Unified Field Theory

Overview

The short stories in Unified Field Theory capture characters in the middle of their lives as things fall apart. Jobs, marriages, and hopes disintegrate under people while they seek strategies and explanations. In "When the Hoot Owl Moves Its Nest," a surveyor blames the wreck of his marriage on his inability to interpret old-fashioned signs. In "If You Meet the Buddha by the Road," a bicyclist seeks peace, and perhaps finds it, in Buddhism, while his ex-wife grieves for her lost youth. In the title story, a ...
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Overview

The short stories in Unified Field Theory capture characters in the middle of their lives as things fall apart. Jobs, marriages, and hopes disintegrate under people while they seek strategies and explanations. In "When the Hoot Owl Moves Its Nest," a surveyor blames the wreck of his marriage on his inability to interpret old-fashioned signs. In "If You Meet the Buddha by the Road," a bicyclist seeks peace, and perhaps finds it, in Buddhism, while his ex-wife grieves for her lost youth. In the title story, a warehouseman seeks to overcome resignation through his misconception of particle physics. Frank Soos's stories do not move toward epiphany. The men and women in Unified Field Theory have moments of emotional or intellectual recognition, but their lives are too complex for these moments to suggest long-term alterations. The stories suggest a way of thoughtfully and emotionally participating in other people's worlds.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Each of the stories in this collection, winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, follows a similar pattern. With one exception, all are written in the third person, with narration that is omniscient in regard to both time and character. We follow the thoughts of three or four characters whose relationships with children, present and former spouses, and new, old, or potential lovers are troubled and complicated. The men are usually quirky and obsessive but more interesting and fully drawn than the female characters. "Ray's Boat" demonstrates the author's misconceptions about library work and education, but this will probably annoy only librarians, and at least the librarian herself is not a stereotype. For larger collections.--Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Idaho Lib., Moscow
Kirkus Reviews
Winner of the Flannery OþConnor Award, Soosþs first fiction shows talent galore one moment and tries your patience with the familiar and homespun the next. Soosþs eye for detail and his judgment for selecting it can be as good as youþll find, but his glimpses into peopleþs daily life arenþt always tonic enough to offset the malaise of the sentimentalþas in þWhen the Hoot Owl Moves Its Nest,þ a manþs remembering back to an adultery of his wifeþs (þMostly what people call love is just another word for painþ). More keen-edged but not necessarily less strained is þNickersonþs Luck,þ about a divorced accountant starting an affair with a waitress who may be below him in privilege and class (þMister, you donþt know what bad luck isþ) but proves his superior in wile. In search of symbols to echo and carry his meaning, Soos can be guilty of leaving psychological believability behind, as in the story of the kindly but hyperbolically weak-willed father in þRayþs Boat.þ þTrip to Sometimes Islandþ does a good job of encapsulating the life of a car mechanic whoþll never be anything more than he is but knows heþs not enough; and þIf You Meet the Buddha by the Roadþ does the same for a high-school genius ("Two things have made Western Civilization worthwhile: the bicycle and the pocket knife. Otherwise, itþs all been a waste of effortþ) who never found his way in life afterward. þKey to the Kingdomþ is a fine but familiar dissection of small-town lifeþwith religion, adultery, and suicideþandþUnified Field Theory,þ bristling with ambition in the tale of another almost-neþer-do-well, even so can blend a glibness in among the gems (þActed on by gravity, electromagnetic fields, solar wind, ether wind, lunar attractions, who among us can claim to be truly responsible for anything that happens?þ). Talent at workþbut also waiting for new territory.
From the Publisher

"Quietly spectacular. . . . He's no minimalist—these stories are long and must be read slowly—but Soos's protagonists recall Raymond Carver's language-impeded cast."—Boston Review

"Reading each of these gems is like focusing a micrscope on a particular attitude or manner of the human condition."—Booklist (starred review)

"Well-written and emotionally complex, these comically dark stories offer the reader a glimpse at an emerging talent."—Charlotte Observer

"His is a dark, disturbing (but I mean that in a good way) study of two simple questions: Why and why me?"—Spokane Spokesman-Review

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Product Details

Meet the Author


Frank Soos is a professor of English at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. He is the author of the essay collection Bamboo Fly Rod Suite, and the short-story collection Unified Field Theory (both Georgia).
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Table of Contents

Nickerson's Luck 1
When the Hoot Owl Moves Its Nest 24
If You Meet the Buddha by the Road 38
Trip to Sometimes Island 72
Ray's Boat 99
Key to the Kingdom 132
Unified Field Theory 148
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