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Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work: Stories Paperback – November 10, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. An inchoate evil is hard at work in each of the 11 stunning, loosely linked stories from Brown (Driving the Heart and Other Stories), set in harsh, sparsely populated northern New England. A dark realism is established in the title tale, where a young boy drifts through the turbulent aftermath of his depressed sister's drowning, his family despondent, his pastor sanctimonious. Such angst—sometimes leavened with wry humor, but more often just unsettling—is pervasive. In Afternoon of the Sassanoa, a weary father's ego sinks the family sailboat, with unforeseen consequences for his son. In Tree, an old woman's blithe nephew levels the woods her late husband's family had nurtured for generations. And in A Fair Chance, one of the few stories with anything close to a happy ending, a young recovering alcoholic saves the life of his AA sponsor and employer. Ravaged by despair, numbed by grief and lurching toward unattainable love, the people of these gothic stories somehow never totally self-destruct. Brown's deep sympathy for his flawed characters endows these polished shorts with brilliant appeal. (Nov.)
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"Jason Brown's stories are told with Rick Moody's brio and Denis Johnson's feel for deadpan wit purposefully juxtaposed against calamity."
"Jason Brown's comic take on America today is both amazing and memorable. . . . He is one of the most brilliant and original new writers to appear for a long time."
Top customer reviews
Jason Brown's writing is highly regarded and his short story collections well known for quality.
This collection includes eleven stories, ranging from 25-30 pages in length. The recurring theme is the outdoors (lakes, rivers, trees & forests), with a dark tone to the majority of the stories.
The first two stories "She" and "Trees" left me wondering whether or not this book was right for me, but the third story "The Plains of Abraham" was proof that it was definitely was.
"The Plains of Abraham"
"Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work"
GREAT (highly recommended):
"A Fair Chance"
"Life During Peacetime"
"Afternoon of the Sassanoa"
These stories are as good as anything you'll find, I highly recommended them to any short story fan.
Other short story collections definitely worth reading are - Driving the Heart and Other Stories by Jason Brown, Poachers: Stories by Tom Franklin, Controlled Burn: Stories by Scott Wolven, Refresh, Refresh: Stories by Benjamin Percy & Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories by Kevin Wilson!
The 11 short stories are set in and around the fictional town of Vaughn, Maine. The characters go to Portland, take a train up north towards Quebec, talk about trips to Boston, all of which roots Vaughn into the real Maine. Indeed, the book opens with a map of Vaughn showing it on the (real) Kennebec river.
The book has a historic sweep, referencing actual history (the Plains of Abraham where the British General James Wolfe fought the French in the Battle of Quebec) as well as the history of the book characters and of Vaughn itself. One story starts "I belonged to a large family that had lived in the same town in Maine for over two hundred years". Reading the stories, many about traumatic events such as a drowning, you know that the protagonists will still be living together, in the same place in Maine, for the rest of their lives. You get the feeling that the place itself has a long memory.
The writing moves from matter-of-fact prose ("A hockey game started near shore, mostly fathers and sons and brothers in plaid jackets and blue caps, choosing sides according to size"), to Maine logging jargon ("Nothing in the river but sinkers and bark cake and raw waste from sixteen towns coating the bottom, methane bubbling up through the water and pulp and booms waiting for a freshet"), to beauty ("He turned around and looked up, as if at a mountain peak or a descending plane, but there was nothing above except a line of high white clouds pulling up over the valley like a cold sheet").
Highly recommended. I pass on the recommendation from the Brookline Booksmith counter assistant.
This collection of short stories was dynamite. Dark and powerful, all its stories revolve around the fictional town of Vaughn on the Kennebec River. I would almost call it a novel about Vaughn told from all sorts of angles, from the aging widow to the neglected children. I was particularly impressed with a story about a logger on the last pulp run down the Kennebec.
These are stories that stay with you. I read the entire collection on the train between Boston and Lawrence -- after each story, I would stare out the window looking at the double-deckers in Malden or the stark outlines of abandoned mills.
I look forward to his novel.
Just for kicks, compare the map of Vaugn in the collection to Jason Brown's hometown of Hallowell, Maine.
Most recent customer reviews
This is a fantastic collection. Read Brown's "Trees," in which the woods stand as a watchful, powerful central...Read more
Although all of the stories in Jason Brown's second collection are set in and around the fictional town of Vaughn,...Read more