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Last Call: Stories (Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction) Hardcover – October 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

They're like something out of a country-and-western song, these Tates of West Texas, what with their good women and bad dogs, bad luck and good honky-tonks. But that's where the song lyric cliche comparison ends. In Cook's hands, the series of linked stories introducing us to three generations of Tates fairly thrums with keen insight borne of uncommon wisdom and unwavering compassion for his characters. From the newly eloped oldest sister to the youngest son still in his crib, we meet nearly everyone we need to know in the first of four sections, and the signature events both subtly and powerfully foreshadow what will be revealed in subsequent tales. As each of the Tates takes his or her turn in the spotlight, we come to know a family shaken by violence, overcome by sorrow, and, most of all, driven by a palpable longing for something or someone always just out of reach. Cook's debut collection is a breathtakingly haunting and magical tapestry of human emotions. Carol Haggas
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Review

“The stories in Last Call are about fractured families, lovers and losers (often one and the same), and coming of age the hard way. Cook writes with ease and naturalness and a wonderful, sorrowful knowledge of human foibles.”—Jean Thompson, author of Who Do You Love and City Boy
 
(Jean Thompson)

“The stories in Last Call are so entertaining it seems almost unfair that they also resonate powerfully long after you’ve put down the book. K. L. Cook has whopping gifts, and this is a splendid book.”—Robert Boswell, author of Century’s Son
 
(Robert Boswell)

"K. L. Cook starts with the pungent inventory of country western songs but lights it all, even his honky-tonks, fried food, downed trees, sick dogs, and rain, with a new understanding of men and women. These are rich stories by an exciting new voice."—Ron Carlson, author of A Kind of Flying
(Ron Carlson)
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Product Details

  • Series: Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction
  • Hardcover: 253 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803215401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803215405
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,811,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Elaine D. Little on June 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Last Call is novel in eleven stories. It is divided into four sections and has five narrators, telling about four, non-sequential decades. Stories in the first section are told by one close third person narrator. Three characters narrate the second section, two in first person, one in third. Section three has one first-person narrator. The last section, four, is one story narrated by the original character, though she now speaks in first person. By any stretch of the imagination, this should be immensely confusing, yet to this reader it was not.
Cook grounds the reader from the first page by giving a time period: "March-April 1958", a specific time: "Easter Weekend" and by using the first paragraph to draw the reader into scene with specific description of the family, their home life, and their pets. Though seven proper names are listed in that paragraph, after reading "Laura's father," "Laura's mother," and "Laura and her brothers" we are sure that this is Laura's story. Laura's name is in the opening sentence of the next two stories as well.
I was not at all put out by having to guess, the details of time and place, the uniqueness of the characters, and the suspense about what will happen are all part of the story's charm.
The second story of section two begins with the same date and place as the last story, and it is also in first person, but I knew from the first sentence that this was another voice. "Last call had been made over the intercom, and I began to scrub the stockpile of cocktail and beer glasses on the three-pronged bristles, rinsing them quickly in standing water, a glass in each hand." Gene's sister, Gloria, and her son were working at the Texas Moon, so I felt pretty confident that this was either Gloria or her son.
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By Nan on June 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Kenny Cook is a marvelous writer and outstanding teacher. He was a visiting writer at my university and taught a graduate workshop on the story cycle. Before he came, my students read LAST CALL and loved it, using it as the standard over DUBLINERS or WINESBURG, OHIO. It's that good. Robust with emotional entanglement and action, engaging with musical language that matches its musical settings, this is a book you should put on your list.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Cosmoetica on October 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Let me deal with the pointlessness aspect of some of the tales. This occurs because the book tries to be a novel in short stories, but Cook is bereft of understanding how to properly structure such a work. There are twelve putative `stories', broken into four sections. The problem is that many of the stories simply cannot stand alone, and therefore become de facto chapters, or filler between the other tales. Yet, as chapters they don't work either, because Cook does not give the pieces enough grounding with connections to earlier nor later chapters, or `stories'. Recently, I read a book of nine interlocking stories that worked marvelously as stand alone tales and as a novel in short stories, called Ernie's Ark, by Monica Wood [LINK]. There are moments in Cook's book that are every bit as well written as Wood's work, but Cook fundamentally doesn't understand the role structure can play in making or breaking an otherwise interesting tale, as he sometimes errs the way Niemi did, by climaxing his tales too early. Yet, he is not some talentless PC Elitist hack, but his tales all conform to the worst of MFA workshop formulae. Not coincidentally, the book's dust jacket declaims Cook as a creative writing teacher at a small college in Arizona. To use the parlance of that oeuvre; Cook has potential, but he's yet to find his voice. The skills he demonstrates in this book are almost totally subsumed by a slavish conformity to banal structure....because one might think because I've pointed out many flaws and cannot recommend this book overall as a good read, that I think Cook is yet another literary hack and fraud: he's not.Read more ›
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