Burning Bright: Stories

Burning Bright: Stories

4.3 26
by Ron Rash

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“A gorgeous, brutal writer.”
—Richard Price, New York Times bestselling author of Lush Life and Clockers


In Burning Bright, Pen/Faulkner finalist and New York Times bestselling author of Serena, Ron Rash, captures the eerie beauty and stark violence of Appalachia through

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“A gorgeous, brutal writer.”
—Richard Price, New York Times bestselling author of Lush Life and Clockers


In Burning Bright, Pen/Faulkner finalist and New York Times bestselling author of Serena, Ron Rash, captures the eerie beauty and stark violence of Appalachia through the lives of  unforgettable characters. With this masterful collection of stories that span the Civil War to the present day, Rash, a supremely talented writer who “recalls both John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy” (The New Yorker), solidifies his reputation as a major contemporary American literary artist.

Editorial Reviews

Michael Lindgren
A slender set of spare and menacing depictions of the unforgiving ways of life in rural Appalachia, Burning Bright finds a narrow sweet spot between Raymond Carver's minimalism and William Faulkner's Gothic…Rash gets deep inside the peculiar psychology and emotional idiosyncrasies of the denizens of the mountain South in all their pride, superstition and propensity for sudden violence.
—The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
Ron Rash was the seasoned author of nine books of fiction and poetry before his 10th, the stunning 2008 Serena, established him as one of the best American novelists of his day. With its stark Appalachian setting, piercing language and coolly ferocious title character, Serena was a big book filled with bleakly beautiful details. Mr. Rash's artistry was blinding enough to eclipse his craftsmanship. But the skill with which his tales are constructed is more apparent in Burning Bright, a new book of stories. The short-story format lacks the novel's complexity but has similar impact. And these pared-down tales make it much easier to see how expertly Mr. Rash fine-tunes his work.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The latest from Rash (Serena), a collection, begins with “Hard Times,” in which a struggling farmer in the midst of the Great Depression tries to discover who's stealing eggs from his henhouse without offending the volatile pride of his impoverished neighbors. The present-day stories are also situated in poverty-plagued small towns whose young citizens are being lost to meth addictions: in “Back of Beyond,” a pawnshop owner has to intervene when he learns his nephew Danny has kicked his parents out of their house and sold off their furniture to support his habit; in “The Ascent,” a young boy lovingly tends to a couple of corpses—victims of a small plane crash. Rash's stories are calm, dark and overtly symbolic, sometimes so literal they verge on redundant: in “Dead Confederates,” when a man falls into the Confederate tomb he's looting, the graveyard caretaker notes: “I'd say he's helped dig his own grave.” With a mastery of dialogue, Rash has written a tribute and a pre-emptive eulogy for the hardworking, straight-talking farmers of the Appalachian Mountains. (Mar.)
Library Journal
The stories in Rash's (Serena) aptly titled new collection burn themselves on the memory in much the same way as the photographs Walker Evans took of Southern sharecroppers in the 1930s that were later collected in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Rash's spare narratives are set primarily in today's Appalachia, with families decimated by poverty, drugs, and every other discernible kind of heartache. A pawnshop owner knows all the local addicts by virtue of the junk they bring in for money and becomes an unlikely hero when one of these deals uncovers a family member's disgrace. A husband who no longer knows how to talk to his wife elicits our sympathy even after he communicates his message by slashing her tires. A neglected boy with meth-addict parents finds treasure in a plane wreck he happens upon when his wanderings lead him into Smoky Mountains National Park. VERDICT Rash, who has authored not only fiction but also three volumes of poetry, is a master craftsman who pares down language to its essential elements in these starkly beautiful stories.—Sue Russell, Current Science, Inc., Philadelphia
Kirkus Reviews
Searing collection of short fiction from critically acclaimed Rash (Serena, 2008, etc.)The scourge of meth addiction ravages North Carolina's mountain communities in three of these 12 stories. For Devon, playing guitar for the wasted wretches at a funky roadhouse in "Waiting for the End of the World," it's mordant humor that gets him through the night. "The Ascent" takes a closer look at the human consequences of meth use. To escape a miserable home life with his zonked-out parents, 11-year-old Jared goes climbing and discovers a crashed plane. Pilot and passenger are dead, yet the boy finds it "snug and cozy" inside; there can be no happy ending for his fantasy about a different home. Even more devastating is "Back of Beyond," the collection's standout. Parson's customers are addicts. This doesn't bother the hard-boiled pawnbroker, but it gets personal when Parson learns that his thieving, strung-out nephew Danny has driven his brother and sister-in-law out of their remote farmhouse. There's a shocking image of the old folks huddled fearfully under the covers in Danny's trailer, but Rash knows how to evoke suffering without beating up his readers. In "Hard Times," we meet a farming couple barely making it during the Depression; tracking down an egg thief makes for high drama. "Lincolnites" goes back to the Civil War to show a young wife, alone on the farm while her husband serves in the Union army, heroically holding off a marauding Confederate soldier. The violence in both these stories is sudden, deadly and over in a blink, a Rash trademark. The end comes just as quickly and unexpectedly in the contemporary "Dead Confederates," a macabre account of a rascal literally digging his owngrave. Also of note are the title story, in which a widow pays a high price for staving off loneliness, and "The Corpse Bird," which pits ancient country lore against modern medical self-assurance. A nicely varied feast from a master of the form. Author tour Asheville, N.C., Atlanta, Charlotte, Knoxville, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“A finely crafted, understated collection of 12 stories....Rash writes the way the old bluegrass musicians sing: in a stark, high-lonesome voice capturing the yearning and despair of characters who have lost almost everything but their pride.”
The Oregonian (Portland)
“Finely drawn stories...a collection to be read for the quality of the prose, which reflects Rash’s intimate knowledge of this region and its history. His heart is clearly in this place .”
San Francisco Chronicle
“For the past 15 years, Ron Rash has been carving out a position as one of the best writers in America writing about Appalachia... BURNING BRIGHT is raw, honest and assured.”
Miami Herald
“These are hard stories. These are hard people. But their troubles are never anything less than compelling...Rash has a feel for Appalachia and its ways, its rough justice, its loyalties... [Rash] has written a memorable, if often brutal, elegy for a vanishing way of life.”
“The ferally beautiful stories in Ron Rash’s BURNING BRIGHT evoke Appalachians of a Civil War past-- and a meth-blighted present-- with the haunting clarity of Walker Evans photographs.”
Washington Post
“A slender set of spare and menacing depictions of the unforgiving ways of life in rural Appalachia, Burning Bright finds a narrow sweet spot between Raymond Carver’s minimalism and William Faulkner’s Gothic.”
Huffington Post
“Ron Rash is a writer of quiet and stunning beauty... The stories in BURNING BRIGHT are beautiful. Each story is luminescent, deeply communicative of Appalachia and perfectly framed with sentences both lyrical and grounded.”
Time Out New York
“Rash...is at the top of his game.”
San Diego Union-Tribune
“Ron Rash (SERENA) delivers compelling bleakness in BURNING BRIGHT, a collection of powerful short stories set in the hardscrabble towns of Appalachia.”

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HarperCollins Publishers
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