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Rust and Bone: Stories Hardcover – November 14, 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A strong stomach, an open mind and a morbid sense of humor are essential to enjoying Davidson's accomplished, macabre first collection. Calamity lurks around every corner, these stories suggest, and you never know when fate will smite you—only that it will. Davidson catapults his characters (sex addicts, fighters, gamblers and drinkers) into ingeniously grim situations that test their will. In "Rocket Ride," a young man who loses his leg to the orca he performs with in a marine park show tries to rebuild his life, in part by attending meetings of the Unlimbited Potential support group, which is full of substance-abusing amputees who wonder if karma's to blame for their plights. In the gruesome "A Mean Utility," a normal-seeming couple—an ad exec and his wife, a nurse—breed and fight vicious dogs, while in the sad "On Sleepless Roads," a repo man leaves one night's job not with the camper he was supposed to reclaim, but with the destitute man's hamster and guinea pig, which he brings home to his disabled wife. Davidson, 30, is a fine young writer with a keen sense of the absurd and a bracing, biting wit, but his focus on gore may keep many readers from appreciating his obvious talent. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Like author Thom Jones in the story collection The Pugilist at Rest 1993) and novelist Marc Bojanowski in The Dog Fighter (2004), Davidson's eight short stories home in on men addicted to action, depicting boxers, basketball players, and gamblers in kinetic, ferociously detailed prose. In the title story, a boxer mournfully chants the names of the 27 bones that make up the human hand, all of which he has broken in the course of a career that now sees him fighting in ever-seedier venues. He sees the beauty of boxing even as he admits that his fights are a matter of survival and atonement for past sins. In "A Mean Utility," ad executive James Paris, frustrated by his and his wife's attempts to conceive, displaces his paternal feelings onto his pit bull, Matilda. He overmatches her with a vicious rottweiler, then experiences a change of heart, wading into the fray to save his pup and losing a chunk of his leg in the process. Davidson matches his stellar, energetic descriptions of physical confrontation with subtle, quirky explorations of human motivation. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton; First Edition edition (November 14, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393061299
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393061291
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,256,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When you see a book by a young new author has received acclaim from literary heavyweights like Thom Jones, Chuck Palahniuk, and Bret Easton Ellis (and Clive Barker, and Peter Straub, and...well, you get my point), you may tend, like me, to be initially excited but then approach the work with an air of guarded skepticism. After all, we live in an era of disproportionate hype where talk show hosts sell us fraudulent memoirs and publishers care more about marketing platforms than a book's content.

But please, drop your guard this time. Forget the hype. Just buy this book and read the whirlwind opener (also titled "Rust and Bone") and try to tell me this Davidson guy isn't the real deal. And realize that the "hype" is anything but- people are excited because Craig Davidson has delivered an utter knockout of a first book.

The cover might indicate that this is a collection of hard-edged pugilistic tales, but Davidson's range goes far beyond the confines of the ring. In fact, only three of the stories deal centrally with organized combat (boxing, dog fighting, kickboxing) and Davidson proves adept at putting you right in the middle of the sweat and fatigue, the blood and the shattered bones. His delivery of the fight material is a wonderful mesh of passion and sharp technical description that had me cringing one moment, thrilled the next. And in each of those stories there are emotional conflicts that make those battles in the ring mean so much more than the pounding of flesh on flesh.
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Format: Paperback
Canadian writer Davidson kicks the literary door down with this debut short story collection, which features tough-guy topics as boxing, dog fighting, mangled bodies, sexual addiction, and repo men. The results are rather hit or miss, with some of the stories grittily effective and others wandering their way to weak endings. Five of these previous appeared in Canadian lit journals "The Fiddlehead", "Event", and "Prairie Fire", and the stories are mostly set in Ontario, a locale fairly interchangeable with the upper midwestern U.S.

In general, the best bits of writing occur in those stories in which Davidson is able to show off his skills at writing combat. The title story has some particularly vivid parts, depicting a bare-knuckles fighter who earns his living on an illegal underground circuit. I don't find boxing particularly interesting, but Davidson's blow by blow account of a fight is riveting. In "Life in the Flesh," a boxer who once killed a man in a fight now lives in Thailand where he trains promising boxers sent to him from the States. When a cocky kid shows up in Bangkok, the trainer tries to keep him focused but can't keep him from taking on a local Muay Thai champ. Again, the setup isn't the greatest material, Davidson veers awfully close to the stereotype of Bangkok, but the fight itself is great stuff. "A Mean Utility" delves into the underworld of dog fighting via two unexpected protagonists -- a middle-class white advertising executive and his wife. Experiencing fertility problems, they pour all their attention into their dogs, and the man pushes a young dog into a fight, only to see every father's nightmare unfold before his eyes.

Other stories are rather less compelling.
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Format: Paperback
The title story sets the tone for the collection, a brilliant juxtaposition of nature's raw beauty with the harsh reality of the cost of living in the real world. In "Rust and Bone", a young prize fighter takes the punches, throwing himself into the ring, learning over the years the lure and occasional rewards of the fighter's life, disciplined and self-aware. It is unexpected loss that knocks him to his knees, his tough spirit brought low from that which he cannot control, a permanent scar that sears his soul.

A father's lifelong obsession with his talented son's basketball skills defines their relationship in "The Rifleman", the father relentless as he pushes his son toward greatness. Unfortunately, the father's drunkenness overrides everything, turning the relationship into a parody, the son angling away from his father's boozy interference, the man left babbling in a haze of memories and rationalization. The reader cannot help but squirm with discomfort, the sour breath of the father an ill wind of failure.

"A Mean Utility" is arguably one of the tougher stories, providing some harsh details of dog fighting as one man's means of comprehending fatherhood. Filled with a particular brutality, the man's comprehension is bathed in the blood of violence, an arena inhabited by a breed of humanity that is disturbing. The stories don't get any easier, Davidson taking bites out of life, spitting them back with impunity, in prose that is both difficult to read and masterfully written, a Bosch painting in language, challenging the reader not to look away. Very few writers have the skill to blend ugliness with everyday events, lifting his protagonists out of their comfort zones toward personal revelation. This collection certainly isn't for the faint of heart, but for anyone tough enough to persevere, Rust and Bone is quite an accomplishment. Luan Gaines/2006.
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