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Mark Richard has a gift for the rambling, underclass voice from the coastal South--he understands its poetry and its frustrations. Yet, despite Richard's ability to turn this into poetry, these stories are not easy reads: the narration is jangling, run-on, and monologic. Often the narrators are not so much operating in a stream of consciousness mode, but a rant. This leads to a somewhat frustrating reading experience in his adult narrators--one of the reasons why the child narrated stories work Mark Richard has a gift for the rambling, underclass voice from the coastal South--he understands its poetry and its frustrations.
This leads to a somewhat frustrating reading experience in his adult narrators--one of the reasons why the child narrated stories work better--is what is normalized for them is not normalized for the audience. Often, you are reading a long and beautiful sentence and hit a detail and go, "Wait, what? Richard gets atmosphere and voice though in ways that many writers don't, and he seems to believe in the plot too but never giving it directly.
The Ice at the Bottom of the World
It feels like high modernism, but for the blue-collar drunk. Richard's voices and elliptical work particularly well with child narrators where the gaps and hints seem to make sense more clearly--both "Strays" and "This is Us, Excellent" benefit from this and thus also have both humor and profound pathos in Richard's work. Whereas other stories such as "Genius" and "Fishboy" are mostly about character and atmosphere and effectively have no plot, and thus how much you relate to voice will determine your response.
The last two stories are very strange, "The Theory of Man" which seems to about the dangers of drug running and the final "Feast of the Earth, Ransom of the Clay" is about a cat-skin wearing lunatic. Richard's fascination with the down-out and is love of the odd-ball voice makes this compelling, but not entirely easy, reading.
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Feb 13, B. Rule rated it liked it. Richard is an assured writer, I'll give him that. This short collection of stories is deeply grooved with the cadences of his distinctive voice, which bubbles up from the bayou and the shorelines of the South full of poverty, hillbilly canny, and black humor. He's clearly referencing Faulkner in many ways, and several of the stories have a rambling, backwoods storyteller tone that is masking very controlled and technical use of language.
However, that often capped my enjoyment in reading, as Ric Richard is an assured writer, I'll give him that. However, that often capped my enjoyment in reading, as Richard's sentences often feel belabored or overworked in my opinion. It's hard to lose yourself in the worlds they create when the hand of the creator rests so heavy.
Despite that, there's plenty to enjoy here, including strikingly macabre images, emotional melodrama wearing a mask of nonchalance, and humor aplenty. Definitely worth a read but not among my favorite collections. I'd peg this one at 3. Nov 02, Flami rated it it was amazing. Jun 27, Jessica Lamb-Shapiro rated it it was amazing. The Birds for Christmas is one of my favorite stories, ever. Jun 23, Kat rated it it was ok. Bloody hell, 'short' stories that are not short to read. Here is the opening sentence of the short story 'Fishboy', get ready: "I began as a boy, as a human-being boy, a boy with a secret at sea and sentenced to cook in Big Miss Magine's stone-scoured pot, my long fish body laid, tail flipping, into that solid stone pot, scales ripped and skin slipping from my meat tissue-threaded in the simmer, my body floating from my Bloody hell, 'short' stories that are not short to read.
Here is the opening sentence of the short story 'Fishboy', get ready: "I began as a boy, as a human-being boy, a boy with a secret at sea and sentenced to cook in Big Miss Magine's stone-scoured pot, my long fish body laid, tail flipping, into that solid stone pot, scales ripped and skin slipping from my meat tissue-threaded in the simmer, my body floating from my long, fish-boded bones, my bones broiled through and through down to a hot bubbly sweet steaming broth, lisping whispers of steam twisting to the ceiling, curling in your curtains, speaking to you in your sleep".
By this story, having already read several before it in the book, you would think I would be accustomed to Richard's style of prose, the colloquialism, jargon. No, I was not. Multiple re-reads of a single sentence became expected. I am curious to see how Richard's other work compares, but I only have one life and it is too fleeting and arbitrary and venture into this literary blackhole. I found this title recommended by a photographer on a random podcast I happened to be listening to at work, the title, story structure love a short story , and cover imagery made it a Must Purchase.
Two stories in this collection are excellent. Another story, 'This is Us, Excellent' similarly told from a child's viewpoint and therefore the language works: kinetic, active and on the move, is devastating. It depicts some broken cycle of abuse-victim-taking it out on something else and repeat. I would say my general thoughts about the book are: rivers, snakes and colloquialisms. The other stories are okay, kind of weak and not like the two aforementioned.
Jesus, it took such a long time to finish this book.
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Jun 22, Sarah rated it it was amazing Shelves: It's tough to go into a book where the author is heralded as "heir apparent to Mark Twain, Flannery O'Connor, and William Faulkner," but after reading these stories I'd say that's pretty accurate. There was really only one story that fell flat to me. The first 3 are absolute knock-outs. Richard has a really strong ear for the rhythms of language It's tough to go into a book where the author is heralded as "heir apparent to Mark Twain, Flannery O'Connor, and William Faulkner," but after reading these stories I'd say that's pretty accurate.
Richard has a really strong ear for the rhythms of language and trusts that his reader is intelligent to follow where he leads. This was the perfect interlude after East of Eden. Apr 21, Adam Sol rated it it was amazing. This is southern surreal gothic that will break your heart and give you a new language. I dare you not to fall in love. I double dog down dirty dare you. Jan 19, Robb Todd added it Shelves: , short-stories. Mark Richard does things with sentences that not many people can do, and not in the way that is elusive and difficult to hold on to. Richard, who studied with Gordon Lish, doesn't make you work, he's slicker than that.
His sentences are as smooth as they are surprising.
The Ice at the Bottom of the World by Mark Richard - eqahamij.ml
Mar 27, Sean rated it really liked it. Richard totally depicts the skeevy and relentless chiselers of Virginia Beach and the northern Outer Banks. Jun 26, Patty rated it liked it Shelves: short-stories , humor , , southern-fiction , family , fiction. I have always been partial to short stories. I am in awe of writers who can tell me about a whole world with just a few pages. Richard is one of those authors. I first encountered him through his autobiography, House of Prayer No. In this book, Richard is telling fiction. Although I am not sure these stories are fiction.
Richard has lived a weird life — maybe some of these things happened to him or to people he knows. I have lived in Virginia for almost 35 years — weir I have always been partial to short stories. I have lived in Virginia for almost 35 years — weird things are normal around here. However, if Richard took this stories to a NYC editor and said they had occurred, I suspect that he would have been locked up in the nearest mental facility.
That does not mean that truth is absent from these tales. There were times while I was reading that I stopped and thought about what was being said. The characters in these stories have experienced life, sometimes in ways that are hard. Sometimes in ways that are funny. I was always glad I had met these people.
The characters in this collection of short stories all come from coastal Virginia and the outer banks of NC. They are poor and will leave you with haunted memories of neglected children, battered wives, a dirt-eating hermit wearing a homemade coat of domestic cat, and a storm-split tree shattering the roof at night. But they will also make you laugh and some of them will stay with you well after reading.
The writing is fluid and often poetic, full of imagery. Here is the opening line from the fi The characters in this collection of short stories all come from coastal Virginia and the outer banks of NC. Here is the opening line from the first story. Take note of the alliteration the author uses at the end of the sentences.
If you like short stories and want to read a master story teller, I highly recommend this collection. Feb 08, Peter Bridgford rated it really liked it. A friend suggested this book to me, and I am glad that they did. I found that the stories were the type that didn't always make the reader warm and fuzzy, but they leave you thinking about them long after finishing the book. Great writing and use of dialects to get the point across.
The first story sets the tone, and the book never lets go of the reader after that. I am so glad that I read this book! Aug 16, AutomaticSlim rated it really liked it Shelves: Yes, it happens. It wouldn't be such a classic excuse if it didn't. The first story, about the kids and their Uncle, might be one of the best short stories I've ever read. His style is unique, written as if he's telling you a story and not writing literature. Some hits and some misses, but unique.
Sep 07, Ben rated it really liked it. Stories get stronger as the book goes on. Jul 25, Jujuman13 rated it it was amazing. Top-rate collection. Sep 26, Sidik Fofana rated it really liked it. Dec 04, Steven rated it it was amazing Shelves: short-stories. Reading that sentence now I still feel the same thrill I felt when I first read those words many years ago when the story appeared in Esquire. As an opening hook, it is an image ripe with possibilities, and I love the Beowulf-esque alliteration that ends the sentence.
Here's the second sentence "At night, stray dogs come up underneath our house to lick our leaking pipes. Here's the second sentence, with more of the same: "Beneath my brother and my's room we hear them coughing and growling, scratching their ratted backs against the boards beneath our beds. I don't want to give too much away for those who haven't read it yet, so I'll just say that the dogs are not the only strays in the story. It's comic, heartbreaking in a sly way that catches by surprise, and the language is startlingly original. I read this story all the time, have for years, and am still blown away with the words.
Here's another taste; notice the syntax and diction in this long sentence: I tell my brother that making so much noise will keep the stray dogs away, and he believes it, and then I start to believe it when it gets later than usual, past the crickets and into a long moon over the trees, but they finally do come after my brother finally does fall asleep, so I just wait until I know there are several strays beneath the bed boards, scratching their rat-matted backs and growling, and I stomp on the floor, what is my favorite part about the dogs, stomping and then watching them scatter in a hundred directions and then seeing them one by one collect in a pack at the edge of the field near the trees.
Every story in the collection shows this command of language. If you're a writer of stories and don't have the book, you have a gaping hole in your collection. Jan 17, spooky rated it really liked it. While looking for my next book to read, the phrase "hyper surreal" came up in a description of this book.
ISBN 13: 9780099763208
The phrase sold me on the collection of short stories and I cannot improve upon it, in terms of explaining the piece to you. The Ice at the Bottom of the World falls into the non-magical subcategory of the Southern Gothic genre, but that does not make it less fantastical. An excerpt from "Fishboy" will hopefully summarize the tone. The language Richard uses is consistently concrete, yet uns While looking for my next book to read, the phrase "hyper surreal" came up in a description of this book. The language Richard uses is consistently concrete, yet unsettling.
The opening sentence reads, "At night, stray dogs come up underneath our house to lick our leaking pipes," and the story spirals into even more concerning realms of absurdity, all told from the cool and unsentimental perspective of a child. This is Faulkner, if Faulkner had enjoyed hallucinogenic.
Some stories fall short, but maybe I will find meaning in them later. My favorites, if you are interested in picking a select few out of the collection for a quick read, were "Strays," "Her Favorite Story," "This is us, Excellent," and the one with the killer dark humor, "The Ice at the Bottom of the World," for which Richards has written a screenplay adaptation.
The movie has an anticipated release date in Jan 29, Jeffrey Dill rated it liked it. Very interesting. Not great, not bad - interesting.