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Dogfight: And Other Stories

Dogfight: And Other Stories

5.0 1
by Michael Knight

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“Ten stories cut like gems from American family life . . . [with] a gracious patina and a drawl of violence.” —Los Angeles Times
“A writer of the first rank. . . . [Knight] writes gently and with great gobs of empathy.”—Esquire
“Wonderfully humane.” —Playboy
A Los Angeles Times


“Ten stories cut like gems from American family life . . . [with] a gracious patina and a drawl of violence.” —Los Angeles Times
“A writer of the first rank. . . . [Knight] writes gently and with great gobs of empathy.”—Esquire
“Wonderfully humane.” —Playboy
A Los Angeles Times Notable Book, Michael Knight’s stunning debut delivers ten tales of ordinary people seized by extraordinary circumstances as their attempts at human connection result in frustrating false starts and ruinous misunderstandings. Knight expertly unveils fragile family ties, secret compulsions, and the nagging doggedness of love as he taps into our collective human experience to remind us, with unerring, piercing insight, of what it means to be alive. By turns unpredictable and wise, sorrowful and triumphant, Dogfight and Other Stories reveals the transformative power of life’s small struggles.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
These 10 distinctive and intensely affecting stories confirm Knight as a writer of significant gifts. In short narratives that invariably entice the reader with an arresting opening sentence, he establishes a solid sense of place, using the local color of his native Alabama, and transforms ordinary people into nearly mythic figures. The first story, "Now You See Her," sets the stage, constructing a conflict of nearly Oedipal proportions. A veterinarian widower and his teenage son, Xavier, who calls himself X, spy on Grace, their next-door neighbor, who "it would appear... renounced clothing altogether"; the surprising climax occurs when her dog suddenly takes ill. In many of Knight's offerings, animals act as agents of change: in the title story, a dogfight is the catalyst for an adulterous affair and results in a parallel clash between the dogs' owners. "Gerald's Monkey" uses a man's desire for a pet monkey to examine the emotional aftermath of Vietnam. Knight demonstrates agility with a diversity of viewpoints: he is equally at ease with first-person narration or third, an adult perspective or an adolescent's, as in a stunner called "A Bad Man, So Pretty" (taken from a Muhammad Ali quote) that works up to a Cain and Abel-style confrontation. Knight's characters are both recognizable and transcendent, suddenly drawn into trespassing the ordinary limits of their lives to enter the realm of allegory. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Dogfight, Knight's evocative first collection of short stories, is filled with sensitive 1990s men, slightly sad and confused, especially concerning the opposite sex. Fortunately, his characters don't wear their big hearts on their sleeves; if anything, they confront life's difficulties bemused, sometimes resigned, but still full of wonder. In "Sundays," a young teacher looking for domesticity can't find it, even in a neighborhood of single and sympathetic mothers. The sadness of a man returning to his old circle of friends after his divorce is revealed in "Poker." Not all the guys are saints: in "The Man Who Went Out for Cigarettes," a husband reflects on a future without his recently disabled wife, and in "A Bad Man, So Pretty," the focus turns to a helplessly angry and violent young man. Yet the author is skillful enough not to let these flaws dominate his characterizations, and even the lonely voyeur of "Now You See Her" comes off more sweet than pathetic. Compared with these stories, however, Knight's first novel, Divining Rod, is a disappointment. It's a tale of adultery, plain and simple, complete with a young wife, her much older husband, and a young neighbor who is destined to cuckold him. There's still some introspection here, but as a whole the writing is not terribly original, as if the author were trying to mainstream his work for the masses hungering for romance and tragedy. Knight can do better--and he will. The stories are recommended; the novel is not. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/98.]--Marc A. Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA
Los Angeles Times
These are 10 stories, cut like gems from American family. And Michael Knight is purely American in his choice of ingredients and a touch Southern in his intonation. His stories have a gracious patina and a drawl of violence; his stories emphasize the pivotal moment, the moral moment, the decisive moment ... in these stories, an astonishing variety of forms.
Kirkus Reviews
A strong first collection (half of the two-book debut that includes Knight's novel Divining Rod, to be reviewed in our next issue) offers ten unflinchingly realistic and inventive studies of the compulsive bonding of incompatible people and, most interestingly, the mysterious symbiosis between humans and animals. Even the more conventional storiesþsuch as a child's-eye view of adult infidelity and instability ("Amelia Earhart's Coat") and the complex indirect characterization of a married teacher not quite lured into his neighbors' orbit of incessant partying and casual sex ("Sundays")þresonate with this volume's distinctive emphasis on hesitant personal voyages into unfamiliar emotional territories. The beneficiaries and victims of these adventures include a widowed father and his teenaged son whose separate obsessions with a beautiful (and frequently naked) next-door neighbor subtly alter their mutual dependency (in "Now You See Her"), and another teenager working on a welding crew alongside co-workers whose crotchets and obsessions he only dimly understands ("Gerald's Monkey": a truly enigmatic tale, powered by some very disturbing sexual undercurrents). "A Bad Man, So Pretty" vividly delineates the uncomfortable intimacy between its young narrator ("the good kid" in his family) and his trouble-making older brother. It's reminiscent of several of Peter Taylor's stories about introverts who are disturbed and fascinated by the misbehavior of their more mercurial and dangerous counterparts. And Knight's most intriguing pieces boldly dramatize the changes wrought by creatures that seemingly function as guides, or instructors leading people onto new levels of experience orunderstanding: a young man's sense of his own vulnerability is stimulated by the dog he "inherits" after his landlady dies in a fire, perhaps deliberately set ("Tenant"); the ordeal of a skilled mosaic craftsman unable to hold together his piecemeal relationship with a vivacious independent woman ("Sleeping with My Dog"); and the superb title story's revelation of a divorced loner's closeness to his ex-wife and susceptibility to even tenuous and inconclusive emotional connection. Vivid and thought-provoking fiction from an impressive new talent.

Product Details

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
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Barnes & Noble
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2 MB

Meet the Author

Michael Knight, Senior Curator of Chinese Art and Deputy Director for Strategic Programs and Partnerships at the Asian Art Museum, is author or co-author of many books, including Power and Glory: Court Arts of China's Ming Dynasty, Later Chinese Jades: Ming DynastyûEarly Twentieth Century, and The Monumental Landscapes of Li Huayi.

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Dogfight and Other Stories 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This collection is filled with brilliant short stories, deep and simple and touching all at the same time. Mr. Knight has an incredible talent for placing you into the scene, then once you're there, drawing you into the struggles of the characters. Stories like 'Sleeping with My Dog', 'Amelia Earhart's Coat', and 'Gerald's Monkey' are absolute masterpieces. This collection changed the way I feel about short stories.