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River Dogs: Stories Paperback – August 15, 1997


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The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
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Into the chaos of a prolonged drought step Angel Velasquez—a "water knife"; Lucy Monroe, a hardened journalist; and Maria Villarosa, a young migrant, who dreams of escaping north to those places where water still falls from the sky: All three find themselves pawns in a game far bigger, more corrupt and dirtier than any of them could have imagined. Learn more | See similar books

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The appealing characters in these short stories are mountain loggers, farmers, stonecutters and truckers in upper New York State and northern New England. They lead simple, rustic, routine lives that, in certain moments, which the author captures succinctly and movingly, are broken by poignant, unsettling occurrencessome of which flicker for only a second while others begin a chain of events that alter lives forever. In "Cody's Story," a logger in the woods falls down an icy rock face, nearly dies and remembers events from his life. (Later, while listening to a diesel engine running, he imagines "a thousand small explosions going off inside its block, like all the scenes he couldn't remember and never would.") In "Onions," much of Raymond Knowlton's farm equipment is sold to satisfy a bank debt, leaving him with 200 tons of onions in a glutted market, at which point he and his unhelpful father begin playing a stubborn, deadly game. These fast-paced, invigorating tales are at times cold and cruel, at times warm, and the reader will be intrigued.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"An extraordinary collection. "-The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805051201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805051209
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,389,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
There are only a handful of contemporary American fiction writers on par with Olmstead. And there's no better place to start than with Olmstead's first book, "River Dogs," a collection of short stories. Like John Cheever and Raymond Carver, Olmstead's short stories draw you into the strange, familiar world of small-town America through his careful, precise language. The stories also treat the characters with respect and honesty. My favorite stories are "A Good Cow," "In This Life" and the title story. This is definitely a good book for any young writer struggling to master the craft of storytelling. I highly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
I grew up spending my summers in rural New Hampshire and never thought I would read a book that captured the lives of the permanent residents so vividly. Almost all of these stories are about working people of New Hampshire and western Massachusetts. These are people with deeply ingrained emotional reserve that has often been cariactured, but rarely (in my experience) been presented with sympathy. Annie Proulx's "Postcards" is the other work of fiction that I have read lately that does so.
Terrible things happen to many of the characters in Robert Olmstead's stories and they rarely react in any outward way. Rather their tendency is to simply veer off-track in their lives. People that had been going somewhere have something precious taken from them and it causes them to close themselves off from their emotions and begin to lead lives of steadily increasing futility and pointlessness. On rare occasions an Olmstead character will go off the deep-end in dramatic fashion, but usually they just drift into an emotional and/or moral purgatory.
Having said all this, I must admit that I laughed out loud at some of the funnier moments in these stories, which include a dead cow floating down river, dead dogs and drunk people that fall out of the back of open pick-ups and outrageous bets that make people a lot of money and many enemies.
Contrary to what other have written, I would say that their is a great deal of depth to these stories and that the laconic way in which they are told may cause the casual reader to miss this. The descriptions of the various marriages, friendships and filial relationships in this book are much truer to life than a lot of people would probably like to admit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Swofford on January 3, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have only read two of these tales so far -- doling

'em out slowly. I had read only one of his books prior

to this & loved it & these stories seem to be living

up to my opinion that he is an unusual, excellent writer

with a sort of sardonic tho deeply felt point-of-view.

I enjoy his use of the language & plan to graze through

all of his work. I am one of those who believe that you

CAN (often) "tell a book by its cover," & this quite

wonderful cover photo & fonts hint @the art awaiting

within that cover.
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By A Customer on July 7, 1997
Format: Paperback
I stumbled upon River Dogs while rummaging for
"Vintage Contemporaries" at a local used bookstore. I usually plop down on the floor & dig into the first few chapters to see if an author is up to snuff. It didn't take long to get hooked on
Olmstead's style-- he has a touching, keen eye for humanity. The book reminded me of Steinbeck's first few short story collections (Pastures of Heaven and Long Valley). The stories inspired me to sign up for a writing class, believe it or not.
This isn't a top-ten "fluff" book that everyone's reading at the airport-- it doesn't focus on current events or rely on shocking plot twists to keep the reader interested. Instead, Olmstead weaves stories about everyday people that seem extraordinary because of the way he portrays them. My favorite stories were "A Good Cow", "The Mason", and "Bruno and Rachel".

I've since picked up a few of his other books,
which I'll review sometime soon. It looks like
Amazon has some of them in stock. Until recently, most of his books were out of print.

-James Blakeman
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