Winner of the 2010 Bakeless Prize for Fiction, a muscular debut that reconfigures the American West
The American West has long been a place where myth and legend have flourished. Where men stood tall and lived rough. But that West is no more. In its place Shann Ray finds washedup basketball players, businessmen hiding addictions, and women fighting the inexplicable violence that wells up in these men. A son struggles to accept his father's apologies after surviving a childhood of beatings. Two men seek empty basketball hoops on a snowy night, hoping to relive past glory. A bull rider skips town and rides herd on an unruly mob of passengers as he searches for a thief on a train threading through Montana's Rocky Mountains.
In these stories, Ray grapples with the terrible hurt we inflict on those we love, and finds that reconciliation, if far off, is at least possible. The debut of a writer who is out to redefine the contours of the American West, American Masculine is a deeply felt and fiercely written ode to the country we left behind.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Shann Ray holds a PhD in psychology from the University of Alberta. His work has appeared in McSweeney's, Narrative Magazine, and Story Quarterly. He teaches at Gonzaga University, and lives in Washington State.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've heard that it's often difficult to get a publisher interested in short story collections these days. And I will admit that given a choice I will usually pick a novel over stories. But in the past several weeks I have learned that the art of the short story is alive and well in America, as evidenced in a few collections I've read and reviewed, by young writers like Valerie Laken, Sana Krasikov, and Bonnie Jo Campbell. Now add Shann Ray to that list. AMERICAN MASCULINE is Ray's first book of fiction and it's already won a prize or two, and I can see why.Ray's stories are set in the modern American West, mostly in Montana or Washington state and he manages to be equally adept at conveying both the depth and width of Montana's colorful big sky country and the claustrophobic narrowness of the crowded streets and urban canyons of Spokane or Seattle. Here's a sample of the former from the story "In the Half-Light -"They topped a broad rise. The truck moved from shadow to sun. The land opened wide. To the south, mountains and fields were free of clouds, open now under a sweep of sky. The road banked down and left, and the mountains parted. The river appeared again, emerald, flared by sunshine as it blazed around an arm of land."And from "The Dark Between Them" this description of life in inner city Seattle as experienced by a mixed race couple (white and Native American), drug addict refugees from a Montana reservation -"They threaded things with television, alcohol, and the drugs they could find, mostly mescaline, speed, and methadone. Easy to be invisible, he thought, so many people in the streets, a thousand vagabonds for every ten miles of city, most of them Anglo and hollow-eyed."But the inner landscapes are what are most important in Ray's stories, because in every piece he lays bare the souls of his very multi-dimendsional characters, mostly male, some white, some Native American, but all confused over what it means to be a man in today's society. Struggles with alcohol, drugs, porn, casual paid-for sex, and marriage and fidelity are all examined and dissected in these stories. Yet somehow Ray manages to make his readers feel an empathy for these men. It sounds like quite a hat trick, I know, but he pulls it off. There's the Campus Crusade youth minister who is addicted to porn and prostitutes, the shy and lonely rodeo rider turned loan officer who only wants someone to love. There's the young distance runner who watches relatives and friends on the rez die young and escapes through education, but somehow loses himself - along with his wife and his job - in the unfamiliar landscape of urban Seattle and turns to drink. And these are all in the same story, "The Miracles of Vincent Van Gogh." What they are all seeking is love - and forgiveness - the prevalent theme in all of Shann Ray's stories. Fathers and sons, husbands and wives, brothers - all of these relationships are examined here in a crystalline, precise and poetic prose that often makes you want to weep. These stories are simply that good. It's not an easy thing to create characters out of whole cloth and bring them to life in only twenty pages or less. But Shann Ray has mastered it. There is not a dud or clinker in the bunch here. But if I had to pick a couple favorites they would be "Three from Montana" and "When We Rise" - which have some of the same characters in both - two brothers who are basketball prodigies. I kept thinking as I read these two particular stories - Ooh, there's a novel in there. The truth is there doesn't need to be. These stories are perfect gems just the way they are. But wait, I'm also very partial to "In the Half-Light," about a long-estranged father and son trying to find their way back to each other again. And then there's that terrific Van Gogh story. Aah, what the hell. Every damn one of these ten stories is superb. If you like good fiction, don't miss AMERICAN MASCULINE. And remember the name Shann Ray. You'll be hearing a lot about
A gorgeous and thought provoking collection about gender roles in modern society, encompassing marriage, love, adultery, responsibility and heartbreak. And somehow, beautifully, in this somewhat harsh world, there is an echo of forgiveness. Don't miss Shann Ray's story, "Mrs. Secrest," one of the most perfect short stories I have ever read. A very talented, big-thinking, generous writer-- definitely someone to watch.