see or think of. All of the stories take place in the far West, a land that is still far rawer than most places in our citified, surfaced-civilized nation.

The first story, "Ghosts, Cowboys," takes multiple stabs at presenting a history of a place, then devolves into the tale of a woman whose father, her mother told her before she died, was Charles Manson's "number one procurer." There's a plot to the story but it's more about how one lives with such an awful heritage. In "The Last Thing We Need," a man writes to someone he's never met. He knows of him only because he came across the man's wallet, a packet of letters, and two unfilled prescriptions with an address on them, left behind as rubbish. He doesn't even know if the man still lives there but that's not why he writes: he's killed a drifter in an aborted convenience store robbery and he cant's get his head around what he's done and he hopes a complete stranger can help him but he knows he can't. "I've tried, Duane Moser," he writes, "But I can't picture you at 4077 Pincay Drive. I can't see you in Henderson, period, out in the suburbs, on a cul-de-sac, in one of those prefab houses with the stucco and the garage gaping off the front like a mouth. I can't see you standing like a bug under those streetlights the color of antibacterial soap. . . . I can't see you behind a fence.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Someone Else TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This author shows some definite promise, provided she can manage to sort out her verb-tense schizophrenia. She doesn't shy away from dicey material. In the first few stories, she revels in the strange and the forbidden, with stories about abortion, incest, a gay male madam at a Nevada brothel, and kids who ran with Charlie Manson. The last few stories are a bit more commonplace, but still edgy, because edginess is the petri dish from which her stories evolve.

Most of these stories are set in Watkins's home state of Nevada. I spent my formative years on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, on the California side, but very close to the border with Nevada. I have some familiarity with the geography and "vibe" of Nevada, which Watkins captures perfectly. Her stories grow from that boredom and restlessness and just general weirdness of life in a barren landscape, where there's so little to do but stir up mischief and go a little crazy.

Two complaints. First, wandering verb tense makes me tense. Second, I felt cheated by the way some of the stories ended. Short stories are often like outtakes from a full-length film. It takes some real skill to leave the reader satisfied while ending a story "in media res." Watkins has yet to master that skill, but she certainly has the potential to do so.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I decided to move out of my comfort zone in reading this as a Vine pick. I am not particularly a fan of the short story genre, but I had heard good things about Claire Vaye Watkins' debut collection of short stories and decided to give it a try.

I am pleased to say that this collection exceeded my expectations, drawing me into the lives of characters so far removed from my own experiences, and the American West provides a primal, gritty backdrop for the stories. There are ten stories in this collection and one of the most powerful is the first, "Ghosts, Cowboys" which begins on a sort of random note but then moves on to the Manson family. The story eventually settles to focus on a girl who finds out from her suicidal mother, that the girl's father Paul was Manson's pimp, procuring young girls for the commune's ranch. This legacy follows the girl over the years, and I was particularly affected after reading elsewhere that the author's own father (who died of Hodgkin's Disease when she was six) was a member of the family though apparently he was not involved in the notorious murders. The author certainly has a way with words, and sets up powerful scenes with minimal words.

Many of the characters are deeply flawed, but what struck me was that despite these flaws or psychological scars, I was actually interested in how things turned out for them (I'm not usually one to sympathize with flawed characters, especially those that seem to have a predilection for self-destruction). Watkins just might convert me into a fan of the short story!
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Wanda B. Red VINE VOICE on July 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Battle Born" (this title presents it as one word) is one of the semi-official monikers for the state of Nevada, the setting of many of these gorgeous and precise stories. It's a great title for this collection, which presents us with a series of characters whose circumstances suggest that they should be damaged beyond human recognition--but who in fact possess an inspiring sweetness and who long for connection. Though scarred by battle, each still seeks the faith necessary for birth and rebirth.

I don't want to spoil the book so a couple of examples will have to suffice: the final story of the collection ("Graceland") describes the precarious relationship of two sisters, in their 20s, whose mother has recently committed suicide. Both sisters are tiny in stature; both are involved with much larger men. The married sister is pregnant and attempting in the accoutrements of her apartment to recreate the dead mother's house (a recording of Paul Simon's "Graceland" is one of these). The other sister, who narrates the story, is so traumatized in her own way that one can scarcely imagine that she can help--but she does realize "I am the only one who knows what it means, this compiling. I am the only one in Gwen's life who can see what she's doing." This brief plot summary may sound like such a story could tip into sentimentality (especially if I tell you that the Disney movie "Dumbo" also features prominently in the tale). But Watkins' talent and discipline and her tremendously impressive command over language keep this collection far away from that defect. Instead, when the narrator speaks up ("And I said, 'What is WRONG with you?" When what I meant to say was, Are you okay?"), the complex ambivalence of the sisterly relationship is unmistakeable and beautifully managed.
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