Description - Town Smokes by Pinckney Benedict
A collection of nine short stories set in the American South, depicted as odd and idiosyncratic. Emerging from the harsh realities of difficult lives, the stories are full of the violence of love and the love of violence. The author won the 1995 Steinbeck Award for Dogs of God.
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(198mm x 129mm x 10mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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Book Reviews - Town Smokes by Pinckney Benedict
US Kirkus Review »
A promising but uneven first collection of stories by the 22-year-old winner of two Transatlantic Review Awards and the 1986 Nelson Algren Award. In five of the nine stories here, Benedict commands a powerful and poetic voice in the best Southern tradition. The book opens with "The Sutton Pie Safe," a tale of domestic conflict precipitated by a wealthy outsider who wants to buy a family artifact - a Sutton pie safe - from a poor rural family, with results reminiscent of the early stories of Joyce Carol Oates or the idiosyncratic lyric stories of William Goyen. Similarly strong are "All the Dead" and "Hackberry" - the former recounting a boy's search for a drunken and abusive stepfather who has left the house with a gun in search of bootleg alcohol; the latter focusing on violence and alcohol as well, a young unmarried couple's fights juxtaposed with their relationship with a wise, eccentric older neighbor who has deep insight into the husband's violent tendencies. "Dog" achieves a strong lyric intensity - evoking Poe and Faulkner - as two mismatched male roommates frantically try to extricate a mangy dog from underneath their trailer home. "Water Witch," the best story here, contains its most stunning poetic writing describing a bleak, arid Texas landscape that reflects the brittle inner lives of the story's characters. "Booze" is a tale about the hunt for a destructive boar of mythic proportions, but it suffers somewhat from its lack of dramatic pace in the middle. The title story, about an adolescent boy setting out on his own - ostensibly to buy cigarettes ("town smokes") but in fact for keeps - after his father's death, is ambitious in conception but disappointingly insubstantial in execution. The remaining two stories seem merely perfunctory. Benedict has written a handful of impressive stories, but his precocious debut volume would have been stronger had he allowed himself the time to accrue more fully-realized stories. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Pinckney Benedict
Pinckney Benedict was born in 1964, attended Princeton University and graduated from the creative writing programme at the University of Iowa. He currently lives in West Virginia on the family dairy farm where he grew up. He is the author of another collection of stories, The Wrecking Yard, and a novel, Dogs of God, for which he won the Steinbeck Award.