"There's a feeling of magic at work, as though Jones was an oracle channeling the voices of his crazed, raucously funny, deeply damaged gallery of characters . . . It's impossible not to marvel at the urgency of these stories. Reviewers like to say that good writing feels alive, but living things are subject to the laws of decay, and the miracle of literature is that the truly great stuff has no half-life. It doesn't fade or stale or ossify . . . Immortality is too much to demand of anyone's work, of course, and yet there are moments in Jones's stories where the writing seems capable of transcending the forces of destruction it so unforgettably evokes." Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
"What keeps drawing me into Jones's stories is the precision of his language . . . Jones knew that the short story has to present a bang rather than build up to it, as the novel does . . . Like Alice Munro, he was able to pour thoughts and feelings into a small mold and boil them down until they had the complexity of a novel but much more sharpness . . . His stories show you states of mind that you may never have experienced. They are intensely lively and down to earth; adventurous, often harsh, but subtly self-effacing; both a generational portrait and a self-portrait of one of the strangest writers of our times." Jane Smiley, Guardian
"Thom Jones was a master of the short story, a master of the same brand of incandescent, hallucinatory creation of voices that made his contemporary Denis Johnson famous. It is a great gift for all of us to have the best of his work, new and old, here in one place. Night Train will be an amazing discovery for anyone who cares about literature." Philipp Meyer, Pulitzer Prize finalist and New York Times bestselling author of The Son
"Thom Jones wrote like his hands were on fire. The stories collected in Night Train are radioactive with soul, bleak humor, and savage truth. This book affirms Jones's standing as one of short fiction's timeless masters." Wells Tower, author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
"Jones has a distinctive voice that comes through often in raw, direct, almost driven language, as if he felt short of time. His mostly blue-collar characters were often fiercely alive, whether he was writing about soldiers, boxers, victims, or miscreants...At his best he offers a poignant, compelling view of the human condition." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"A master of the form... Jones' style is characterized by compassion, surprising humor, and his characters and their determination to survive. This superb volume, richly introduced by Amy Bloom, will renew appreciation of Jones' literary power." Booklist (starred review)
"A virtuoso of the short story." Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire
"The stories in this collection are sometimes profane, sometimes hilarious, and always brilliant. Thom Jones was an extraordinary writer." Kevin Powers, National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author of A Shout in the Ruins and The Yellow Birds
"Thom Jones is a one of a kind real deal genius. I would scream it from a skyscraper if it would help, I'd sell his books door to door just to let people know, and if I had enough copies I'd break into every motel and hotel I came across and leave a copy. He's one of America's great short story masters.'" Willy Vlautin, author of Lean on Pete and Don't Skip Out On Me
"Like Denis Johnson or Barry Hannah, Thom Jones's fiction thrusts you into nerve-racking proximity with the wild, the broken and the sick. His stories are so funny and so sad, and too-little read these days. If you don't know his work, this is a great place to start. If you do, you'll be glad of the chance to tune in to the final transmissions from a unique writer." Chris Power, author of Mothers
This volume collects 26 shocking, grimly humorous stories (seven previously unpublished) by the author of The Pugilist at Rest and two other short story collections. Jones, who died in 2016, crammed whole disorganized lives into his stories, which are often told in the deluded voices of drug and alcohol–addled protagonists who also suffer from a wide range of medical complaints. In “The Black Lights,” a Marine who has been in more than 150 boxing matches and now has temporal lobe injuries is sent to a military neuro-psych ward and observes the doctors and patients there with mordant wit. Jones is an uneven writer at best, with moments of remarkable power alternating with sloppy passages. The volume, arranged in roughly chronological order, suggests a downhill slide in his work, which became increasingly crass and decreasingly compassionate. One example of this is “Tarantula,” which envisions the many horrors visited on an ambitious high school administrator by his underlings. Another later, uneven story is “Diary of My Health,” which consists of a dated series of diary entries of the physical symptoms of, and drugs consumed by, a protagonist who shares the author’s name. While perhaps more Jones than the casual reader will want to handle, this collection condenses his literary output into an accessible volume with some standout stories. (Oct.)
A generous posthumous selection from Jones' (1945-2016) three short story collections along with seven new works.
In a humorous new story mainly about infidelity ("A Merry Little Christmas"), the narrator says of his novel in progress, "I've got the voice down and the characters have taken on a life of their own." Jones (Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine, 1999, etc.) has a distinctive voice that comes through often in raw, direct, almost driven language, as if he felt short of time. His mostly blue-collar characters were often fiercely alive, whether he was writing about soldiers, boxers, victims, or miscreants. Many fans discovered that voice with "The Pugilist at Rest," the title story of his first collection (1993), as its narrator works through Marines boot camp, Vietnam deployment, the Greek gladiator Theogenes, a boxing injury, and the shifting truths behind heroism. Jones often depicted—and showed extraordinary empathy for—characters alone in extreme situations, those who "knew what it was like to fall back into the inner darkness of the self," like the woman with muscular dystrophy contemplating for one awful paragraph how slowly time moves for her. The shattering "I Want to Live!" describes a woman's endurance of cancer treatments. It's not all misery. There's an edgy humor in "Tarantula," in which a cocky high school administrator tries to handle defiant custodians, partly with a scary spider. In "Mouses," a man with a spinal deformity ("a hump") evolves from having a minor rodent problem to performing dubious experiments on caged mice. In the end, though, on the last page of the last story, there's the dialysis patient asking "Can someone tell me why life is so hard," followed by a paragraph of pain and the possible comfort of a Chopin waltz.
Jones is uneven, but at his best he offers a poignant, compelling view of the human condition.