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Andrew's Book Club: March 2010 Picks

This month, Andrew Scott — our Oprah of story collections, long may he reign! — recommends the following books:

Big House Pick: Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives, by Brad Watson (Norton)

aliens“The dark and brilliant tales of Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives capture the strangeness of human (and almost-human) life. In this, his first collection of stories since his celebrated, award-winning Last Days of the Dog-Men, Brad Watson takes us even deeper into the riotous, appalling, and mournful oddity of human beings. In prose so perfectly pitched as to suggest some celestial harmony, he writes about every kind of domestic discord: unruly or distant children, alienated spouses, domestic abuse, loneliness, death, divorce.”
—Andrew’s Book Club

“Watson is a master at hairpin plot turns, and his characters come alive on the page with minimal backstory; readers get deep into their heads and hearts, even when the weirdness surrounding them feels like something out of a David Lynch movie.”
—Publisher’s Weekly

Indie Pick: Rattlesnakes and the Moon, by Darlin’ Neal (Press 53)

rattlesnakes-better“These are dark stories lit by headlights and lightning, fluorescent signs and tall highway lights, tough stories so real that they have the scent of the lived-through about them, which is testament to Darlin’ Neal’s extraordinary gift for prose and story.”
—Frederick Barthelme

“Darlin’ Neal’s book of stories is the literary equivalent of a Lucinda Williams music album: achingly lovely homages to heartbreak and hard times, sung by a voice rich with whiskey, soaked in insight. An absolutely stellar performance.”
—Antonya Nelson

Micropress Pick: Phantoms by Chad Simpson (Origami Zoo Press)

phantoms“The characters in Chad Simpson’s Phantoms are lost and struggling but constantly in motion — a brother upright after being run over by his own car, a retired father-in-law falling slowly off the grid, a young woman on a Midwestern bar stoop plotting a trip to Tunisia, a lonely sales rep whose mouth sags even when she smiles. In seventeen meticulously crafted short pieces, Simpson creates scenes covering vast emotional terrain where these characters emerge, imperfect and unfinished. In gestures large and small, kind and cruel, they push and pull at the fates laid out for them, constantly chasing the other versions of themselves they know will never quite become real.”
—Andrew’s Book Club

“Chad Simpson’s stories claim borders wider than their page counts might suggest, doubled as they are by the ghosts that flicker between their sentences. It is these ghosts that Simpson asks us to reckon with, and it is his characters’ attempts to chain or banish these specters—with memory, with miracle, with mathematics—that ultimately ties us to their lives, so that they might haunt us far beyond these intricately-inked pages.”
—Matt Bell

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