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Saturday, December 10, 2011

"The Outlaw Album" by Daniel Woodrell ~ Or Why We Don't Want to Go Exploring Far Afield!

Published by:  Little, Brown and Co.
Pages:  167
Genre: Short stories, Fiction

In A Nutshell :

Twelve timeless Ozarkian tales of those on the fringes of society, by a "stunningly original" (Associated Press) American master.

Daniel Woodrell is able to lend uncanny logic to harsh, even criminal behavior in this wrenching collection of stories. Desperation-both material and psychological—motivates his characters. A husband cruelly avenges the killing of his wife's pet; an injured rapist is cared for by a young girl, until she reaches her breaking point; a disturbed veteran of Iraq is murdered for his erratic behavior; an outsider's house is set on fire by an angry neighbor.

There is also the tenderness and loyalty of the vulnerable in these stories—between spouses, parents and children, siblings, and comrades in arms-which brings the troubled, sorely tested cast of characters to vivid, relatable life. And, as ever, "the music coming from Woodrell's banjo cannot be confused with the sounds of any other writer" (Donald Harington, Atlanta Journal Constitution).

Let The Dame Speak:

Daniel Woodrell is a twisted man with the literary voice of a blunt instrument.  He's surgical in his ability to cut to the chase and give up the dialect and the staccato voice of his characters in mindless distress. He's twisted, and probably has dreams fraught with red-eyed, demented people. He's got to be to write these stories of seriously strange and neatly unnatural people caught up in a lawless, irreverent environment where time has stood still, and anger management is simply unheard of.

The backwoods of the Ozarks are lands that you don't want to even think about venturing into unless you were born there and you have serious weapons, and you are well versed in how to use them.  And, I'm talking primitive, deadly weapons. And, I'm talking about being around people who have bouts of murderous rage that makes the darkest insanity look comforting. Such are the characters Woodrell rounds out and presents to us in his mesmerizing book.

Does anyone remember the movie "Deliverance?"  There we have some small inkling of what Daniel Woodrell's stories entail.

Oh, how I couldn't stop reading these horrific tales of the backwoods and how I found my heart beating and my head shaking at the stark truths they showed me.  If ever you've wondered what the primal heart of a man or woman can be, this is where you can find evidence of it.

Woodrell is an author who stands alone in his brilliance. He has a power to his words that makes the impact of very few lines read like a novel.

"The Outlaw Album" is a collection of stories that will stand you on your ear, as my mother-in-law who knew the fringes of the Ozarks used to say.  She grew up in Arkansas near the Ozarks and knew about the interior of that deep mountain country, but she and her family were never crazy enough to tread that far inland, for fear of their lives. Like dark areas of Appalachia, backwoods and bayous of Lousiana and other such places, Daniel Woodrell tells of the peoples that inhabit a land without spiritual and moral boundaries, except those they choose to create on their own.

I was particularly shaken by his story of a young girl who is abused by an uncle, watches him rape innocent girls, and comes to a resolution at the end of the story that is shocking but gratifying.  Like his other stories, it's one I don't think I'll ever forget.

I recommend this small volume very highly to everyone, with the reservation that they understand these are stark short stories; dark and dealing in evil that lies in the hearts of a people isolated from the "real" world of civilization.  These are not your children's fantasy stories!

5 incredible stars



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