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Recapture Paperback – October 16, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Unsentimental stories that tell us what the American West looks like now and what we’ve lost; the Grand Canyon, for instance, can be seen only in replica after environmental catastrophe.”
LIBRARY JOURNAL

"Recapture is a living, breathing museum of natural wonders. With writing as spare as the landscape she evokes, Olsen wades through the detritus of the human experience and finds clarity there, and some magic, too."
ZYZZYVA

"Recapture is…a gem, a small collection of stories that is a pleasure to read and consider."
TERRAIN.ORG

"Olsen's deft use of language creates stories that exude not only loneliness and longing, but also dark humor."
SUNDOG LIT

"These are sexy stories that are never explicit, knowing exactly which details are necessary for their effect and describing no more."
TOTTENVILLE REVIEW

"True to its name, Recapture grasps after lost loves, fading histories, and shifting landscapes to bring us an expertly curated series of human exhibits in an expansive, outdoor museum."
THE MUSEUM OF AMERICANA

"Erica Olsen gives us the dream life of the Southwest in this striking collection, a landscape told in language as spare and pungent and exacting as the desert itself. A swift and lovely debut from a writer of real gifts."
KEVIN CANTY, author of Where the Money Went

"These sly, heartbreaking stories capture the modern West, where the past is ever-present and the future is already here."
ALISON BAKER, author of How I Came West, and Why I Stayed

"Beneath their polished surfaces, Erica Olsen's stories are subversive, sometimes darkly funny, and always disquieting. This accomplished writer really knows her way through the tricky zone between truth and falsehood where art is made."
SUSAN LOWELL HUMPHREYS, author of Ganado Red

"A sharp, wise new voice from the American West, Erica Olsen is the real thing. As wild as David Foster Wallace or George Saunders and as tender as James Salter or Alice Munro, Olsen’s stories are hilarious, painful, and achingly lovely."
AMANDA EYRE WARD, author of Close Your Eyes

"Like all good narratives, Erica Olsen’s “Grand Canyon II” suggests great consequence. The past is another country. The task of memory is impossible. No one exists and nothing ever happened. But somewhere in your brain, a beautiful lie is being spun..."
SARAH MANGUSO, author of The Guardians

"Recapture is like a lost map of the backcountry, detailing the forgotten places where secrets shove up through the dust, pieces of lives demanding to be made whole. The territory is endlessly illuminating and constantly surprising, revealing a master storyteller at work."
KIM TODD, author of Tinkering with Eden: A Natural History of Exotic Species in America

From the Back Cover


The stories in Recapture take us to an American West that is both strange and familiar. The Grand Canyon can only be visited in replica form. An archivist preserves a rare map of a vanished Lake Tahoe. A Utah cliff dwelling survives as an aging roadside attraction in California. By turns lyrical, deadpan, and surreal, Erica Olsen’s stories bring us the natural world and the world we make, the artifacts we keep and the memories and desires that shape our lives.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 165 pages
  • Publisher: Torrey House Press; First Torrey House Press Edition edition (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1937226050
  • ISBN-13: 978-1937226053
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 0.5 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,419,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

By Charles Quimby on November 10, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Erica Olsen's RECAPTURE & Other Stories is more than a collection of "other stories;" it's a curation of artifacts around themes of loss, searching and memory. The motif of return keeps returning.

Relationships--if they can be found in these stories--are broken, in the process of breaking or being partially assembled from the materials found on site.

Some of the pieces run barely a page or two; one is more than half footnotes. The fragments don't cohere to make a single object, but like lipid-coated pot sherds, baskets, granaries and stacked stones, they provide clues for us to extract truths about our vanished selves.

In "The Curation of Silence," Olsen takes this notion to its extreme. She imagines a discipline that studies captured silences, but the empty vessels hold the most meaning for the collector:

"To collect was not only to preserve, but also to alter through the addition of new meanings--just as the books on my shelf were becoming an autobiography of myself that would also be dispersed someday--meanings which were individual, personal and destined to fade away without a trace."

With her background as an archivist and a museum technician in the Four Corners area of the southwest, Olsen knows what this landscape can tell us. Americans typically don't have to live daily with thousand-year structures or billion-year geology. We can make our own ruins, thank you, and build over them with something new and reassuring.

But out here the big spaces and silences force us to confront our conceits of individuality and national exceptionalism. Unlike the forest-dwellers, we can't help but see how time and nature always win out.

Out here, we ready ourselves to become the next Anasazi.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For a long time the Southwest was an orphan in the literary world. Even when Wallace Stegner, Edward Abbey, and others were winning national audiences of readers, the academic and NYC literary world acted as if the urban and suburban worlds, the personal and political worlds, were the only and real worlds, and that anything set in the West must be too dusted with cowboy mythology to be taken seriously. It's a good sign that Torrey House Press, the publisher of this book, is trying to do for the desert Southwest what other leading literary presses, like those based in San Francisco or Minneapolis, have done for their regions, giving young and original writers a chance to speak for the region and the experience they know well.

Erica Olsen's "Recapture" is a promising start for both her publisher and herself. As an archaeologist for whom the Four Corners region is first of all a landscape of ancient ruins, Olsen avoids the unavoidable trap of looking upon the land as merely a theater for the American national story of conquest and settlement. For Olsen, the land and the ruins belong to their own world. Yet she does repeatedly grapple with the disconnection between this land and the recent sheet of American and tourism culture thrown over it, sometimes hiding it. She is troubled by how Americans can't seem to see this land in authentic ways; several stories involve fake or re-created places or ruins. She (or at least her characters) are seeking their own, original connections with the land. These are mainly personal connections, often romantic connections. They often fail. The ruins in the stories sometimes become symbols of ruined attempts at connections. The American present and the ancient land just can't quite reach an honest and lasting bond.
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I totally underestimated "Recapture and Other Stories". Olsen's stories convey a close understanding of the people and places of the Southwest and give glimpses of futures that invite dire speculation. At times deeply personal, and at other times scientific, this collection presents an experience of seeing landscapes and relationships through lenses large and small. These stories will leave you wondering, and wanting to know more.
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Read my full review @ bit.ly/SRMuHe

My opinion: In my humble opinion, it takes a special person to have the skill set necessary to write short stories and not treat them as off-shoots of full length novels. Short stories require a conciseness while respecting the characters and setting, in doing justice to them and not underwriting who they are while "telling" the story. There is also a respect which is imperative in not underwriting the story, as well. Olsen is one of these authors. Her characters are inviting, while not always being perfect and her descriptors for the setting make the reader feel that they are walking right along side the characters. To boot, her stories are engrossing in the short amount of pages given for each of them.

On a side note, while the stories are set in the American West/Southwest could limit the audience for this book by the description, I would encourage readers outside this region of the US to take a look at this dynamic tiny read!
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Anyone who lives, or visits,just passes through, or dreams of the Southwest,should read this volume of short stories by master story-teller Erica Olsen. With piercing vision and ironic understanding, she captures not only the fragrance of sage and the taste of red dust but also creates indelible characters, some of whom you have surely known. I'm buying half a dozen copies as gifts!
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