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Mr. Tall: A Novella and Stories

Overview

The highly anticipated return of Tony Earley, celebrated author of Jim The Boy

Two decades after his debut collection Here We Are in Paradise (LB, 2/94) heralded Tony Earley as one of the most accomplished writers of his generation, the rueful, bittersweet, and riotous stories of Mr. Tall reestablish him as a mythmaker and tale spinner of the first rank. These stories introduce us not only to ordinary people seeking to live extraordinary lives, but also to the skunk ape (a ...

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Mr. Tall: A Novella and Stories

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Overview

The highly anticipated return of Tony Earley, celebrated author of Jim The Boy

Two decades after his debut collection Here We Are in Paradise (LB, 2/94) heralded Tony Earley as one of the most accomplished writers of his generation, the rueful, bittersweet, and riotous stories of Mr. Tall reestablish him as a mythmaker and tale spinner of the first rank. These stories introduce us not only to ordinary people seeking to live extraordinary lives, but also to the skunk ape (a southern variant of Bigfoot), the ghost of Jesse James, and a bone-tired Jack the Giant Killer. Whether it's Appalachia, Nashville, the Carolina Coast, or a make-believe land of talking dogs, each world Earley creates is indelible.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Jess Walter
The six stories and one novella…might be read as a progression of sorts, from the lucid, laconic Earley of Jim the Boy (2000) and The Blue Star (2008) to an older writer—edgier, in both senses of the word, and not above venturing into deep metafictional woods to contemplate the fading state of storytelling…a deep ruefulness hums from…the whole collection…This is different temporal and emotional terrain than Jim the Boy, and it's a treat to watch a writer as talented as Earley explore it, rising tides, skunk apes and all.
Publishers Weekly
★ 06/30/2014
Earley has grown up. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Jim the Boy and The Blue Star, both set in the 1930s and 1940s American South and concerned with the childhood and teen years of Jim Glass, has moved on. Although the seven works (a novella and stories) in this collection still take place in the South, it is often the New South: for example, rather than a train coming through a whistle-stop town with the famous ball player Ty Cobb aboard, as in Jim the Boy, there’s a Birmingham abortion-clinic bomber on the run in “The Cryptozoologist.” Earley’s attention to aging protagonists is a fresh direction. In the opening story, “Haunted Castles and the Barrier Islands,” a middle-aged couple that runs a little newspaper tries to bring a little zing to their marriage by booking a room at a costal inn, only to find themselves on the verge of slipping into the Atlantic, thanks to rising sea levels. Still, there are many familiar Earley touches. In the title story, a very tall widower living in the mountains silently mourns the death by drowning of his wife and child. But even if apple orchards still conceal secrets, mountain hollows house strange denizens, and the trains rumble reassuringly in the distance, there is undoubtedly a hard edge to this collection. “Jack and the Mad Dog,” the novella that closes the book, riffs on the “Beanstalk” tale with postmodern mischeviousness: the protagonist refers to himself as a “limited omniscient narrator” and proceeds to walk into a “Jack and Jill” story. Welcome, perhaps, to the Late Earley. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"Earley has grown up. Even if apple orchards still conceal secrets, mountain hollows house strange denizens, and the trains rumble reassuringly in the distance, there is undoubtedly a hard edge to this collection... Welcome, perhaps, to the Late Earley."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Punctuated by sharp insights and wry observations on the human condition, featuring strong, idiosyncratic characters having small epiphanies in their small towns."—Kirkus Reviews

"Both funny and bittersweet, these stories offer vivid characters and imaginative scenarios."—Booklist

"Tony Earley writes warm, funny stories that will break your heart. His humor and empathy will whisk you from beginning to end, and the sadness and regret at his stories' core will resonate in your memory... Here he has assembled a group of stories that are sad, droll and unforgettable. They are sophisticated and intricate in their construction, yet appealing and accessible—a pleasure to read, never a chore. They show Earley at his best."—Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Tony Earley more than measures up with Mr. TallVanity Fair

"Assured, evocative tales rich in humor and complex emotion."—New York Times Book Review

"Earley's poetic sentences empower his stories, making them more poignant, more real, as when Jesse James's laugh causes a suburban woman to imagine "a mouth filled with cobwebs," or when, beset by a horrible flood, Jack the giant-killer's "brain began to shout the thoughts inside his head so that he might hear them." This collection reminds us that imaginative leaps may at times take readers away form what they call reality, but may just as easily bring us closer to it."—Boston Globe

"Studded with his penchant for finding enchanment in everyday lives, their folk tale patina presages the more overt magic running through his new collection of short stories... Throughout, these new fables remain tethered to Earley's trademark preoccupations—the strange alchemy by which people connect, a heartfelt grasping for what comes next."—Daily Beast

"Time has passed, but Earley's still got the magic and a lot of wisdom to go with it."—The Rumpus

"Mr. Tall is a dazzling array of short fiction pieces, each one mythic in its own way, each one peopled with characters whose unlived lives are often more vivid than their lived lives."—Charlotte Observer

"Hugely enjoyable... its loping, shaggy charm lands squarely between Theroux's dourness and Guterson's dreaminess, with a dallop of down-home Appalachian soul to boot."
Washington Post

Malcolm Jones - Newsweek
"Tony Earley bewitches his readers with an idyll of boyhood so completely realized that we never want to leave it."
Boston Globe
"At the heart of The Blue Star is a good, old-fashioned love story . . . Earley writes with the same lyrical simplicity that he employed in Jim the Boy, calling to mind his literary idol Willa Cather."
John Freeman - Minneapolis Star Tribune
"A very fine book, full of moments of humor and tenderness . . . The Blue Star is, in more ways than one, a wonderful reminder of how we used to live."
Scott Turow - New York Times Book Review
Praise for THE BLUE STAR

"I galloped through the novel and relished every page . . . The Blue Star, like its hero, is irresistible."

Kirkus Reviews
2014-06-29
Over several decades, in small towns scattered throughout North Carolina and Tennessee, young and old couples attempt to connect in Earley's (The Blue Star, 2008, etc.) quirky and penetrating story collection.In "Haunted Castles of the Barrier Isles," a long-married couple is bereft when their only child, a college freshman, is less than happy to see them during a surprise birthday visit. With nothing better to do, the couple embarks on a trip to the nearby barrier islands, where they wander into a lackluster beach resort soon to be swallowed up by the encroaching ocean. This desultory vacation is colored by the shock and disappointment of the college visit, and their resulting marital crisis is described with mastery and subtlety. In "Mr. Tall," 16-year-old newlywed Plutina Scroggs sets off in 1932 with her new husband on a seemingly endless rail and mule journey from her hometown to his remote mountain cottage. Earley conveys with genuine humor and insight Plutina's bewilderment about sex and her initial regrets about the hasty marriage. Plutina later becomes obsessed with her never-glimpsed nearest neighbor, a hermit known as Mr. Tall, during the long weeks she spends alone. These first two stories are the strongest and most memorable of the collection. Additional tales are linked through the use of repeating characters; Plutina reappears as an aging neighbor in "The Cryptozoologist," in which a new widow becomes infatuated with the yetilike "skunk apes" she glimpses in the woods behind her home. In "Just Married," a collection of shorter anecdotes, characters appear and cleverly reappear in different phases of their lives with different partners. The only misstep in the book is the novella "Jack and the Mad Dog," a well-crafted but tedious postmodern fable about "THAT Jack, the giant-killer of the stories," that is out of keeping with the rest of the collection.The rest of the book is punctuated by sharp insights and wry observations on the human condition, featuring strong, idiosyncratic characters having small epiphanies in their small towns.
Library Journal
09/15/2014
Earley is beloved for his intelligent, big-hearted, emotionally resonant novels Jim the Boy and The Blue Star, but the author is also a skilled short story writer. He has spent his career writing mostly about kind, decent people living in the rural South who rely on family, honor, and a stout moral compass as they navigate the perils of the modern world. This excellent latest collection of short fiction includes some of Earley's signature settings and themes but what's new is his focus on relationships and marriage, which he explores with compassion and wisdom. Many of these pieces examine the mysterious, often inscrutable nature of love and the bewildering, unpredictable ways that life can unfold. "Haunted Castles of the Barrier Islands" is one of the strongest stories, in which a couple's surprise visit to their daughter at her college dorm devolves into a serious marital crisis that concludes with a tenuous but tender reconciliation. Another highlight is "Jack and the Mad Dog," a romping postmodern metanarrative featuring Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk. VERDICT Containing beautifully crafted stories by an important American writer, this book is enthusiastically recommended for fans of literary fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 2/24/14.]—Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316246125
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 8/26/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 105,966
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Tony Earley is the author of the novels Jim the Boy and The Blue Star. His fiction has earned a National Magazine Award and appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, and Best American Short Stories. Earley was chosen for both The New Yorker's inaugural best "20 Under 40" list of fiction writers and Granta's "20 Best Young American Novelists." He lives with his family in Nashville, Tennessee, where he is the Samuel Milton Fleming Chair in English at Vanderbilt University.

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