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The Man Back There and Other Stories (Mary Mccarthy Prize in Short Fiction) Paperback – August 1, 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Crouse follows his Flannery O'Connor award–winning Copy Cats with this moody dirge of nine deeply felt stories, the winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize. In The Forgotten Kingdom, Denny, a technical-support operator for a video-game company that's lingering on the edge of death, is unsure why he keeps showing up uninvited at his former girlfriend's house—maybe to hurt her or make her feel the emptiness that plagues his own life, or maybe, he considers, he was just a bad person. Another borderline stalker, a lonely, unambitious animal-control officer, reappears at his ex-wife's house in The Castle on the Hill, where she is now remarried and having a party. The title story finds a couple, Sharon and Sweets, stumbling shakily out of a bar after Sweets gets in a fight with Sharon's insolent ex; although Sharon imagines he is defending her honor, Sweets has his own motivation. Crouse digs into dark places, and while readers may cringe, the author's humane handling of his troubled, psychically scarred characters renders their pain authentic and universal, even when their actions are questionable. (Aug.) ""
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved."

About the Author

Crouse is author of the collection, Copy Cats, awarded The Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction in 2005. His short stories have appeared in such magazines as Quarterly West and The Greensboro Review, while his comic book writing is anthologized in The Dark Horse Book of the Dead. He teaches in The University of Alaska-Fairbanks MFA Program.
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Product Details

  • Series: Mary Mccarthy Prize in Short Fiction
  • Paperback: 177 pages
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books (August 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932511636
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932511635
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,143,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Crouse is a consummate artist. His writing is precise, clear, and compelling. Just when you think a story is not terribly consequential, the meaning suddenly comes into focus and the result is a thunderbolt of enlightenment. Crose is magical that way. Story collections this good have too few readers, and Crouse chronicles our times with his lucid eye and ear. Don't pass this up.
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David Crouse's new collection The Man Back There is tightly held together by its silences, its mysteries, the reader's implication in each story's resolution. Crouse highlights how meaning is retroactive and searching, a dynamic speculation. As we journey through these stories, we confront our own imaginations: Is the brother in "Show & Tell" really dead? What did the ex-wife in "Posterity" tell in her tell-all book? And finally, we are haunted by our own guess of what was on the video in "Torture Me." These uncertainties reflect the characters' inner probings that are often at a disconnect with what is happening around them--as the title story's Sweet, who seeks to understand his girlfriend by imagining her with her previous boyfriend, or Peter in "The Observable Universe," who only begins to feel for himself by viewing, almost studying, himself as a spectator would. As each character tries to make sense of his life, we fill in what is not known and thereby learn something of our own making. This is a vivid and moving collection of short fiction that I could not put down until I had read it all.
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Once again David Crouse deftly delves into the minds of characters down and out, unable to make meaningful decisions, unable to even know themselves. Many are despicable, but Crouse makes them so human this reader can't help but care, empathize, even see a bit of self in those that over-think, struggle to find meaning in their lives, or suffer from making one wrong decision after another. But there are moments of tenderness and forgiveness, too, and maybe this is the real skill of this writer. I especially recommend "The Forgotten Kingdom," about a man who works for a nearly defunct gaming company fielding help calls to its 1-800 line; everything in his life seems to be coming to an end: his mother is dying, he can't seem to stop visiting his exgirlfriend though he doens't love her--or does he? Other favorites: the title story, "The Man Back There," "Show and Tell," and "The Observable Universe." A gripping cast of characters. As good or even better than his first collection Copy Cats. Good for giving as a gift! It's worth waiting for this writer's next book.
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David Crouse's second book takes a careful look at who people are after the climactic action has happened. Following various otherwise stereotypical characters (old congressman, disaffected 20-something, divorced middle-aged man, comic book convention geek), Crouse minimally unpacks how their lives are affected by disturbances (scandal, breakup, murder, violence.) So minimally, even, that the casual reader my forget that there has been a disturbance at all, were it not for the small details that serve as reminders throughout.

Crouse's real strength is giving a weight (almost addition by subtraction) to seemingly flat characters. These people exist in the world, they are impacted by it, as it is by them, evidenced by the quiet wake receding behind them. Further, he is able to tell and not show by giving his characters the ability to say things an omniscient narrator would have said in another work.

As much as this work keeps to itself, a quiet consideration of life in this age, it manages to remind us that in a small way, we are these people. And as such, it asks us how we would respond in these situations.
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My usual method of reading short story collections is to take them with me to doctor's appointments, or on the bus. It might take me a month to finish.
David Crouse's collection The Man Back There contains tales linked by male main characters who deal with an emptiness and loss so profound and undefinable, as a reader, I subconsciously shared their need to flail and stumble toward the "anywhere but here." Each story fed the pervasive sense that one's soul can be stripped away if one fails to pay attention, to love, to connect fully with others. The final story tells of a man so disillusioned that his longing for who he once was, or should have been, has turned him somehow to vapor. He can no longer see the reflection of his own decency in the mirror.
The Man Back There is haunting work, recommended to anyone deeply fascinated by the paradoxes of human nature.
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