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The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards: Stories Hardcover – April 28, 2009

7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this imaginative story collection, author Boswell (Century's Son) examines the limits and losses of ordinary souls with technical mastery and profound sympathy. In No River Wide, a widowed woman visiting a longtime friend in Florida discovers that their friendship is over; her story unfolds in overlapping narratives that form a startling, resonant meditation on the nature of time. Another story finds a 30-something returning to his North Dakota home to identify the body of his missing mother; what he finds instead frees him from the long shadow of his embittered father. In the title story, a gang spends the summer squatting in the home of a vacationing family, with dire consequences; in Supreme Beings, a priest's attempts to intervene in the lives of three troubled youths lead him to confront personal and professional failure. Boswell conveys the sordid but hopeful inner lives of average people with insight and care; his shorter stories (Miss Famous, Skin Deep) showcase his pleasure in language and invention, and his longer tales pack the emotional weight of a novel. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Boswell is an exuberant and enormously talented writer . . . With dazzling technical skill, intelligence, and moral seriousness, he mesmerizes us. (The New York Times Book Review)

Boswell has a marvelous ability to create [people] who are rich in both psychological detail and idiosyncrasy. . . Mystery Ride reads so effortlessly that it often feels as though it had been written in a single sitting, just the amount of time it should take the reader to finish this absorbing story. (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times on Mystery Ride)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press; First Edition edition (April 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555975240
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555975241
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,043,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Boswell has published seven novels, three story collections, and two books of nonfiction. He has had one play produced. His work has earned him two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Iowa School of Letters Award for Fiction, a Lila Wallace/Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, the PEN West Award for Fiction, the John Gassner Prize for Playwriting, and the Evil Companions Award. The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards was a finalist for the 2010 PEN USA Award in Fiction. What Men Call Treasure was a finalist for the Western Writers of America Nonfiction Spur Award. Both the Chicago Tribune and Publisher's Weekly named Mystery Ride as one of the best books of the year. The London Independent picked The Geography of Desire as one of the best books of the year. Virtual Death was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award and was named by the Science Fiction Chronicle as one of the best novels of the year. Boswell has published more than 70 stories and essays. They have appeared in the New Yorker, Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize Stories, Pushcart Prize Stories, Esquire, Colorado Review, Epoch, Ploughshares, and many other magazines and anthologies. He shares the Cullen Endowed Chair in Creative Writing with his wife, Antonya Nelson. They live in Houston, Texas; Las Cruces, New Mexico; and Telluride, Colorado. They also spend time in a ghost town high in the Rockies.

His novels: Tumbledown (forthcoming from Graywolf Press), Century's Son, American Owned Love, Mystery Ride, The Geography of Desire, Crooked Hearts.

His story collections: The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards, Living to Be 100, Dancing in the Movies.

His nonfiction: The Half-Known World, a book on the craft of writing, and What Men Call Treasure: The Search for Gold at Victorio Peak, a book about a treasure hunt in New Mexico (co-written with David Schweidel).

His cyberpunk novel: Virtual Death (published under the pseudonym Shale Aaron).

His play: Tongues.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In this collection of stories about life's uncertainties, Robert Boswell picks up his characters like mechanical toys and winds them tight, and just when they are at maximum tension, he twists the key one more turn, guaranteeing that they will unwind noisily, out of control. Virtually all his characters are losers. A woman, having lost her disabled husband, now finds that she has also lost her best friend. A housecleaner has been abandoned by her husband. A needy young man goes broke while in the thrall of a fortune teller. A priest tries to help a pathetic family by offering a "story to have faith in, even if he cannot entirely believe it."

Though sometimes bleak, the stories are always haunting. The characters, just one twist away from the normal, the safe, and the real, feel "different," irrational, sometimes dangerous, and even frightening. They have been buffeted by fate, often inspired by their own misdeeds, and they are, as a group, naïve, thoughtless, sometimes ignorant, and lacking commitment to the larger world.

Startling stories grow from seemingly ordinary events. In "Lacunae," Paul Lann has driven two hundred miles across the desert to pick up his father, who is being released from the hospital, and drive him to his family's home nearby. Faced simultaneously with his father's precarious health and a final chance to reunite with his wife and her child, Paul must choose whether to stay or go. In "A Walk in Winter," a young man has returned to North Dakota in the middle of winter. Riding with the sheriff, he is on his way to identify his mother's frozen remains. His mother had disappeared following an argument with her husband when the boy was ten.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By C. Parker Staley on June 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I'm thrilled to have this on my bookshelf, creased, thumbed, already worn-out and with more than a few stains to its pages.
There is a breadth to the stories here that can be found in few places these days--the breadth of human lives and possibilities. Too often I read a few stories from a collection and come away depressed that the stories are really just a single story, a variation on a single color of human emotion or instance or place, like a Rothko. 'Heyday' is anything but. It's a collection that seethes with life, variance, wide- and light-ness.
It's a collection by an author whose five novels exceed readability and insight, and whose stories remind you just how good literature these days can be.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Cary B. Barad on August 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
These short stories are exceptionally good, with a fine eye for detail, well-crafted language and excellent characterizations. Writing at its best. In fact, I found several of these tales to be as satisfying as a full blown novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pam on January 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you're looking for exquisite writing with attention to details, you will love this book. Some of the stories are painful, but all will leave you wanting more. This is what writing is meant to be. Enjoy.
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