Macauley's Thumb

Overview

Lex Williford's seriously eccentric characters find that traveling down life's highway leads to the breakdown lane as quickly as it leads to the fast lane. Their quirky philosophy can best be summed up by Bucklin Rudd, who just lost his business and his wife after losing the last bit of his good sense: "Nothing like working half your life for something just to find out you think you're pretty damn sure you don't want it." The ten stories in Macauley's Thumb - set variously in Texas, Old and New Mexico, Oklahoma, ...
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Overview

Lex Williford's seriously eccentric characters find that traveling down life's highway leads to the breakdown lane as quickly as it leads to the fast lane. Their quirky philosophy can best be summed up by Bucklin Rudd, who just lost his business and his wife after losing the last bit of his good sense: "Nothing like working half your life for something just to find out you think you're pretty damn sure you don't want it." The ten stories in Macauley's Thumb - set variously in Texas, Old and New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, and Illinois explore the complicated lives of disenchanted characters who find ways to express their grief at the losses they face under impossible circumstances, losses so large and so small that no one - not even Smiling Joe's Insurance - can cover them. A husband and wife, unable to speak to each other without arguing, face the dissolution of their marriage when they smuggle his mother's body out of Mexico. Two boys, confronting abandonment by their father, go to the Texas State Fair and stumble upon a way to get their mother out of bed. Thomas "Hoot" Ponder and his nephew find common ground in whiskey and storytelling amid the comedy surrounding death and dying. A chiropractor who loves science fiction movies struggles with his sexual fantasies about one of his patients, a Wal-Mart cashier who can't stop talking about her pain. In the powerful title story, Cal Macauley - driven mad by his wife's horrible death - faces mourning, regret, and the inevitability of forgetting by striking out against himself and the rattlesnakes on his mountain. Inarticulate until overwhelmed by trouble, then wise beyond belief, Lex Williford's characters achieve a dignified fatalism combined with a generous dose of fast-paced humor.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Williford's principal subject matter is more than common today in short fiction: the marital wreck, done in by adultery and confronting alienation. In this collection of 10 stories, winner of the 1993 Iowa Short Fiction Award, redneck deer-hunters (``A Discussion of Property'') and moonlighting yuppies (``Influenza'') face a void of values, and it's anyone's guess whether an uptight chiropractor can find healing communion with a brassy Wal-Mart clerk (``Godzilla vs. the Sensitive Man''). Is redemption possible? There is no flash or gimmickry--neither cute ironies nor concealed facts--in Williford's stories, which seem intended to pose a meaningful ambiguity, or at best to summon a grain or two of forlorn hope from the muddy alchemy of relationships. The emotionally stoic conclusion of ``Taking Nonie Home'' is characteristic: ``He stood and walked into the waves, then bent to wash the clay from his knees and the ash from his hands. When he came back, he said, `Liz, we need to talk.' She picked up the urn. `I'm ready,' she said.'' (Jan.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780877454434
  • Publisher: University of Iowa Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1994
  • Series: Iowa Short Fiction Award Series
  • Pages: 142
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 9.57 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Table of Contents

Pendergast's Daughter 1
Taking Nonie Home 3
Fair Day 24
A Discussion of Property 44
Hoot's Last Bubble Bath 34
Influenza 84
Godzilla vs. the Sensitive Man 90
Get Right or Get Left 113
Folsom Man 124
Macauley's Thumb 134
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