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The Devil's In The Cows Paperback – July 7, 2011
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From the Inside Flap
1. The Devil's In The Cows -Laissez Faire, boy.
2. So What -Life is dirty like a curtain.
3. Hope Street -A one-act play in the sleet.
4. Ginger Ale -Saved by soda
5. It All Just Was -Scree-bap
6. Holding It Back -Beware the quiet guys.
7. They Run And Hide Their Heads -Rain in the city is wasted.
8. Jupiter And Mars -The Dentist Yankees ogle my wife.
9. A Life Full Of Nothing -Father was full of worms.
10. A Fresh Crop Of Rocks -A one-act play in the street.
11. Tommy Walnuts -You're never alone.
12. The Odd I Torium -Step right up.
13. The Beer Is Getting Warm -There's nothing soft in a bar.
14. Rich Men Have Real Estate -The lever big enough to lift the whole earth.
15. The Woodpile At Night -Baby, it's cold outside.
16. A Thousand And One -A book and a man needs a spine.
17. It's Still Warm By The Stove -'Skinny from mindless exertions' need not apply.
18. In My Cups -Yeah, so? What's it to you?
19. Infinite Calculus -On the button.
20. The Rusty Bucket -The water tastes funny.
21. Big Mistake -Never look back.
22. What Time It Ain't -I feed the machine, the machine feeds me.
23. E Tan E Epi Tan -With your shield or on it.
24. Three-Quarter Cape -A certain sort of house.
25. The Young Man Don't Know Nothing -I know I didn't.
26. She Called It The Piazza -She pressed a quarter in my hand like a card trick.
27. Fog In New Beige -An indistinct ghost story.
28. The Ten Fingers -Everyone needs a boost now and then.
29. Spring Potatoes -Don't go quiet before your time.
30. Take Your Image -I am not an animal.
31. The Fish No Coom -After a while, the pinches add up.
32. The New Churchill -Transients welcome.
33. Das Is Culch -I speak German. That doesn't mean anything.
34. The Writer -This is how I go, when I go like this.
35. Coal Breaker -Look on it.
36. One Quarter Rich - Birth of a notion.
37. The Same River -Maybe she doesn't know me.
Top customer reviews
It took me a long time to finish reading it and write about it, not so much because I'm busy (though I am), but because each one- to three-page story, and there are 37 of them, feels like a whole novel. A character falls into you like a stone into a well and the reverberations go on and on. A glimpse of, a momentary overhearing of a life somehow implies the whole life. How does he do that? It's the compression of poetry with the witness of fiction.
The stories are responses to archival photographs from the Library of Congress. Their "narrators" are mostly farm people, laborers and craftspeople, who worked with their hands on things that had real substance; that is, they are voices of a nearly gone world and they transmit the wisdom obtained by wrestling with things that are tangible and heavy and unhurried, that have their own textures and dangers, that require respect and give back an inalienable self-respect, no matter what the world thinks.
I had to put "narrator" in quotes because Sippican doesn't channel these people's "voices," exactly, although the stories are written in the first person and they sound natural, they have particularity, they would make great dramatic monologues in a one-actor show. (Dorothea Lange as Anna Deavere Smith?) But what they say is not exactly what these people would SAY, even to themselves; it's what their being would say if given a voice.
If you read this book, see if you don't end up wanting to give it to certain friends, the ones you know who know what these people are talking about. My only regret is that some of the people I most want to give this book to are dead.
Joseph Conrad, who knew a bit about dressing the truth in the more acceptable costumes of fiction, knew what his job was: "My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel -- it is, before all, to make you see. That -- and no more, and it is everything." Nostromo (Oxford World's Classics)
That's the natural craft that Sippican musters and masters on every page of this book. Every page. There is, and this is rare in books, not a single page in the entire book that does not return an image to your mind that is vivid, striking, and lingers unfolding in your mind like a paper Chinese flower blooms in a glass of clear water.
Each story is preceded by a picture from the Library of Congress which the author uses to inspire a story. Each story, 37 in all, is less than 1,000 words long (flash fiction is the fancy word for it). What amazes me is how much 'story' Sippican packs into each story. Not one word is wasted, and each packs a punch. Sippican has taken an obscure genre and given it mainstream status. Get this book and you won't be sorry.
Full review (rant really)at my blog: [...]