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Chemistry and Other Stories Paperback – Deckle Edge, March 29, 2007

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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (March 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312425082
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312425081
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #344,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An award-winning Southern novelist (The World Made Straight), short story writer (Casualties) and poet (Raising the Dead), Rash returns to short fiction with 13 snapshots of contemporary Appalachia. There are double-wide trailers, aging cars and lost souls "resigned to bad times and trouble," but there's also, in "Honesty," a lit professor struggling to get out from under his rich, cynical wife. In the title story, a chemistry teacher prescribed Elavil and shock treatments for a "chemical imbalance" seeks emotional ballast in the backwoods evangelical religion of his youth. In "Blackberries in June" a young couple—he a logger, she a waitress—buy a fixer-upper house, spend their free time repairing it and plan to take night classes at the local community college, but family demands and random events conspire to keep them down. In the haunting "Pemberton's Bride," the local lumber-mill owner brings home a Boston bride; she quickly adapts to the rough and tumble surroundings, remorselessly dispatching any threat to her position or to her husband's business interests, real or imagined. There are pacing problems throughout, particularly when characters get let off the hook with hurried resolutions. But the setups are imaginative, and Rash gets the feelings right. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Rash, a poet and novelist (The World Made Straight 2006) steeped in Appalachia, offers 13 haunting and picturesque stories that illuminate the terms of survival in that often forgotten landscape. Three old men pursue the shadow of a giant sturgeon--and rejoice not when they catch it but when they find irrefutable proof of its existence. A Depression-era mother whose son has been found murdered "in the back of beyond" scrounges up six dollars to pay a surveyor to find out exactly where he died, just so she can record it in her Bible. A couple dealing with successive miscarriages, a high-school basketball standout who sabotages his chance in the pros with drugs, a bewildered father watching his son lapsing repeatedly into addiction--each character is imbued with empathy and grace. The collection concludes with a teenager who foolishly steals some marijuana plants from a local good old boy right out of Deliverance, and suffers the horrific consequences. An apt encapsulation of a hardscrabble world, tinged with loyalty and love, but ruled by hard justice and revenge. Deborah Donovan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Ron Rash is the author of the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Finalist and New York Times bestselling novel, Serena, in addition to three other prizewinning novels, One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, and The World Made Straight; three collections of poems; and four collections of stories, among them Burning Bright, which won the 2010 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, and Chrmistry and Other Stories, which was a finalist for the 2007 PEN/Faulkner Award. Twice the recipient of the O.Henry Prize, he teaches at Western Carolina University.

Customer Reviews

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See all 17 customer reviews
Their Ancient Glittering Eyes is a great fish story.
Bonnie Brody
He starts so perfectly, it's hard to imagine the story could have begun anywhere else.
L. A. Busch
Ron Rash is one of the best short story writers that I have read in a long time.
Loyce E. Myers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By L. A. Busch on May 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
In "Chemistry and Other Stories," Ron Rash's most recent collection of short stories from Picador, Rash does exactly what Aristotle suggested to young writers over 2000 years ago; he starts his stories "in medias res"--"In the middle of things." Aristotle knew that if a story was to be successful, it had to focus on the main conflict immediately. Rash executes Aristotle's idea flawlessly in this fine collection.

"The spring my father spent three weeks at Broughton Hospital, he came back to my mother and me pale and disoriented, two pill bottles clutched in his right hand as we made our awkward reunion in the hospital lobby." So begins the title story of Rash's collection, "Chemistry." Rash drops the reader in the middle of things by cutting to the heart of the conflict in the first sentence. He follows "Chemistry" with "Last Rite." "When the sheriff stepped onto her porch, he carried his hat in his hands, so she knew Elijah was dead."

Lately, it seems, I have been lulled to sleep by recent fiction entries in some of the finest literary journals around, seasoned writers trying to entice me into their fictional web with weak beginnings dealing with nothing more challenging than weather reports, bird nests, and hammered metal bells. Rash, unlike many of his contemporaries, understands the structure of effective storytelling and how to imbue a tale with urgency. He starts so perfectly, it's hard to imagine the story could have begun anywhere else. Once the story's in full swing, Rash sketches in supporting events and background with the grace of a magician, so invisibly the reader will scarcely be aware he's doing it.

"I met Lee Ann McIntyre on a date suggested by my wife." From Rash's story, "Honesty.
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Format: Paperback
A consummate writer, Rash's Appalachia assumes a reality few capture as brilliantly, whether in novels or short stories. Chemistry and Other Stories is a sampler of the characters who people Rash's novels, from the old and the new South, the intransigent past, the bloody fields of the Civil War never far from the intrusions of the present. As solid and unmoving as the landscape, those people possess a dignity and spirit unique to time and place, an unforgiving land where diligent souls coax forth meager crops, age sitting early on their faces. In the title story, "Chemistry", a boy learns that "sometimes you have to search for solutions in places where only the heart can go". Felled by a crushing depression, a man finds solace in a former hobby, scuba diving. And he returns to the Pentecostal religion of his youth. Watching his father cope with this unfamiliar burden, a son becomes intimate with understanding and compassion, then forgiveness as his father slips away in a watery grave.

Hard work defines each day for a young couple who have purchased their own home in "Blackberries in June". Toiling long hours to improve the place, project by project, Jaimie and Matt are sanguine about the many years of hard work ahead, a future they both believe in. A family tragedy requires an adjustment of those hopes- "You got to accept life is full of disappointments"- but this couple is forged from stronger stuff than those who seek to exploit their progress. Loss is as familiar as tragedy as memories of the dead haunt the protagonist in "Cold Harbor". Anna, a nurse, clings to the small comfort: The fate of a man who survives his near-fatal wounds in Korea, the possibilities of his future a balm to her recurring nightmares.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kyle Minor on March 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
It is impossible to read Chemistry and Other Stories, as I just did, without the floor slanting a little. At our house in riverside Ohio (sixty year old wood floors in most rooms; some carpet; a little bit of concrete in the room where we keep the upright piano), we've noticed an eight or nine degree tilt. At my in-laws' place, in Rowan County, Kentucky, only three degrees, but that's an old farmhouse my father-in-law built with his own hands, and it was already tilted a little.

I don't want to give too much away, not that it would ruin it for you, because it won't, but it might redact a tiny bit of the pleasure these stories have stored away for you, and why do that? Let me say, though, that "Pemberton's Bride," the second to last story, might be the only new story I've read this year that I kept living inside long after I turned the final page. It has all the perl and sweep of an epic novel packed into fewer pages than a New Yorker magazine article, and all this without skimping on scene-making or resorting to some kind of false summary resolution.

Worth noting, too, is the story "Speckled Trout," basis for Rash's novel The World Made Straight, set to a tune called down from eight clouds north.

There aren't many writers working who can spin a yarn or write a sentence worthy of the ones in this book. I'll here invoke Alice Munro's "A Wilderness Station," Denis Johnson's story "Train Dreams," and Jim Harrison's "Legends of the Fall," not because the comparisons are just right, but because we'd be in adjacent neighborhoods, emotionally speaking, and because I think it might convince a few good readers to buy this book and be transported the way I just was. These stories are in my dreams, and it will be difficult, now, to separate the life I've lived in flesh and blood from the life I've just lived in ragged-bound trade paperback. That's not something you get to say too often after you read a regular old book.
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