What We Won't Do: Stories

( 1 )

Overview

Winner of the 2000 Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction

Welcome to the strange, wonderful world of Brock Clarke. Here you will meet florists, dental hygienists, high school teachers, and peddlers of porno novelty items, all trying to be normal, good people and failing miserably. Reaffirming that "life, at its core, is embarrassing," What We Won't Do is a collection of tales about the miseries of the average, blue-collar worker who is anything but average. Here is a portrait of ...

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Overview

Winner of the 2000 Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction

Welcome to the strange, wonderful world of Brock Clarke. Here you will meet florists, dental hygienists, high school teachers, and peddlers of porno novelty items, all trying to be normal, good people and failing miserably. Reaffirming that "life, at its core, is embarrassing," What We Won't Do is a collection of tales about the miseries of the average, blue-collar worker who is anything but average. Here is a portrait of the Homer Simpsons and Archie Bunkers of the world, Knut Hamson style. These stories are more than insightful; they're downright funny.

"The honesty herein is not the sugarcoated sort, it's the sort that exacts revenge by goading others into doing what we can't or won't do ourselves. . . . You haven't read these stories before, and that's the highest compliment that I can pay them. That and the fact that they made me laugh, out loud, and frightened me a little, and still do."—from the Foreword by Mark Richard

Marketing plans for What We Won't Do:
• Author tour in South Carolina (Clemson, Greenville), and upstate New York (Syracuse, Rochester).
• Will coordinate additional tour with Harcourt upon release of his novel, The Ordinary White Boy, in September 2001.
• Newsletter, brochure, catalog, and postcard mailings.
• Advertisements in key literary and trade magazines.

Brock Clarke is from upstate New York. He received his Ph.D. in English at the University of Rochester, and is currently an assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at Clemson University. He has received awards from the Sewanee Writers' Conference, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and the New York State Writers' Institute. He lives with his wife, Lane, and their son Quinn in Clemson, South Carolina.

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Editorial Reviews

Mark Richard
You haven't read these stories before.... [T]hey made me laugh, out loud, and frightened me a little, and still do.
Publishers Weekly
Clarke probes the hearts and minds of the disaffected and the unfulfilled in this debut short story collection awarded the 2000 Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction with most of the 14 entries set in and around the Adirondacks. The author confidently calibrates the form and scope of his stories and subjects, and he rarely misses an opportunity to tackle the big questions. One of his most successful efforts is "Starving," a metaphoric exploration of the emotional difficulties that hinder fathers and sons in their ability to express themselves to one another. His skills are also apparent when he opts for a lighter touch in "Specify the Learners," a hysterical yarn about a 33-year-old man who goes back to sixth grade after attributing his difficulties in life to his previous failure at that level, only to get expelled when he acts on his attraction for his libidinous, newly cuckolded teacher. But too many of the remaining stories are marred by a consistent tendency toward the melodramatic, as Clarke tries to hit one literary home run after another. "She Lived to Cook but Not like This" is a typical example it starts off well, with a narrator who announces that he destroyed the house that Emily Dickinson lived in, only to follow up with a muddled narrative about the protagonist's dissatisfactions, losing touch with the original premise. Though Clarke's reach often exceeds his grasp, there are some well-drawn characters and intriguing conceits here, as well as flashes of talent throughout the collection. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Brock follows his debut novel (The Ordinary White Boy, p. 960) with a prizewinning first collection of 14 stories: a flat if engaging thrum along the themes of loss and despair, in working-class upstate New York, in which mostly male characters find themselves confused in midlife.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781889330679
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books
  • Publication date: 2/1/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 158
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Foreword
A Widespread Killing Frost 3
Starving 11
She Loved to Cook but Not Like This 13
The Fat 37
The World Dirty, Like a Heart 51
What We Won't Do 61
The Right Questions 73
Compensation 89
A Cabin on a Lake 97
Plowing the Secondaries 115
Accidents 115
Specify the Learners 137
The Reasons 151
Up North 159
The Author 165
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Customer Reviews

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