Sightings

Overview

B. J. Hollars’s debut short story collection offers ten thematically linked tales, all of which are out to subvert conventional notions of the midwestern coming-of-age story. The stories feature an assemblage of Bigfoot believers, Civil War reenactors, misidentified Eskimos, and grief-stricken clowns, among other outcasts incapable of finding a place in their worlds. In these marvelous stories, we can join a family on a very 21st-century trip along the Oregon Trail, watch as a boy builds a brother from a vacuum ...

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Sightings: Stories

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Overview

B. J. Hollars’s debut short story collection offers ten thematically linked tales, all of which are out to subvert conventional notions of the midwestern coming-of-age story. The stories feature an assemblage of Bigfoot believers, Civil War reenactors, misidentified Eskimos, and grief-stricken clowns, among other outcasts incapable of finding a place in their worlds. In these marvelous stories, we can join a family on a very 21st-century trip along the Oregon Trail, watch as a boy builds a brother from a vacuum cleaner, follow a sandlot baseball team as it struggles to overcome an invasion by its Native American neighbors, and experience how a high school basketball squad takes to Sasquatch roaming its court. This genre-bending collection charts a bizarre pathway through the thickets of life on the road to adulthood. Pushing the limits of realism, these stories capture the peculiar rites of passage of growing up midwestern.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hollars' debut short fiction collection begins in the summer of 1975 and, across 10 stories, steadfastly remains right there. He presents variations on the theme of a boy growing up in the Midwest and maintains a basic that's-the-summer-I-became-a-man tone, featuring encounters with racism, sex, and a talented Sasquatch. The fathers obsess over civil war reenactments and wagon trains; mothers worry and scold and build time machines. There are dead siblings and young girls that go missing. The stories warp the cliched coming of age tale by tacking on unsuspected plot elements, but still cling to the spirit of the cliche. A Sasquatch plays basketball in the title story; in "The Clowns" a family of clowns moves in; but these tales could happen with some other random thing substituted. Individually, the stories are good. Together they feel repetitive. The sadness underlying these stories points to something deeper behind the gigantic ideas, but it feels purposefully untouched. He saves the best story for last: "Missing Mary" is about the disappearance of a high school girl and it manages to tell the well-worn story freshly by adopting a journalistic, third person perspective stripped of emotion. It is shocking and evocative. More of that impulse would have served Hollars well. (Mar.)
The Show Me Librarian

"Hollars provides plenty of material in these pages for both enjoyment and close reading." —The Show Me Librarian

FortWayne Reader

"The 10 stories in Sightings are all spins on classic 'coming-of-age' tales, and Hollars admits to a fascination with the genre.... Indeed, in every story Hollars finds a way to undercut the sentimentality that seems to be a staple of many coming of age stories, whether it’s by incorporating surreal elements in 'Sightings' and 'The Clowns,' or using an unreliable narrator to tell the story." —FortWayne Reader

George Singleton

"After reading a short story, my highest compliment is 'Damn I wish I’d have written that.' It must have sounded like a curse-fest took place in my house as I read B. J. Hollars’s hilarious Sightings, a collection of pitch-perfect stories. Fans of Kevin Wilson, Lewis Nordan, George Saunders, and Karen Russell need to add B. J. Hollars to their must-read list." —George Singleton, author of Stray Decorum

Dan Wickett

"In Sightings, B. J. Hollars brings us stories of those on the fringe but does so with an open-eyed awe that is missing from much of today's fiction. These aren't weathered, been-there, done-that, tales but fresh, exciting tales of those coming of age." —Dan Wickett, co-founder of Dzanc Books

Chad Simpson

"Each of the ten stories in B. J. Hollars's Sightings offers a rare combination of humor, insight, and coming-of-age heartbreak. Taken as a whole, the book left me awestruck, dazed, as if I'd just had my own face-to-face with Sasquatch." —Chad Simpson, author of Tell Everyone I Said Hi

Alissa Nutting

"In these amazing stories, which are rife with savagely entertaining characters, the most exhilarating sighting of all is Hollars’s adept humor and impeccable prose, page after page. Readers indeed come away with the feeling of having had a true encounter with the fantastic—this unique collection, a bildungsroman at the intersection of private journal and urban legend, is not to be missed." —Alissa Nutting, author of Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls

Laura van den Berg

"How I loved getting lost in the wilds of B. J. Hollars’s stories. Steeped in the landscape of the Midwest, the characters in Sightings push against their own strangeness and solitude in ways that thrill and astonish. This is a wonderful, richly-imagined debut.

" —Laura van den Berg, author of What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us

The Lit Pub

"Like Bradbury, Hollars manages to invoke the sights, sounds, and smells of small town America through the eyes of his teenage heroes -- and with as much ease." —The Lit Pub

From the Publisher
"After reading a short story, my highest compliment is 'Damn I wish I’d have written that.' It must have sounded like a curse-fest took place in my house as I read B. J. Hollars’s hilarious Sightings, a collection of pitch-perfect stories. Fans of Kevin Wilson, Lewis Nordan, George Saunders, and Karen Russell need to add B. J. Hollars to their must-read list." —George Singleton, author of Stray Decorum

"How I loved getting lost in the wilds of B. J. Hollars’s stories. Steeped in the landscape of the Midwest, the characters in Sightings push against their own strangeness and solitude in ways that thrill and astonish. This is a wonderful, richly-imagined debut.

" —Laura van den Berg, author of What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us

Los Angeles Review of Books

"This collection masterfully shares stories about coming of age in the Midwest and demonstrates the author's skill with well-crafted prose, true-to-life characters, and reflects on the time in one's life that is worth nostalgia, even with all its anguish and social dysfunction." —Los Angeles Review of Books

Kirkus Reviews
Mischievous Native Americans, melancholy clowns and zealous history re-enactors are just a few of the strange and curious denizens of this debut short story collection. There's even a sasquatch to be found in the title story by award-winning essayist Hollars (Creative Writing/University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire; Thirteen Loops, 2011). Along the way, the author uses a clever array of monstrosities and startling imagery to cast an eerie light on the tropes of coming-of-age. The first story is the most subtle, as "Indian Village" finds a band of suburban teens at war with an invading tribe. "Schooners" is a finely-spun confessional whose main point seems to be its punch line. Other stories are laden with broad comedy laced with just a little sadness. "Westward Expansion" tells the story of a boy whose father is obsessed with a distant relative who traversed the Oregon Trail and delivers much suffering onto his family in the name of Manifest Destiny. "Sightings" and "The Clowns" also make much hay out of traditional nightmares. In the former, a true-to-life sasquatch is recruited to the local basketball team and even gets to take a girl to the prom. In the latter, a family of nose-honking, big-shoed jesters is forced to move in with relatives after the death of their son. Other missing children figure prominently in the last two stories. "Robotics" finds a boy building a mechanical replica of his dead brother out of a vacuum. "Missing Mary" is the story of a disappearance--the awful, senseless absence of a girl--with a leaden final passage: "Years later, as Mary's sister sits silently in chemistry class, science will give her an answer: My sister has simply turned soluable," Hollars writes. "A moment there and then gone." All of these stories represent a talented tightrope walk between genres and a gentle lesson in craftsmanship for aspiring storytellers. An imaginatively sculpted collection of absurdist concepts applied liberally to the equally preposterous notion of growing up.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253008381
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 4/11/2013
  • Series: Break Away Books Series
  • Pages: 180
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

B. J. Hollars is author of Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence and the Last Lynching in America and Opening the Doors: The Desegregation of the University of Alabama and the Fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa. He is editor of You Must Be This Tall to Ride: Contemporary Writers Take You Inside the Story, Monsters: A Collection of Literary Sightings, and Blurring the Boundaries: Explorations to the Fringes of Nonfiction. He is an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Indian Village
Schooners
Sightings
Westward Expansion
The Clowns
Line of Scrimmage
Dixie Land
Loose Lips Sink Ships
Robotics
Missing Mary

Indiana University Press

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