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Out Of Touch Paperback – March 10, 2011
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About the Author
Rusty Coats started his career as a reporter for his hometown newspaper, The Evening News in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and has worked in media ever since. He’s worked for newspapers in Maine, Miami and Modesto, CA, as an investigative reporter and columnist, before becoming a technology reporter in 1993, covering the birth of interactive media. Since then, as an interactive media executive, he has driven audience and revenue for such news companies as McClatchy, Media General and E.W. Scripps. Rusty holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English from Indiana University and has attended the Iowa Writer’s Festival – which is where “Out of Touch” began as a character sketch. He and his wife, Janet – a journalist and former executive editor and multi-year Pulitzer judge – run Coats2Coats, a consultancy that focuses on a media future that is participatory, profitable and mobile. They live in Sarasota, Florida and, in true “Brady Bunch” style, have five children.
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Obviously, such sensory power popularized by Harry Potter and the gang has become a regular element in modern popular storytelling. But Coats has selected a particularly, and pardon the repetition, powerful narrative technique because Jonah's flashes allow for some intriguing deviations in chronology and narrative. Lots to consider in terms of whose mind and ideas the author can reveal. A character doesn't need to be present to participate. This raises questions about what we can know as readers and how much of Jonah's "flashes" we should accept. The story is told through a wide point-of-view anyway. We know often how people are thinking, if through inference.
The story on its merits ought to be depressing, but the author's tone allows a level of distance and at times humor. Coats contrasts the sincere Jonah, whose experiences with his so-called 'wicking' are tragic, with a charlatan who has achieved a level of dubious fame for predicting future doom, which never quite happens. The command of the future that the fake claims to wield is exactly the power that Jonah most hopes to abandon. It's hardly the kind of achievement he wants to exploit. It's a misery mostly. The scars on his hands are signs of his despairing attempt to end it all.
The story pushes Jonah into a dramatic loss that reveals the limitations of knowing too much. He can't change things. When he realizes the passenger jet he has boarded is about to go down in a forest, his pathetic objections to hold the flight are unheeded and disbelieved. He and the charlatan, with whom he works, are dragged off the flight, not for truth-telling but for frightening the passengers and crew. Discomfort can be worse than death.
The story revolves around the aftermath of the crash as a highly involved local reporter -- no surprise a journalist is a key player -- tries to make sense of the absurd outcome, especially since her small town's high school basketball team was on the flight. You can guess who claims to be a seer and who struggles with his failure to stop the tragedy, with more twists leading to an outcome.
Read this carefully. Coats produces quite a complex vision.
"Hard writing makes easy reading," the Old Man told us, and Coats' natural, surefooted storytelling proves that point. Though it unfolds effortlessly before us, "Out Of Touch" demonstrates the work of a skilled and confident artisan.
This is a tale that dances on the edges of reality and possibility, weaving the two together so tightly readers soon forgets the difference. You will live in this world combining small-town Indiana basketball with mystical powers and even feel the pain of the central character both gifted with powers of prophecy and cursed with the seeming inability to anything about the futures he perceives.
Just don't put "Out Of Touch" in a genre niche, though it ranks with the best speculative fiction, fantasy and sic-fi of this generation. This is a tale of real people navigating real lives that blend all the complexity and challenge of daily life, told with photo-realistic authenticity.
If the ending demands a little more stretch from readers, they are wise to remember that it is our ability to make believe that makes us human.
Five stars, Mr. Coats, and a Croix de Hemingway as well.
Out of Touch shows how communities are vulnerable in the face of tragedy and how different people have wildly diverse reactions to shocking news. It also touches on the nature of media and what happens when a sleepy hamlet is awakened by a massive news event.
The characters are rich, the language is clever and engaging, and the story is small enough to be personal but big enough to be engaging.
I was particularly moved by the notion that memories and knowledge about people could be wrapped up in the everyday objects with which they interact.
Worth a read!
Being from Indiana, reading this book and connecting with the characters was like walking back into my childhood. The characters are vibrant and genuine, and if they walked into the Jerry's coffee shop in my home town I would recognize them. Excellent writing is like that - the story and the characters are so real, you forget that it's fiction. Rusty has a gift with this kind of writing.
I can't wait to have more people experience Rusty's writing, and of course I can't wait for another novel. Read it. Buy it. You'll agree.
Virtually impossible to put down, although other commitments did force me to read it over a period of 3 days instead of devour it all at once. Maybe that's better, since I got to think about it and wonder where it was going. And I found myself contemplating, what if someone really did have this ability, to tap into the energy of other people's lives and see past and future?! Then again, who's to say someone doesn't? Very thought provoking on several levels. This book is perfect for a rainy afternoon or day at the beach.