Excerpt


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Richard Cumyn's statement for the David Adams Richards Award

I was continually startled and delighted by these strange stories. The writer dazzles in a number of ways. The prose style — simple, clear, minimally dressed — belies a complex imagination and a fierce feel for the dramatic moment. Sometimes partial details come without explanation or linkage, creating a feeling of uneasiness rather than a complete understanding of all that has happened, as in “This House.” A story may be delivered in a brief burst, as in “The Reporter and the Reporter,” a story reminiscent of Hemingway. Or, as in the marvelous, “Nothing Like This,” we feel the longing of a couple who want a child so badly that they dream him up, giving the boy a kind of shadowy existence. The title story has the hard edge of truth while feeling surreal, a sense achieved in the way the writer engineers the random intersection of lives. The characters in these stories are often bewildered by circumstance and try to grasp onto such concepts as duty and routine as one would a life preserver. I found many of the details in these stories to be heart-breaking: because he promised to do so, a man prepares to paint a room, while the woman he is leaving divides their books; a boy holds the stump of his grandfather’s arm for comfort; a character says, “We are all exceptions.” As in the magic realism of “We Can’t Go On Like This,” in which a baby is born out of an automatic bank teller, nothing in any of these stories is ever quite familiar, but the experience of reading them alters our perception and challenges our preconceptions. This is a talented writer.

—Richard Cumyn, novelist and judge for the David Adams Richards Award