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Men in the Making Hardcover – October 25, 2011
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From the Inside Flap
From the critically acclaimed author of The Wake of Forgivenessa mesmerizing, mythic saga, as described by the New York Timescome ten remarkable stories that uncover unexpected beauty in the struggles of the modern American male.
Like Richard Russo, Bruce Machart has a profound knowledge of the male psyche and a gift for conveying the absurdity and brutality of daily life with humor and compassion. Whether they find themselves walking the fertile farmland of south Texas, steering trucks through the suffocating sprawl of Houston, or turning logs into paper in the mills just west of the Sabine River, the men of these stories seek to prove themselves in a world that doesnt always welcome them. Here are men whose furrows are never quite straight and whose hearts are near to bursting with all the desires they have been told they arent supposed to heed.
Bruce Machart is one of our most ambitious and fearless young writers. With Men in the Making, he has composed a remarkable paean to the complex fragility of the American male. I read these stories in a state of tender amazement.Steve Almond, author of Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life
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Machart has assembled a troubling but well-wrought collection of stories about modern men facing the pathos that is well below the surface for so many of us. Machart succeeds in telling these stories, and telling them true, because he has driven the roads and walked the paths that he writes about. It is clear that Machart has mastered the understanding of the emotions and perspectives of those men who aspire not to greatness, but aspire to make it through the day. For all the seasons of a man's life, Machart has captured the color, the warmth, and the cold that makes those seasons.
I have said before in other venues, and this collection proves, that Machart will be one of this generation's next great novelists!
Machart has very good control of prose and the structure is almost Joycean at times (but not widely complex; there is just a lot of good stuff below the surface). There is a lot of passion and heartbreak in these stories and some of their really hit you. I found his descriptions of Texas a bit too stereotypical at times but most writers fall into that trap.
Machart is a very talented young writer and I look forward to his future works (and plan to read his earlier stuff).
But it was well written, if a little one dimensional.
Most of the men in Bruce Machart's collection of ten stories are enduring growing pains. They are physically or emotionally scarred. Their wives and mothers have died or abandoned them. They're often longing for something they can't identify. The stories are slices of lives that have already been badly sliced.
My favorite of the ten, "What You're Walking Around Without," is about a man who, after falling from an oil rig, is "stricken with purposeless afflictions, with a lazy eye and a bum leg and a nervous tic, with a hand he can't hold steady enough to touch a woman the way a woman wants to be touched" -- a man who curses himself for resisting his pre-accident girlfriend's pleas to take her virginity, who saved himself for marriage (and protected his girlfriend's virtue) because he believed that to be God's desire. Marriage to the girlfriend is no longer an option (she wants a "whole man"); he now deems himself unfit to marry any woman. As his thoughts return to those long nights of passionate embraces, he cannot understand why his piety was rewarded with pain, why he was left to live. After years of brooding about "a world all too willing to inflict wounds at random," a few words spoken by a neighborhood boy start him on a path toward acceptance of his fate and a better understanding of the life he must live.
Another standout is "Among the Living Amidst the Trees," a story that tells of a distressing day in a man's life. A gruesome race-related murder on Huff Creek Road brings a news crew into a tavern in the mistaken belief that it is a hangout for skinheads. They spark anger that leads to a moment of violence, provoked less by the news crew than by all the pain and anxiety that has engulfed the man. Its cathartic release leads him to a deeper appreciation of his wife.
At his best, Machart reminds me of Donald Ray Pollock and Tim O'Brien. When he's not on his game, however, Machart is like a tennis player who serves with power but lacks finesse. He scores points but in the absence of a complete game he doesn't always compete with the best players. Machart doesn't write with the lightning-flash intensity of observation that characterizes Pollock's work, nor does he have O'Brien's consistent ability to make me feel the depth of a wounded man's soul. A couple of Machart's stories have an insubstantial feel; one reads like the floundering work of a new writer.
Machart's characters are the opposite of Pollock's. His men are decent, sometimes admirable. They try to behave honorably, following codes instilled by the generations of hardworking men who preceded them. They tend to avoid violence and to feel shame when violence overwhelms them. They are humble men trying to make the best of uncertain lives. While the stories aren't consistently first-rate, the best are gems, as are the men he's created.
Most recent customer reviews
In the stories contained in Bruce Machart's collection Men in the Making, babies die. Dogs are killed and possums die.Read more
The first time through I was sort of short of breath, like someone had punched me in the gut.Read more