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The Ice at the Bottom of the World: Stories Paperback – January 1, 1991


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; 1st Anchor Books ed edition (January 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385415443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385415446
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An abandoned boy with fish-like features stows away on a trawler manned by a deranged crew of outcasts and oddities.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In Richard's collection of short stories, we are in familiar but updated Faulkner/Caldwell territory, the gothic American South. Specifically, we are in the country of that endangered species, the redneck. In sharply detailed stories presented without excuse or judgment, and often with a sharp bite of humor, Richard offers creditable characters in the middle of their singular lives. In the complex title story, Powell has come to ask Bill Doodlum for his daughter's hand, "second-hand as it was, a little legal holdover from the mixed-up-divorce-from-Tommy-John." As the two men sit in the garage drinking beer, the reader learns about the Doodlums of Doodlum County and the Carters of Carter County, and also learns why, when Bill's wife shoots him, his death is recorded as a suicide. Though full of peculiarly Southern connections, these stories transcend Southern particularity. They are about universals: love and loss and birth and death. --Marcia Tager, Tenafly, N.J.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 15 customer reviews
I loved reading this collection of short stories.
CoffeeGurl
As I read I found the first story superlative, then the next, then the next, right to the end.
R. Griffiths
There is a haunting simplicity found in Richard's characters.
A Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By R. Griffiths on May 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Macabre, hilarious, desperate, heartwarming, Mark Richard's collection is stunning in its stark juxtaposition of a gamut of emotions and moods. The prose is sparse, and all the more evocative because of it. The world Richard depicts is itself sparse - his characters take their comfort where they can. It is a world of immense cruelty and immensely harsh beauty. There is pain in this washed out, painted over landscape of mudflats, fairgrounds and burning shacks, but also a piercing redemptive vision. As I read I found the first story superlative, then the next, then the next, right to the end. Books may not change your life, but this one may well leave its images searing your imagination for a long time. When I consider the lack of attention Mark Richard has received for his fiction, I'm tempted to believe there's no justice in the world at all, but then I realise that for such a gem of a book to exist at all is a kind of secret miracle. Witness it while you can.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Mark Richard is simply the best current short story writer (with some competition from Tom Franklin). While no single story in this collection rivals Richard's "masterpiece," the story BIRDS FOR CHRISTMAS collected in CHARITY, each piece is subtle, precise, brilliant.
However, the overall enjoyment of the book is hampered somewhat by the shameful job performed by the publisher (Doubleday). ICE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD feels like it's printed on two-ply paper towels shoved between dry cleaning shirt cardboards which serve as the cover. You worry something must be wrong with the book because the publisher did such a cost cutting - dismissive job in producing it.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By CoffeeGurl HALL OF FAME on October 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
I loved reading this collection of short stories. The stories are dark, haunting, beautiful, and some even heartwarming. Mark Richard's stories are quite similar to Faulkner's work in that they are set in the South and have a gothic, no-nonsense quality to them that make them unforgettable. Richard's voice is one of brutal honesty, and I found myself nodding in agreement with various passages. My favorite stories are "Happiness of the Garden Variety," "The Ice at the Bottom of the World," "On the Rope," "The Theory of Man," and "Strays." The one bad thing about this collection is its lack of popularity. I cannot believe that such a beautiful book could go almost unnoticed, but that is often the case with true literary offerings. I feel bad enough that it took me ten years to give this collection a whirl. Mark Richard is a brilliant storyteller and I would have liked it if he had written other works. I shall give this wonderful piece of work all the word of mouth it deserves.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
The other nine are Allan Gurganus' "White People;" Lorrie Moore's "Like Life;" William Vollmann's "Rainbow Stories;" Robert Olen Butler's "Good Scent from a Strange Mountain;" Lewis Nordan's "Sugar Among the Freaks;" Walter Mosley's "Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned;" William Trevor's "Collected Stories;" Thom Jones' "Pugilist at Rest" and all of A. S. Byatt's stories. Mark Richard has talents that are so profound they transcend quantification or qualification, and if we continue to neglect great writers--such as Richard--into oblivion by declining their generous and gracious gifts in favor of the tv or other numbstruck visual entertainments, we deserve the perceptual pabulum we consume and the distrophy of our hearts and brains that will surely accompany such suspect diets. Buy this book today. If you don't agree with me, send me an e-mail and tell me why.....END
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 4, 1998
Format: Paperback
Bravo to the previous customer, but I would like to add a collection to his list from a writer in his own back yard. Fred Chappell's "More Shapes Than One" has the range and humor of any collection ever set to paper. Mark Richard and Thom Jones define the contemporary short story as William Trevor and Peter Taylor did a generation before them. Taylor is another Greensboro boy to add to the list. Anyway, Strays, the first story in Richard's collection is as fine a story as a man could write and I use it as a high water mark for my own scribblings. As to the TV wasteland you condemn America to be wallowing in, Richard now lives in L.A. and writes for a TV show if I'm not mistaken.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on December 19, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richard is a virtuoso, a master of the craft. The first piece in the collection sets a high expectation that is fully satisfied with the writing that follows. Here are stories about the south with voices as clear as daylight. There are familiar landscapes of the south: a small cabin near the river as in "Her Favorite Story" and a farmhouse as in "Strays." This modern landscape grows, too, to include the suburbs as in "This is Us, Excellent."

There is a haunting simplicity found in Richard's characters. They live life without the fear that perhaps they should have. A sense of dramatic irony grows in the reader as if it were a play inside a theater. All of these stories are freighted with disappointment, marred by traged, or terrorized by old ghosts and various wants. There is a resigned sorrow througout and the feeling that doom is not far off like a dark cloud moving in from a distance.

What is deeply moving here is that many of the characers do not anticipate change. They do not even seem aware of it or of hope. Instead, dead things rise to the surface as in "On the Rope" where a former flood rescue worker glimpses a plastic bag caught on a fence and is brought back to memories of the "boiling waters" that drowned the town.

The immediate sorrows are understated either by voice or events that follow so that in a way, the immediate pain is cauterized. But once we look away from the wound we realize the whole body has gone with runny sores and rot.

Richard's stories speak loudly about doom, decay, and seemingly incongruous naivete in the same fashion as Steinback in The Grapes of Wrath and Faulkner in The Sound and The Fury.

What may be perhaps most disturbing here in all the lyrical prose and landscape is that the people do not change-- they are immobile like statues. What changes life then is only the inevitable event that is death.
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