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What We Won't Do: Stories Paperback – February 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Clarke probes the hearts and minds of the disaffected and the unfulfilled in this debut short story collection awarded the 2000 Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction with most of the 14 entries set in and around the Adirondacks. The author confidently calibrates the form and scope of his stories and subjects, and he rarely misses an opportunity to tackle the big questions. One of his most successful efforts is "Starving," a metaphoric exploration of the emotional difficulties that hinder fathers and sons in their ability to express themselves to one another. His skills are also apparent when he opts for a lighter touch in "Specify the Learners," a hysterical yarn about a 33-year-old man who goes back to sixth grade after attributing his difficulties in life to his previous failure at that level, only to get expelled when he acts on his attraction for his libidinous, newly cuckolded teacher. But too many of the remaining stories are marred by a consistent tendency toward the melodramatic, as Clarke tries to hit one literary home run after another. "She Lived to Cook but Not like This" is a typical example it starts off well, with a narrator who announces that he destroyed the house that Emily Dickinson lived in, only to follow up with a muddled narrative about the protagonist's dissatisfactions, losing touch with the original premise. Though Clarke's reach often exceeds his grasp, there are some well-drawn characters and intriguing conceits here, as well as flashes of talent throughout the collection.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The characters of Clarke's quirky, unapologetic stories about failure have all accepted, on some level, that they aren't going to realize their dreams and must live the lives they already have. They include an alcoholic florist deserted by her born-again Christian husband; the sexually confused editor of a small-town newspaper, who lives alone in his dead mother's house; a 21-year-old virgin convicted of burning down Emily Dickinson's house; a man who discovers that his long-dead father wasn't a war hero, he was the town nudist; a man with learning disabilities who repeats sixth grade at age 33 and becomes his teacher's lust-object. Placing real people in surreal situations and juxtaposing the everyday and the absurd, Clarke illuminates the depths of the human soul. Furthermore, his stories of disappointment and defeat, resentment and stubborn pride, failure embraced and success shrugged aside repeatedly jab the underbelly of the American dream. Bonnie Johnston
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 158 pages
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books; 1 edition (February 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1889330671
  • ISBN-13: 978-1889330679
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #782,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Brock Clarke, also known as Broke Clark, Brocke Clark, and Clark Kent, a native of Little Falls, NY, is a brilliant writer, cast in the same mold as magic realism writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The stories in this collection will dazzle you with their inventiveness. Astounding. Thanks, Brock.
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