Ginny would speak to people in bedrooms, to clerks drenched in the fluorescent light of convenience stores, to mill workers driving back roads home after graveyard shifts. She would speak to the drunk and sober, the godly and godless. All the while high above where she sat, the station’s red beacon would pulse like a heart, as if giving bearings to all those in the dark adrift and alone.
-from “Night Hawks”
I’m reading through Ron Rash’s collection Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories. The collection includes 34 of his stories, two of which I’ve already read and posted about. I’m doing mini-reviews of each story so as not to leave any of them out. I’ll try to cover them all in three posts. So here goes:
Hard Times – A story set in depression-era North Carolina with a chilling incident occuring in the middle of the story. The title definitely refers to the difficulties facing the families involved in the story but the “hardness” I think also refers to the manner in which some choose to deal with others including their own families.
Three A. M. and The Stars Were Out – I have more of an affinity, now, for two men in their 80’s delivering a calf than I would have thirty years ago. There’s both a sadness and a resilience to these men. Due to the mentioning of a cell phone at the very beginning, the reader understands the story is set in the present day.
The Ascent – The direction in the title I believe is imaginary. Reality seems to be headed the opposite way. This one was gut-wrenching.
Night Hawks – Any guess as to what painting Ginny and Andrew are talking about in the diner? I went back through the story several times just to see if it was mentioned and I had missed it. But I couldn’t find it. It’s a painting where a man and a woman aren’t looking at each other? Grant Wood’s American Gothic came to mind.
The Trusty – I think a good prison break story means you can’t trust anyone. This story is very good.
Back of Beyond – In spite of the close proximity within which families live in these stories and the decades they live with each other, there is a hardness that exists between them. And I figured out where Brushy Mountain is. I think there’s a prison there. At least there is in a song by Old Crow Medicine Show.
Lincolnites – Living in Civil War-era North Carolina, Lily is one brave girl. To say that she won’t be able to knit tonight is a huge understatement.
Into The Gorge – I posted about this story here.
Return – As a World War II soldier returns home to North Carolina, he steps off the bus and makes his way on foot to his parents’ home. Along the way, he reflects on events while he was in the Pacific. I like the way the story ends before he interacts with any of his family and friends. The story is all him.
Waiting for the End of the World – Devon is an ex-high school teacher who eeks out a meager living playing music at The Last Chance bar. The title references an Elvis Costello song of which Devon thinks highly, but I got a kick out of his analysis of the proverbial request for “Free Bird”:
Heads rise from tables and stare my way. Conversations stop. Couples arguing or groping each other pause as well. And this is the way it always is, as though Van Zant somehow found a conduit into the collective unconscious of his race. Whatever it is, they become serious and reflective.
Burning Bright – Loneliness is a frequent theme in these stories; however, Rash manages to make each one different with its own spin – including this one.
The Woman Who Believed in Jaguars – Self-imposed loneliness is in this one. It reminds me of an Alice Munro story. Ruth doesn’t mind the isolation. It gives her time to think about Jaquars and where they might have lived – among a lot of other things.
Of the stories in this post, my own personal favorite would be Three A. M. and the Stars Were Out with Waiting for the End of the World a very close runner-up.