Detroit Tales

Detroit Tales

by Jim Ray Daniels
     
 

The stories in Detroit Tales are tales about urban, working-class America. People struggle both to remain in the city and to escape the city. The three central motifs of this collection are the city, the workplace, and the automobile. In their cars, people negotiate the territory between work and home. Conflicts arise in the characters’ impulses to

Overview

The stories in Detroit Tales are tales about urban, working-class America. People struggle both to remain in the city and to escape the city. The three central motifs of this collection are the city, the workplace, and the automobile. In their cars, people negotiate the territory between work and home. Conflicts arise in the characters’ impulses to veer off their well-worn paths. What can they do? Where can they go? What forces pull them away, and what forces pull them back? The characters search for what can provide spiritual sustenance. Often, the relief from the drudgery of their daily lives is provided in the fleeting dazzle of fireworks or Christmas lights, but they take what they can. If these stories have one unifying theme, it is that escape is not the answer. When the pulls of friendship and love and personal responsibility draw us back to our ordinary homes and our ordinary jobs, we must trust those pulls, and we must lead those lives with as much dignity as we can muster.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Authentic and deeply felt but sometimes clunky, these 12 stories by Pushcart Prize-winning writer Daniels (No Pets) are set in white, working-class Detroit in the 1970s, their characters struggling with heartbreak, aimlessness, financial disaster or the pull of their troubled pasts. In the opening story, "Islands," a mild-mannered man tries to improve life on his block by confronting a drug dealer working there, intimating that he has a gun in his pocket, and is only laughed at in return. In "Christmasmobile," two stoned teenage boys drive a car bedecked with Christmas lights around their neighborhood on Christmas Eve, witness the disruption of a mass by a deranged, despairing local misfit and must be driven home by two young women when the car's decorations drain its battery. In "Cross Country," a narrator recalls a Kerouac-inspired attempt at a cross-country road trip with his friend Jimmy, who dreams of going to broadcasting school in California. The trip ends when a banal encounter with two state troopers mysteriously convinces Jimmy that they have to return home, and that they'll never find the adventure or escape they're looking for. In "Renegade," a smalltime biker, recently returned from Vietnam and living with his parents, invades a high school party with his violent gang. He's about to take a swing at a kid when he realizes, to his overwhelming shame, that it's his younger brother. Daniel's close-up portraits of people living from paycheck to paycheck are believable and well etched. Yet the arcs of these stories are often flawed-they tend to be structured so that the climax comes somewhere in the middle, and overly long denouements sap the stories' energy. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Daniels's blue-collar Detroit might be described as an emotional rust belt, where economic and mental depression not only walk hand in hand but get wasted together every night. Eight of the 12 stories feature alcoholism and drug abuse, while petty crime, suicide, sexual abuse or dysfunction, and defeated twenty-somethings moving back in with their parents can also be found in at least four stories apiece. Not every family falls into these snares, but even then "Five divorces among four kids probably sounds bad." So does a minister sexually abusing a 17-year-old parishioner. He never actually does, but in Detroit every road seems to lead to ruin, even those never traveled. The strongest stories are "Minding the Store," wherein a frightened 16-year-old clerk and a closeted gay convenience store owner finally stand up to a bully, and "Christmasmobile," which chronicles how two teens manage to transform the collective darkness for a few hours. Daniels's gritty style and down-on-their-luck characters recall a line from Detroit rocker Bob Seger: "Beautiful loser. Never take it all, 'cause it's easier, faster when you fall." Recommended for medium to large public and academic libraries, particularly in urban areas.-Jim Dwyer, California State Univ. Lib., Chico Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780870136627
Publisher:
Michigan State University Press
Publication date:
05/15/2003
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
184
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Jim Ray Daniels has published four collections of short stories and has won numerous prizes for his work. His writing has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, in Billy Collins’s Poetry 180 anthologies, and in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry series.

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