Rust and Bone: Stories

( 5 )


“Enough incident, shock, and suspense for a dozen books. . . . Filled with stories you haven’t heard before.”—Bret Easton Ellis
In steel-tipped prose, Craig Davidson conjures a savage world populated by fighting dogs, prizefighters, sex addicts, and gamblers. In his title story, Davidson introduces an afflicted boxer whose hand never properly heals after a bone is broken. The fighter's career descends to bouts that have less to do with sport than with survival: no referee, no rules, not even gloves. In "A Mean ...

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“Enough incident, shock, and suspense for a dozen books. . . . Filled with stories you haven’t heard before.”—Bret Easton Ellis
In steel-tipped prose, Craig Davidson conjures a savage world populated by fighting dogs, prizefighters, sex addicts, and gamblers. In his title story, Davidson introduces an afflicted boxer whose hand never properly heals after a bone is broken. The fighter's career descends to bouts that have less to do with sport than with survival: no referee, no rules, not even gloves. In "A Mean Utility" we enter an even more desperate arena: dogfights where Rottweilers, pit bulls, and Dobermans fight each other to the death.
Davidson's stories are small monuments to the telling detail. The hostility of his fictional universe is tempered by the humanity he invests in his characters and by his subtle and very moving observations of their motivations. He shares with Chuck Palahniuk the uncanny ability to compel our attention, time and time again, to the most difficult subject matter.

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Editorial Reviews

Thom Jones
“The landscape of Rust and Bone is a war zone. With each story, the author digs both feet into the canvas and slings forth a blizzard of body blows that will knock you on your ass. When it comes to raw power, Davidson is truly a force to be reckoned with.”
Peter Straub
“In prose so clean it has been stripped down to the bone, Craig Davidson gives us the demimonde of dogfights, bar brawls, and washed-up boxers that Hemingway first brought into our literature. . . . Davidson . . . is a writer of immense power and surprising, accurate insights.”
Chuck Palahnuik
“Davidson . . . smudges the line between comedy and horror, cruelty and mercy. His remarkable stories are challenging and upsetting. . . . Don’t look for comfort here.”
Lizzie Skurnick
… while the stories often end in a melodramatic flourish, they begin with elegant economy. And though Davidson's attempts at tough talk are more "Deadwood" than Eastwood, an ironic joviality sometimes rises to the surface.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
A strong stomach, an open mind and a morbid sense of humor are essential to enjoying Davidson's accomplished, macabre first collection. Calamity lurks around every corner, these stories suggest, and you never know when fate will smite you-only that it will. Davidson catapults his characters (sex addicts, fighters, gamblers and drinkers) into ingeniously grim situations that test their will. In "Rocket Ride," a young man who loses his leg to the orca he performs with in a marine park show tries to rebuild his life, in part by attending meetings of the Unlimbited Potential support group, which is full of substance-abusing amputees who wonder if karma's to blame for their plights. In the gruesome "A Mean Utility," a normal-seeming couple-an ad exec and his wife, a nurse-breed and fight vicious dogs, while in the sad "On Sleepless Roads," a repo man leaves one night's job not with the camper he was supposed to reclaim, but with the destitute man's hamster and guinea pig, which he brings home to his disabled wife. Davidson, 30, is a fine young writer with a keen sense of the absurd and a bracing, biting wit, but his focus on gore may keep many readers from appreciating his obvious talent. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Davidson's forceful debut collection arrives like a jab to the jaw from one of his colorful characters. Sometimes masochistic, always muscled in the diction of the men who people them, the stories are impossible to ignore. Davidson brings us hard men-alcoholic fathers, sex-addicted porn stars, boxers, a repo man, a magician who deserts his two children-without patronizing them or their extreme conditions. He is as adept at the humorous interplay of personality in a sex addicts anonymous meeting (in "Friction") as he is in describing a vicious dogfight (in the excellent "A Mean Utility"). There are also quiet moments of grace, particularly in "An Apprentice's Guide to Modern Magic" and "On Sleepless Roads." Even when Davidson pushes the limits of what a reader can stomach, he never loses our attention or our empathy. Recommended as a young writer to watch.-Prudence Peiffer, Cambridge, MA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Stories of blood, guts, dog-fighting and sex addiction. Opening with a story about a broken-handed ex-prizefighter who watches his nephew fall through thin ice, and moving into a story about an alcoholic father who puts all his hopes on an estranged son's basketball game, Davidson's debut collection engages the Hemingway-esque tradition of terse prose describing toughened men who suffer while hiding their scars. The characters, wounded, and often wounding others and themselves, rarely seem to get what they want. Often they seem to frustrate their own ambitions: A man who loses his leg to a shark holes up, masturbates and then tries and fails to find love with a pretty young woman who has lost her arms. The dog-fighter turns out not to be able to have children with his wife, and in a midnight frenzy throws himself to his own dogs. The sex addict remains terminally addicted, imagining walls of genitals, attending orgies, unsure he can love even his own child. In the midst of these uncomfortable stories lurk certain fragmentary hopes, and a few reflective insights. At one point, the battered prizefighter claims: "Reach a certain experience level, you don't fight without reason. You've seen to many boxers hurt, killed even, to treat matches as dick-swinging contests." Nevertheless, these characters seem always to be fighting, swinging dicks and plowing ahead, hurt and hurting. Thick with bleak characters and thin on redemption, Davidson moves from one unsavory battered character to another. The relentless, unforgiving nature of these difficult worlds makes for heavy reading.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393329001
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/17/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 250
  • Sales rank: 828,699
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Craig Davidson lives in Iowa City, Iowa. His stories have been published in The Fiddlehead, Event, Prairie Fire, and SubTerrain. He has also written horror fiction under a pseudonym.

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Table of Contents

Rust and bone 1
The rifleman 23
A mean utility 43
Rocket ride 69
On sleepless roads 101
Friction 127
Life in the flesh 157
The apprentice's guide to modern magic 177
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 29, 2013

    All of the protagonists in this short story collection¿from the

    All of the protagonists in this short story collection—from the sympathetic repo man with a conscience (“On Sleepless Roads”) to the deceptively genteel upper middle class suburbanite with a warped sense of fatherhood and canine love (“A Mean Utility”)—either suffer from some debilitating character flaw or suffer some life-altering calamity and populate a grim universe with little hope for improvement. Incredibly, whether out of sublime optimism or wildly inappropriate perceptions of reality, these characters manage to survive and rationalize their conditions. Davidson’s collection is impressive, in part, because of his uncanny ability to lay bare the grotesque details of these flawed lives while simultaneously weaving powerful stories of twisted redemption. Some sly references within a few of these stories intertwine the characters’ lives (Davidson’s Canada is a small-scale postmodern update of Faulkner’s  Yoknapatawpha County), and some of these stories are better than others. But that’s kind of like saying some chocolates in a box of Godiva are better than others—their quality varies by such a small degree that only devouring the entire box will leave you with a sense of its overall excellence.

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  • Posted September 9, 2009

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    Tough Guy Shots Layered in Beauty

    Craig Davidson takes off the gloves and delivers a hook to the gut in this fine collection of short stories. Each tale is a new jab setting you up for knockout blow at the end. Tough guy prose? Maybe. I'm sure Hemingway would of loved it. But amid all the violence and hard knocks lurks the graceful beauty of Davidson's pen. Compact, precise, each word chosen for maximum power. Fans of Palahniuk and Thom Jones wipe the sleep out of your crusted eyes and take a walk down the aisle to Davidson's literary ring. Don't blame me if you get your ass kicked. Squeamish ones, you have been warned.

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  • Posted February 17, 2009

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    A Knockout of short stories....

    An outstanding collection of short stories! <BR/><BR/>"Rust and Bone" is everything that it is hyped up to be, from all good reviews here at B & N, to, to the praise on the front cover from Chuck Palahniuk (author of "Fight Club"), to the praise on the back cover from Bret Easton Ellis (author of "American Psycho). <BR/><BR/>There are eight excellent stories in the book, a few related by the most minor factors. The story topics range from boxing, magic, dog fighting, a repo man, a basketball prodigy, a aquarium show whale rider, to a hardcore sex addict! <BR/><BR/>the stories: <BR/><BR/>Rust and Bone (4/5 stars) <BR/>The Rifleman (4/5 stars) <BR/>A Mean Utility (5/5 stars, gut wrenching stuff, an eye opener) <BR/><BR/>Rocket Ride (5/5 stars) <BR/>On Sleepless Roads (5/5 stars) <BR/><BR/>Friction (5/5 stars, the story about the sex addict, this story is everything Chuck Palahniuk's book "Snuff" should have been (sorry Chuck), the only "funny" story in the book) <BR/><BR/>Life in the Flesh (4/5 stars) <BR/><BR/>The Apprentice's Guide to Modern Magic (5/5 stars, longest story in the book, great writing with a strong finish) <BR/><BR/>Craid Davidson is a great writer, I recommend this book to anyone who likes short stories that keep you on the edge of your seat!

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

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    Amazing book...

    Rust and Bone is a 'knock you on your backside' type of book. The stories are powerful and emotionally intense. It is impossible to feel comfortable during and after reading these stories. The story about dogfighting was one of the most gruesome stories that I have ever read. Craig Davidson is the real deal. Take a chance on this book and enjoy the ride.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2006

    Knockout First Book-MUST READ

    When you see a book by a young new author has received acclaim from literary heavyweights like Thom Jones, Chuck Palahniuk, and Bret Easton Ellis (and Clive Barker, and Peter Straub, and¿well, you get my point), you may tend, like me, to be initially excited but then approach the work with an air of guarded skepticism. After all, we live in an era of disproportionate hype where talk show hosts sell us fraudulent memoirs and publishers often care more about marketing platforms than a book¿s content. But please, drop your guard this time. Forget the hype. Just buy this book and read the whirlwind opener (also titled ¿Rust and Bone¿) and try to tell me this Davidson guy isn¿t the real deal. And realize that the ¿hype¿ is anything but- people are excited because Craig Davidson has delivered an utter knockout of a first book. The cover might indicate that this is a collection of hard-edged pugilistic tales, but Davidson¿s range goes far beyond the confines of the ring. In fact, only three of the stories deal centrally with organized combat (boxing, dog fighting, kickboxing) and Davidson proves adept at putting you right in the middle of the sweat and fatigue, the blood and the shattered bones. His delivery of the fight material is a wonderful mesh of passion and sharp technical description that had me cringing one moment, thrilled the next. And in each of those stories there are emotional conflicts that make those battles in the ring mean so much more than the pounding of flesh on flesh. The other stories deal out different shades of conflict- a man¿s desire to live vicariously through his son while battling alcoholism, a man coping with losing a limb to a killer whale, magician¿s children dealing with an absent father, a sex addict coming to terms with his desires, and a repo man trying to reclaim the wife he¿s losing to a degenerative illness. Each deals with its characters in a way that renders them surprisingly sympathetic. Two of the stories, ¿Rust and Bone¿ and ¿On Sleepless Roads,¿ were so emotionally effective that they lingered in my mind days after reading them. Davidson¿s prose is lean and efficient with the occasional stylistic flourish (in particular when describing settings) and his story setups are intriguing. His characters-the husbands and wives and brawlers and strugglers- have heart. And the sense of hope in defiance of all struggle that Davidson leaves you with make this a Must Read.

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