Dangerous Men


Geoffrey Becker?s Dangerous Men was selected by Charles Baxter as the winner of the fifteenth annual Drue Heinz Literature Prize.  His manuscript was selected from nearly three hundred submitted by published writers.

In these tightly drafted stories, Becker creates a wide variety of distinct voices, peculiar characters, and odd stettings, with tantalizing emphasis on lonliness, loss, and the ever-present struggle to find one?s place in the world.  ?It was wrong to ...

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Dangerous Men

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Geoffrey Becker’s Dangerous Men was selected by Charles Baxter as the winner of the fifteenth annual Drue Heinz Literature Prize.  His manuscript was selected from nearly three hundred submitted by published writers.

In these tightly drafted stories, Becker creates a wide variety of distinct voices, peculiar characters, and odd stettings, with tantalizing emphasis on lonliness, loss, and the ever-present struggle to find one’s place in the world.  “It was wrong to think that our presence would linger on, though it was to this notion that I realized I’d been grasping all along,” the music-student narrator of “Dangerous Men” says after an evening involving drugs, a fight, and a car accident, “the idea that in some way we were etching ourselves onto the air, leaving shadows that would remain forever.”

Many of the pieces incorporate music into the storyline.  Music is a gathering point in his characters’ misfit lives.  In “Magister Ludi,” a seventeen-year-old girl meets up with an older local guitarist whom her younger brother has invited over to their house when their parents are gone, and plays him for her own ends: “She makes Riggy drive right through the center of town, hoping that someone will see them - one of her friends, or one of her parents’ friends even, it doesn’t matter.  She just likes the idea of being spotted in this beat-up car alongside someone so disreputable.”

In “Erin and Malcom,” a bass player with an injured hand who still lives with his estranged wife, a singer, and her pet ferret, finds out how out of tune his life really is: “Something has gone wrong - he could see it in the way she looked at him over her morning bowl of cereal, and the way she didn’t as she peeled herself out of her Lycra pants and leopard shirts at night.”

Yet , even when the music seems quiet, there are tales of choice and happenstance.  “El Diablo de La Cienega,” set in New Mexico, is about a boy who accepts the challenge of a mysterious figure to a game of basketball, for very high stakes indeed.  Charles Baxter - one of America’s great story writers - calls the story “a small masterpiece.  It has formal perfection, like a folktale.  I thought it was wonderful.”

With leaps from the funny to the sad and the revelatory, these amazing stories explore dreams and longing with remarkable insight and imagination.  These are stories you will not forget.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Writing like this doesn’t call attention to itself. Instead, it quietly goes about its work, building that dense texture of private associations that yields characters a reader feels the author ‘knows.’ This is a realism of close focus, observantly tracking the ways people chart their own predicaments, using odd tools picked up here, there and everywhere along the way of their lives.”

New York Times Book Review

“These stories take the most obvious material, as plain as the stains on our own shirts, and make us look at those stains and pay attention to what this might mean. This is an excellent and original work.”

The Washington Post

“Using language as deceptively simple as his narrators, Becker approaches complex themes of power, love, and loss as a guide rather than dictator, allowing the reader’s imagination to fill in the full picture. But he also undercuts his stories with humor. His is the comedy of clever observation and bizarre juxtapositions.”

Times Literary Supplement

“In smooth, careful prose, [Becker] delineates his ethnically diverse characters with lucid empathy and renders moments of their lives taut and compelling.”

Publishers Weekly

“Becker has produced a finely crafted work, creating stories to transport the reader into other times and places. Throughout the collection, Becker assumes the voices of men and women of different ages, different backgrounds, and with different stories to tell. Becker’s ability to bring these stories to life in unique, and his work will inspire young writers who want to learn the craft of storytelling.”

Academic Library Book Review

“Becker narrates in a blunt, thickly detailed style. Many of his stories have endings that go beyond closure, opening outward as a character moves toward what’s next.”

The Antioch Review

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Most of the male characters who appear in the 11 stories in this collection-which won the 1995 Drue Heinz Literature Prize-are as dangerous to themselves as they are to others. In the title story, Becker achieves the perfect blend of humor and menace as three tripping teenagers stumble though Boston on the night of Nixon's resignation, undecided about whether to go ``fag''-bashing or do their music homework. Violence-or the threat of it-figures heavily in these stories. In ``Magister Ludi,'' Duney, a straight-laced high-school senior, goes to a quarry for a swim with Riggy, an older musician whom she barely knows; when his pursuit of her threatens to turn forceful, she gets scared until she realizes she can swim circles around him (``she thinks she has never felt more in control in her life''). In ``Taxes,'' Pretzel, a black teenager who runs errands for an elderly Jewish man, must decide whom to defend when his brother tries to rob his employer. On the goofier side, there's ``The Handstand Man,'' in which 30-something Jimi-John Houser tries to save a dying romance by turning the living room of his tiny New York City apartment into a beach. Becker's cast includes aging, struggling musicians, drifters and petty criminals. In smooth, careful prose, he delineates his ethnically diverse characters with lucid empathy and renders moments of their lives taut and compelling. (Dec.)
Library Journal
This collection of 11 short stories, nine previously published in literary magazines, won the 1995 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Thematically, these stories cover sibling rivalry, lovers' quarrels, father-and-son relationships, a basketball game with the devil in disguise, sexual initiation, people and animals, and black-white interaction. Becker focuses on characters at the margins of society (restless students, musicians, ghetto kids, a woman auto mechanic, actresses, and a dwarf) and quickly brings them to life. These misfits drink a lot but also think deeply. Becker, who has an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and currently teaches creative writing at Emory University, often experiments by using a female perspective or black English. While the result is an engaging style full of specific details, good dialog, good metaphors and similes, and plenty of humor, the endings often fail to resolve the stories' conflicts. For larger fiction collections.-Janet Ruth Heller, Grand Valley State Univ., Allendale, Mich.
A collection of 11 short stories on deceptively commonplace themes--sibling rivalry, hanging out with friends--that leave a peculiar lump in your throat as you finish them. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822962496
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/1995
  • Series: Pitt Drue Heinz Lit Prize Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoffrey Becker’s short stories have appeared in many literary magazines, including Crazyhorse, The Colorado Review, and The North American Review. He is the recipient of a number of awards; including a James Michener grant, a PEN Syndicated Fiction Prize, and an NEA fellowship.

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Table of Contents

Dangerous Men 3
Darling Nikki 17
The Handstand Man 31
Big Grey 45
Magister Ludi 55
El Diablo de La Cienega 73
Taxes 89
Erin and Malcolm 105
Down at the Studio 117
Daddy D. and Short Time 129
Bluestown 145
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