Praying Drunk

( 1 )

Overview

"I finished this book with my heart pounding and grateful, my coffee cold and my smile wide and crying like a baby."—Daniel Handler

The characters in Praying Drunk speak in tongues, torture their classmates, fall in love, hunt for immortality, abandon their children, keep machetes beneath passenger seats, and collect porcelain figurines. A man crushes pills on the bathroom counter while his son watches from the hallway; missionaries clumsily navigate an uprising with barbed wire and broken glass; a boy disparages...

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Praying Drunk

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Overview

"I finished this book with my heart pounding and grateful, my coffee cold and my smile wide and crying like a baby."—Daniel Handler

The characters in Praying Drunk speak in tongues, torture their classmates, fall in love, hunt for immortality, abandon their children, keep machetes beneath passenger seats, and collect porcelain figurines. A man crushes pills on the bathroom counter while his son watches from the hallway; missionaries clumsily navigate an uprising with barbed wire and broken glass; a boy disparages memorized scripture, facedown on the asphalt, as he fails to fend off his bully. From Kentucky to Florida to Haiti, these seemingly disparate lives are woven together within a series of nested repetitions, enacting the struggle to remain physically and spiritually alive throughout the untamable turbulence of their worlds. In a masterful blend of fiction, autobiography, and surrealism, Kyle Minor shows us that the space between fearlessness and terror is often very small. Long before Praying Drunk reaches its plaintive, pitch-perfect end, Minor establishes himself again and again as one of the most talented younger writers in America.

Winner of the 2014 Story Prize Spotlight Award

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Similar to a great magic trick, the 13 stories in Minor’s (In the Devil’s Territory) latest lure reader investment with strong visuals while simultaneously pulling the rug out from underfoot with clever, literary sleights–of-hand. Though not necessarily linked in the traditional sense, there is a sequential order to the collection—ideas, locations, incidents, and characters echo as the volume chugs forward—and the result is an often dazzling, emotional, funny, captivating puzzle. At the heart of the book are the Haitian tales “Seven Stories About Sebastian of Koulèv-Ville” and “In a Distant Country.” Set within the same village, though separated by decades, the narratives follow the lives of missionaries and the natives they look to aid during the Duvalier dictatorship and after the 2010 earthquake. The ideas of trust and faith run deep, and these emotions bleed throughout the collection, particularly in the narratives concerning a character akin to the author, who frets over his musician brother (in “There Is Nothing but Sadness in Nashville”), his dying grandfather (in “First, the Teeth”), and his own convictions (in “You Shall Go Out with Joy and Be Led Forth with Peace” and its companion, “Suspended”). Minor’s continuous play with form keeps the book fresh, despite a somewhat distracting presentation. Agent: Katherine Fausset, Curtis Brown. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

“Kyle Minor wants you to know that Praying Drunk is not actually, or only, a collection. In the epigraph, he warns: “These stories are meant to be read in order. This is a book, not just a collection. DON’T SKIP AROUND.’ Minor is right to insist. The stories may span decades as they move from Kentucky to Haiti and points between, but they work in concert to slowly reveal the landscape of an emotionally desolate quasi-America sinking under the weight of its own faith. . . . Minor writes beautifully about these ruined lives.”
New York Times Book Review

“An award-winning short fiction author offers twelve stories so ripe with realism as to suggest a roman à clef. . . . This brilliant collection unfolds around a fractured narrative of faith and friends and family, loved and lost.”
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“The collection’s masterpiece, the novella “In a Distant Country,” works in epistolary style through a wide array of correspondents. All are connected somehow to a troubled Baptist mission in Haiti, and their community portrait, thanks to Minor’s ventriloquism, achieves tragic stature. . . . [a] grim yet terrific collection.”
Boston Globe

“Minor’s book is one of the most thought-provoking, intelligently designed story collections I’ve seen in some time, and the discussions he starts—about life, about art, about the boundaries and limitations of genre—are ones scholars and writers alike will be discussing for quite some time, and with good reason. Equally impressively, the narratives are engaging and the sentences strikingly arranged.”
Barnes & Noble Reviews

“As a jealous and deeply insecure writer, I wish I didn’t have to report that these stories are enviably brilliant. But sadly, this is the fact of the matter. Kyle Minor has elevated the short story collection for me.”
LA Review of Books

"Kyle Minor’s new collection, Praying Drunk, has already made its claim for being one of the year’s best books. The stories contained within it recount wrenching stories of families in turmoil, faith challenged, and nations in upheaval. Structurally inventive and equally adept at realism and the surreal, Minor’s new book is a stunning work of literature."
Vol. 1 Brooklyn

"Praying Drunk gets the whole thing down: the cosmic muck and the local glory, the big questions and the tiny lives, the bullies and the saviors, the screaming at the sky and the lights by the side of the road late at night on a long drive. I finished this book with my heart pounding and grateful, my coffee cold and my smile wide and crying like a baby."
—Daniel Handler

"Watch Praying Drunk's lovely, lonely people wrestle with Minor's dark God and remember when you too tried to reason with Him and unravel His mysterious commands. These passionate tales, full of longing and daring and honesty, will disturb and inspire you."
—Deb Olin Unferth

"When the characters residing in Kyle Minor’s engrossing and lively Praying Drunk find a toehold on the good life, I hope that it’s autobiographical. When the characters find themselves enveloped in desperate situations, irreversible circumstances, and despair, I pray that it’s solely out of the writer’s imagination. These fine stories–up there with the best works of Padgett Powell, Donald Barthelme, and Robert Coover–never straddle a milquetoast fence: they’re extreme in humor, extreme in sorrowfulness, and 100% individually-wrapped masterpieces. I am haunted and mesmerized by this collection."
—George Singleton, author of Stray Decorum

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-01-04
An award-winning short fiction author offers 12 stories so ripe with realism as to suggest a roman à clef. "In a Distant Country" is the most affecting, ringing with the haunted truths of Shakespearean tragedy—a missionary in Haiti, his teenage bride, the Duvaliers overthrown, his death, her disappearance—a tale unfolding in six letters from witnesses. It's the 10th tale, but don't read it first. In sequence, the stories present a powerful reflective narrative, offering perspectives on friends, family and faith. Stories cut to the heart—a teen helps his father chop a pink piano into kindling before he "walked toward this woodpile with a loaded shotgun and blew off his head"; then the boy's funeral is rendered through multiple stories. Then come stories of the narrator's brother, a Nashville musician, cheated and misused, who quits, finds a good job and then quits again, "under the shadow of death, that end of all ends, and life is too short...when you could be standing under stage lights making somebody you never met before feel something." Pain and loss range from Ohio to Tennessee to Kentucky to Florida to Haiti, with prose ringing with the hard-edged, mordant clarity of Southern writing. A preacher turns the making of biscuits into a funeral parable, and there's more sardonic play with faith, as when a character sniffs up methadone powder: "There's the line, gone up like the rapture." That surrealistic piece follows a bereaved father who recreates a dead son as a bionic robot to win back his wife. This brilliant collection unfolds around a fractured narrative of faith and friends and family, loved and lost, an arc of stories in which characters find reason to carry on even after contemplating a "God with agency enough to create everything...and apathy enough to let it proceed as an atrocity parade." There's cynicism and despair and nihilism in the collection, certainly, but there's courage too and a measure of blood-tinged beauty.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781936747634
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books
  • Publication date: 2/4/2014
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 226,618
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Kyle Minor is the winner of the 2012 Iowa Review Prize for Short Fiction, the Tara M. Kroger Prize for Short Fiction, and the author of In Devil's Territory (Dzanc Books, 2008). He is also a three-time honoree in the annual Atlantic Monthly writing contest, and was named one of Random House’s Best New Voices of 2006. His work has appeared in The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Iowa Review, Salon.com, Best American Mystery Stories 2008, Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers, and Forty Stories: New Voices from Harper Perennial.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 21, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    Praying Drunk is...Alright

    Minor's collection of short stories was pretty good. His first person narrations are entertaining and his tone is a mix of sarcasm and blunt honesty (although at times it may not seem so). At first, many of the stories seem random. However, as one keeps reading they come to find they each are relevant in there own way to the telling of Minor's overarching story and to hit home his main messages. So the moment where you realize how they are all connected is cool. To be honest though there are some stories in here that were a bit of a struggle to get through because they are so random. Overall though not a bad read. I just wouldn't go straight to spectacular.

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