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The Southern Cross: Stories Paperback – August 12, 2009

5.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This collection vividly depicts life on the pre- and post-Katrina Gulf Coast. In The Journeyman, Clayton, reluctantly preparing to head out for a three-month stint of work in South America, meets a young girl, Kenyatta, who warns him that God and Jesus are going to punish the people of New Orleans and destroy the city. Amused by her earnest warning, Clayton chuckles and thanks her for the heads up. In The Redfish, Luther, recently released from prison after a wrongful murder conviction (he has committed murder, just not the one he was convicted of), gets tangled up with a no-good woman and ends up bound and gagged with his now-ex-girlfriend's mother in her trailer as Katrina approaches. In Junebelle, June, a reclusive widow unhappily stuck in a Baton Rouge retirement home after her well-meaning daughter installed her there, avoids interaction with the other residents and spends much time in fond remembrances. Throughout, water is a force, at times standing in for death, at others for peace and beauty. Horack takes in a wide swath of varied characters and finds the common humanity in their struggles. (Aug.)
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Review

“These stories evoke places with a sharp, sensuous and at times magical skill. They also dramatize characters and states of mind with a fierce truthfulness and sense of understanding. Horack’s style has a beautiful edge to it; the range of his sympathy makes this a wonderful collection.”
—Colm Tóibín
 
“These stories are alive with feeling, they are strong and intelligent, they explore the geography of a place and a time and a people—and they explore the geography of a place and a time and a people—and they explore it unforgettably. Skip Horack is a writer to watch.”
--John L’Heureux

“These stories are the real deal, the way Larry Brown's and Raymond Carver's stories are real. They move at depth with what can only be called a great and authentic soul. This is a special book, and the announcement of a wonderful writer and storyteller.”
--Rick Bass


"Season by season, Horack's debut collection finds much to love, more to respect as he divulges the secrets, traditions, and memories that defy and define this iconic land and its people."

(Booklist 2009-08-01)

"This is a word we enter into fully, led as we are by atmospheric prose, compelling characters, an unsparing vision of the world as it is. We emerge from reading these stories, amazed by the places we've been and the things we've seen; surprised by the imagined blood on our hands, the butterflies on our shoulders, the fish swimming in unexpected waters. Welcome, Skip Horack, Louisiana storyteller of uncommon talent."

(New Orleans Times-Picayune 2009-08-19)

"[Horack] is a superb writer"

"Horack's writing is beautifully rendered, his descriptions of people and places near-poetry, and he is pitch-perfect in his descriptions of Louisiana."

" You don't have to be from Louisiana or have lived there to appreciate Horack's writing. If you do fit in one of those categories, however, this book is a must-read for you. He's one of our own."

(The Advocate 2009-08-23)

"An engrossing collection of short stories."
(Boston Globe 2009-09-06)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Original edition (August 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547232780
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547232782
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,339,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
I got an advanced copy of this book, which won the Bakeless Prize, judged by Antonya Nelson. I dig her work a lot, so I read Southern Cross with relish. The stories here are set in LA, MS and north Florida, and the first thing you notice is how Horack gets everything right--the trees, tides, fish, food, accents and pickups. He's a lot like Rick Bass in that way--the atmosphere is always pitch-perfect. I lived in Louisiana for a few years, and this collection really transported me. The real feat of this book is the people, though. Horack specializes in working class, hardscrabble men who try to eek out existences off the land. Their dreams are muted, and all the more powerful for it: A bear's gall bladder holds the key to freedom from a suffocating family; a fish-tracking tag might reunite a man with his estranged girl; a submerged cypress tree might return a man's lost history. Personally, I think the main reason to read a short-story collection is to get variations on a theme, and here Horack shows great range. His narrators are men women, young and old--he's deft at bringing forth utterly compelling characters, regardless of class, color or age. So while the themes of this book focused tightly on Southern outliers who get a last shot at meaningful connection, the range of the book is huge: aristocrats, beekeepers, bible girls, Gulf war vets, rabbit skinners, lawyers, murderers and on and on. Pull Southern Cross off the bookstore shelf and read the exquisite story "The High Place I Go" and I promise you'll go home with this book in your back pocket.
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Format: Paperback
As a native of Louisiana who has not lived there for 25 years, this book took me there immediately. I "knew" these people, their voices, the places. But that's only part of the allure of this book. Each story is its own oyster - complete. The characters are so well-drawn and believeable. They stayed with me for much longer than is usual with short stories.
This is a book to be savored.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There's something grounded about Skip Horack's prose: the subject/verb/object sentences, the straight-forward way he describes the world his characters inhabit, the the documentary realism of his world. But that groundedness shouldn't belie the complexity and lyricism in THE SOUTHERN CROSS, Horack's debut collection (and Bakeless Prize Winner). These stories are as diverse as the land Horack so obviously loves: the Gulf Coast, particularly the Panhandle, Northwest Florida. Full disclosure: I grew up on the Panhandle and have written extensively about it myself. However, that fact doesn't undercut the power of THE SOUTHERN CROSS.

Horack's storytelling is lean and muscular with a clarity that many writers should study (I'm looking at you, hip DFW wanna-bes). Readers find fully-rendered characters here, not postmodern trickery. Horack's handling of epiphany and plot is stunning, too. He weaves often weaves a story around a small moment in a character's life, say, a research project for a graduate student. In Horack's capable hands, this project becomes a vehicle for exploring a failed relationship. I could go on and gush, but I'll stop. Suffice to say that THE SOUTHERN CROSS does for North Florida what Tom Franklin's POACHERS does for coastal Mississippi and Alabama: turns the land into a literary artifact by respecting the land and not exploiting it.

Definitely recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Having spent only a few weeks in N'awlins, these stories spoke to me with an unmistakable southern accent. The places feel real for good reason-they clearly resemble their namesakes. But the best thing about these stories is the people, the characters. Horack inflates them with life, and not a life from behind the confines of a white picket fence. Horack's characters have a raw intensity that will captivate the reader. I had to pace myself to keep from reading the entire selection in one sitting; I wanted to savor these stories. No doubt my eyes will graze these pages again and discover even more than I already have.

These stories are told from spring through summer, fall, and winter. They explore life, youth, love, passion, disappointment, and death. The southern reader will find an alarmingly authentic glimpse into their neighbor's lives, and the rest of us will get a taste of a world often misunderstood and mislabeled. Skip Horack is a writer who will forever be on my must read list-I look forward to reading many fine stories from him in the future.
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