Like a room soaked in the scent of whiskey, perfume, and sweat, Alex Taylor's America is at once intoxicating, vulnerable, and full of brawn. The stories in The Name of the Nearest River reveal the hidden dangers in the coyote-infested fields, riverbeds, and abandoned logging trails of Kentucky. There we find tactile, misbegotten characters, desperate for the solace found in love, revenge, or just enough coal to keep an elderly woman's stove burning a few more nights. Echoing Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner, Taylor manages fervor as well as humor in these dusky, shotgun plots, where, in one story, a man spends seven days in a johnboat with his fiddle and a Polaroid camera, determined to enact vengeance on the water-logged body of a used car salesman; and in another, a demolition derby enthusiast nicknamed "Wife" watches his two wild, burning love interests duke it out, only to determine he would rather be left alone entirely. Together, these stories present a resonant debut collection from an unexpected new voice in southern fiction.
|Series:||Linda Bruckheimer Series in Kentucky Literature Series|
|Product dimensions:||6.42(w) x 9.04(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Alex Taylor lives in Rosine, Kentucky. He has worked as a day laborer on tobacco farms, as a car detailer at a used automotive lot, as a sorghum peddler, at various fast food chains, and at a cigarette lighter factory. He holds an MFA from The University of Mississippi and now teaches at Western Kentucky University.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Raw and Gritty. I sat here for quite a while trying to think of the right descriptors for this collection of stories and these were the two that kept coming back to me: raw and gritty. I don't mean that Taylor's writing or style is raw. these are eloquently written and vividly "real" short stories. This is certainly regional literature: set in the backwoods of Kentucky and populated by some distinctly rural characters. Alex Taylor brings "hillbilly culture" to life in the pages of The Name of the Nearest River and I can almost smell stale beer and cigarettes as I sit and contemplate what I've read here over the past few weeks. While these stories are loaded with regional color - demolition derbies, rivers full of catfish, coal trains and fields of coyotes - the stories themselves will resonate with a much wider audience. That's where the genius in this collection lies: the settings and circumstances set forth may be distinct to rural Kentucky, but the emotions, motivations, biases, fears and longings portrayed within these stories are universal. The characters aren't always likable, in fact they often are not, but they are sympathetic on some level and the reader can't help but be intrigued by this unfortunate collection of souls. The occasional character is a bit "over the top" (like the one who sits atop a bloated corpse and plays the fiddle. Wow.) Regardless, each story has its own unique set of personalities and problems. Many of these stories treat us not only to the characters' present circumstances but often to their memories. almost as if memory itself is an additional character in these tales: a character that lends perspective to the individuals whose stories we're reading. Central themes and settings are similar throughout this collection, yet each story is absolutely unique. The Name of the Nearest River should be read and considered in measured doses in order to fully appreciate the literary experience that reading this collection represents. The Bottom Line: A literary dichotomy: grimy, ugly, often brutal tales that are eloquently and thoughtfully told.