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Sad Stories of the Death of Kings Paperback – October 19, 2010


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Paperback: 201 pages
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press; First Edition edition (October 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583229221
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583229224
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,546,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Gifford's sentimental new novel tracks scrappy, precocious Roy as he finds his way in hardscrabble 1950s Chicago's Polish ward. Roy's life is populated by a crew of wayward boys--the Viper, Magic Frank, and Crazy Lester--who all must confront violence, mental illness, and death in their cold and windy enclave. The world is not entirely gloomy; Roy's development as a writer and love for his mother are rays of light in even the novel's bleakest moments. Though Roy's adventures have the classic footloose appeal of coming-of-age adventures, it's the rogue's gallery of supporting characters that are most memorable, from the Albanian lothario Cubar Shog and mobbed up Sharkface Bensky to the numerous other cutthroats in Roy's orbit. Gifford, best known for his Sailor and Lula novels (Wild at Heart; etc.), has a soft, transporting touch that makes a strong case for this being a one-sitting endeavor.
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From Booklist

Gifford’s work falls into two camps: the edgy, wildly eccentric stories, full of weirdness and perversity but portraying characters who exude a bedrock humanity (Arise and Walk, 1994, or Baby-Cat Face, 1995), and the more realistic, coming-of age tales that find young innocents thrust with open eyes into a world of pain (Wild at Heart, 1989, and the “semi-documentary fictional memoir” A Good Man to Know, 1992). His latest collection of stories falls squarely into the second category. Like A Good Man to Know, it takes place in Chicago in the 1950s and draws heavily on Gifford’s youth. Most of the stories feature a young teenager, Roy, observing the troubled lives of the people he sees in his meanderings around the city. Whether it’s a washed-up fighter with whom Roy plays chess, or a tired stripper who counsels him not to end up “like these bums come into this dive don’t do nuthin’ but tell each other sad stories of the death of kings,” Roy grows up through his encounters with the melancholic detritus of life. Like Gifford, he always finds warm hearts beating beneath the sadness. --Bill Ott

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Benn Bell on July 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Sad Stories of the Death of Kings is a book of vignettes by Barry Gifford about a boy growing up in Chicago in the 1950's and 60's. I'm sure the boy, Roy is a stand in for the author himself.

I liked the stories very much and I can relate to Roy in many ways as we are roughly the same age. Barry Gifford is a talented writer who has penned some of my favorite stories which became movies: Wild at Heart and Lost Highway(both David Lynch Films).

Gifford is reminiscent of other writes I adore: Nelson Algren and Charles Bukowski.

I am a great believer of synchronicity and love to connect the dots. In the story, "Roy's First Car," Barry details a 1955 Buick Century with a Dyna-Flo transmission which he purchase of $300. My first car was a 1955 Buick Century with a Dyna-Flo transmission which I purchased for $300 from a salesman by the name of Grundy Hayes at Broadway Chevrolet in 1965, in Louisville, Kentucky.

For God's sake, let us sit on the ground and tell the sad stories of the death of kings.
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Format: Hardcover
What makes these stories , local color anecdotes only, and not the kind of Literature that resonates deeply, and touches the soul? They involve meetings with characters and strings of incidents. But the main character, the one who experiences and observes all, called Rob, does not develop through the stories. The incidents are related without a touch of irony or humor. It is as if what we are being given is 'memories of incidents' and those alone. Thus there is not that kind of connection of reader with character that comes in the truly memorable short- short stories of Joyce, Babel, Sherwood Anderson, Chekhov, Hemingway, Raymond Carver, and other greats of the genre. We do however get a wide panorama of characters and a picture of a certain world and thus for certain readers this may make this work one of value.
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