Fires of Our Choosing

Overview

Eugene Cross captures much of his generation's fears and excitements with a collection of realistic stories that borders on darkness at times. His is a voice combining humor and pathos with an edginess creating fresh new stories that are being published in great literary journals regularly.

A boy acts out at the death of his father and abandonment by his brother through a savage playground beating; a young man confronts his own troubled history when asked to hire on his ...

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Fires of Our Choosing

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Overview

Eugene Cross captures much of his generation's fears and excitements with a collection of realistic stories that borders on darkness at times. His is a voice combining humor and pathos with an edginess creating fresh new stories that are being published in great literary journals regularly.

A boy acts out at the death of his father and abandonment by his brother through a savage playground beating; a young man confronts his own troubled history when asked to hire on his girlfriend's strung-out brother in an attempt to keep him out of prison; a teenage babysitter works through a scorching-hot summer afternoon that will prove to alter her life forever; a grieving widower finds comfort in the unlikeliest of places, a recently-built casino; an itinerant farm worker visits the same former lover in South Dakota year after year while following the Harvest north; two friends search for excuses and fail to claim responsibility for their own decisions after one loses his father, and the other's house burns to the ground; and a taxidermist falls in love with the ex-wife of his high school bully and tries to convince her to marry him despite her son who seems to share his father's bullying mentality.

"A brilliant, sometimes heartbreaking debut by this gifted young writer and Columbia writing teacher. Cross captures the angst and tenderness of the young men and women growing up in the rust belt with little hope and less luck. The moments of grace and redemption shine through. I loved every story." —Linda Bubon, Women & Children First Bookstore

"There are countless moments like this in Fires of Our Choosing, lines that appear true from the moment they’ve been written and hang in the back of the mind for days afterwards... With Fires of Our Choosing, Cross climbs boldly into the ring with the greats, if only to deliver a decisive knockout punch." —Urban Waite, Fiction Writers Review

"Cross offers no apologies for his characters: their poor choices, their lack of moral fortitude, their betrayals of each other and the poverty of their surroundings and, often, themselves; he leaves these things alone. They are who they are, and if dignity has been denied them by the rest of us, including us story-tellers, it is restored by this collection. That he has undertaken to serve as their raconteur should place Cross on the radar of all the big prizes that gift those blessed with talent, compassion and fearlessness, particularly during this present moment in our history." —Ru Freeman, Huffington Post

Eugene Cross was born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania and received an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. His stories have appeared in Narrative Magazine (which named him one of "20 Best New Writers" and his story "Harvester's" a "Top Five Story of 2009-2010"), American Short Fiction, Story Quarterly, TriQuarterly, and Callalloo among other publications. His work was also listed among the 2010 Best American Short Stories' 100 Distinguished Stories. He is the recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Chautauqua Writers' Festival, and the winner of the 2009 Dzanc Prize for Excellence in Literary Fiction and Community Service. He currently lives in Chicago where he teaches in the Fiction Department at Columbia College Chicago.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
In his debut short story collection, Cross realistically documents fears, loss and the complexities of relationships by glimpsing into a dozen different lives. The 12 stories feature a cast of varied characters with one commonality: They're all troubled by events from their past. Marty, a sixth-grade boy, resorts to violence after the death of his father; Lenny's bad luck comes to define him; and Ronny finds a surprising ally in the son of his high school bully from years ago. Cross' stories meditate on what it means to experience pain, and his characters demonstrate that there are many different ways of coping. The captivating first line of each story hints at the tension that follows, especially in "Hunters," which begins: "The winter I turned twenty-seven, I followed a woman who said she might love me to a small town in Northwest Pennsylvania, a go-between place that provided me with little comfort, except maybe to say that its prospects seemed worse than my own." The endings are usually just as enticing; mirroring reality, they aren't clean, definitive conclusions but rather a place for readers to leave the character, confident he or she is in good hands, and move on to the next. Cross' descriptions allow readers to conjure a clear image of each character, as evidenced by the introduction of Lenny, who was blind in his left eye, "the blackness of his pupil leaking into his iris like spilled ink." Thematic similarities throughout the collection make it difficult for one story to stand out among the rest, but it also amounts to a pleasing consistency. It's clear that Cross is capable of full-length fiction, which would be a welcome next step for such a talent. Darkly comical; readers will be ready for more.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781936873074
  • Publisher: Dzanc Books
  • Publication date: 4/3/2012
  • Pages: 170
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Eugene Cross captures much of his generation's fears and excitements with a collection of realistic stories that borders on darkness at times. His is a voice combining humor and pathos with an edginess creating fresh new stories that are being published in great literary journals regularly.

A boy acts out at the death of his father and abandonment by his brother through a savage playground beating; a young man confronts his own troubled history when asked to hire on his girlfriend's strung-out brother in an attempt to keep him out of prison; a teenage babysitter works through a scorching-hot summer afternoon that will prove to alter her life forever; a grieving widower finds comfort in the unlikeliest of places, a recently-built casino; an itinerant farm worker visits the same former lover in South Dakota year after year while following the Harvest north; two friends search for excuses and fail to claim responsibility for their own decisions after one loses his father, and the other's house burns to the ground; and a taxidermist falls in love with the ex-wife of his high school bully and tries to convince her to marry him despite her son who seems to share his father's bullying mentality.

"A brilliant, sometimes heartbreaking debut by this gifted young writer and Columbia writing teacher. Cross captures the angst and tenderness of the young men and women growing up in the rust belt with little hope and less luck. The moments of grace and redemption shine through. I loved every story." —Linda Bubon, Women & Children First Bookstore

"There are countless moments like this in Fires of Our Choosing, lines that appear true from the moment they’ve been written and hang in the back of the mind for days afterwards... With Fires of Our Choosing, Cross climbs boldly into the ring with the greats, if only to deliver a decisive knockout punch." —Urban Waite, Fiction Writers Review

"Cross offers no apologies for his characters: their poor choices, their lack of moral fortitude, their betrayals of each other and the poverty of their surroundings and, often, themselves; he leaves these things alone. They are who they are, and if dignity has been denied them by the rest of us, including us story-tellers, it is restored by this collection. That he has undertaken to serve as their raconteur should place Cross on the radar of all the big prizes that gift those blessed with talent, compassion and fearlessness, particularly during this present moment in our history." —Ru Freeman, Huffington Post

Eugene Cross was born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania and received an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. His stories have appeared in Narrative Magazine (which named him one of "20 Best New Writers" and his story "Harvester's" a "Top Five Story of 2009-2010"), American Short Fiction, Story Quarterly, TriQuarterly, and Callalloo among other publications. His work was also listed among the 2010 Best American Short Stories' 100 Distinguished Stories. He is the recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Chautauqua Writers' Festival, and the winner of the 2009 Dzanc Prize for Excellence in Literary Fiction and Community Service. He currently lives in Chicago where he teaches in the Fiction Department at Columbia College Chicago.

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