Read by Maxwell Hamilton
Read by Amy Bloom
Read by Christine Lakin
By Thom Jones
Read by Will Collyer
Read by Jodi Carlisle
Read by Cameron Bowen
Read by Kiff VandenHeuvel
Read by Jim Meskimen
Read by Adenrele Ojo
Introduction by Amy Bloom
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This scorching collection from award-winning author Thom Jones features his best new short fiction alongside a selection of outstanding stories from three previous books. Jones’s stories are full of high-octane, prose-drunk entertainment. His characters are grifters and drifters, rogues and ne’er-do-wells, would-be do-gooders whose human frailties usually get the better of them.
Some are lovable, others are not, but each has an indelible and irresistible voice. They include Vietnam soldiers, amateur boxers, devoted doctors, strung-out advertising writers, pill poppers and veterans of the psych ward, and an unforgettable adolescent DJ radio host, among others.
The stories here are excursions into a unique world that veers between abject desperation and fleeting transcendence. Perhaps no other writer in recent memory could encapsulate in such short spaces the profound and the devastating, the poignant and the hallucinatory, with such an exquisite balance of darkness and light. Jones’s fiction reveals again and again the resilience and grace of characters who refuse to succumb. In stories that can at once delight us with their wicked humor and sting us with their affecting pathos, Night Train perfectly captures the essence of this iconic American master, showcasing in a single collection the breadth of power of his inimitable fiction.
The Truth of Thom Jones
- The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom.
- Just remember, once you're over the hill you begin to pick up speed.
—from Thom's favorite guy: Schopenhauer
THOM JONES'S LIES—his sentences and stories—were more persuasive, more important, and more deeply felt than most men's truths. "I would work hard to free the truth that's within me and make it art," he said in one interview. No lie there.
Thom and I met the night before the 1993 National Book Awards, when all the finalists got to read for five minutes (firm time limit, firm looks) from their nominated books. Thom and I were newly published writers—as we both said, "Yeah, new, not young"—and we clung to each other that night like sibling wallflowers: smart-ass, awkward, and wise enough to be surprised. When people were kind to us (tap or sparkling?), we looked at them like dogs brought home from the pound might, and when Annie Proulx swept by us the next night to claim the National Book Award ("Thank you, I deserved it," she said), we just pulled our coats and our clunky shoes in a bit more, so as not to get in her way.
But the night before, Thom slayed. He read the first five minutes of "I Want to Live!" from The Pugilist at Rest, a story that would later be selected by John Updike for his Best American Short Stories of the Century anthology. It's a monologue by an older woman, dying of cancer. She loves her painkillers and cartoons, and there is true love between her and her concerned, hapless son-in-law, checking in on her. I actually saw people in the audience laugh and then cry and then shake their heads at their roller-coaster feelings and at the drama of human beings and our ridiculous, indomitable will to live. Whenever I reread that story, to remind myself how to build character, how to wield voice, I see Thom reading and I see the damp faces before him.
My own other, most personal favorite is "Cold Snap," the title story of Thom's second collection. Before I was a writer, I'd had some other jobs, not as a janitor or a copywriter, like Thom had, but mostly as a bartender and social worker. My sympathy for the burned-out helper cannot be exaggerated. Richard, our hero in "Cold Snap," is a hot mess, as is often the case for the Jones protagonist. Thom avoided the "worried well" and the complacent as suitable subjects almost as assiduously as he avoided the lucky and the measured optimist. Richard has a quintessentially Jonesian terrible outlook. "I can fuck up a wet dream with my attitude," the man says and no reader would argue. He has gotten himself sent home from Africa, with malaria and minus his medical license, because he's one inch shy of being a junkie and people have noticed. (In Jones's fiction, not only are characters free to make bad choices, but they also suffer the consequences. There's no room for bravado and not much for freewheeling self-deception.) Richard, being a mess, has cut his thumb and it's giving him no end of trouble, and he has to—he has to—get some pain pills, as so many of Jones's characters do. His sister, Susan, is a schizophrenic, which is not as central to this story as the self-inflicted lobotomy she endured when she tried to kill herself.
Richard shows off for us by playing Russian roulette. He claims that not dying has made him euphoric, like Van Gogh, minus the slicing of the ear. He doesn't die. But he doesn't fool Thom Jones, and therefore he doesn't fool us. The man is wild with grief and the only help on the horizon, the unlikely and lovely and damaged cavalry to the rescue, is his sister. Susan tells Richard that she dreams of a happy life for them, driving a '67 Dodge around heaven, and after the telling of the dream, in their real life together, they have an elaborate lunch ("the best little lunch of a lifetime") in Richard's car. They listen to "This Is Dedicated to the One I Love" on the radio. "What can be better," Richard says, "than a cool, breezy, fragrant day, rain-splatter diamonds on the wraparound windshield of a Ninety-eight Olds with a view of cherry trees blooming in the light spring rain?" I love this story more than I can say. It is peace and trouble, love and grief, doom and the tiny flicker of hope, if one can bear to have it.
There are plenty of critics who have raved about Thom's Vietnam stories, exceptional feats of imagination from a man who, while a Marine himself, wasn't actually there, having been prevented from deploying after suffering temporal-lobe epilepsy when he was soundly beaten in a boxing match. (Boxing, like that war, is a preoccupation throughout his fiction.) Each time his collections came out, the reviews were pyrotechnic: for Thom's irresistible voice, his bravery, his audacity and grit, and his knack for unnerving cheer in the face of catastrophe. In short, for his "amazing blend of knowledge, skill, terror, and release," according to Robert Stone, who seems to me to have been a fair judge of these things.
Thom's sentences have crack and clarity. His paragraphs build to stories and places that you hadn't thought to go, with people you hadn't known you could recognize, and even love. "Give Baker a compass and a topographical map," says the soldier narrator of "Pot Shack," "and one could bear witness to—indeed, become a part of—the elusive, semimystical Tao of military science. Such were Baker's leadership skills that his every thought, word, and action could propel a lesser personality into selfless, right actions in the service of the Big Green Machine."
You will see all this, Thom Jones's whole wide, deep, rambunctious, grief-stricken, and melancholy range of gifts, in the twenty-six stories gathered in these pages. Thom Jones is, as a character describes his man Schopenhauer, an "august seeker of truth." He was a friend to the friendless, a strong voice for the maimed, funny as hell, and from the first to the last, a great American writer.
The Pugilist at Rest
HEY BABY GOT caught writing a letter to his girl when he was supposed to be taking notes on the specs of the M-14 rifle. We were sitting in a stifling hot Quonset hut during the first weeks of boot camp, August 1966, at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. Sergeant Wright snatched the letter out of Hey Baby's hand, and later that night in the squad bay he read the letter to the Marine recruits of Platoon 263, his voice laden with sarcasm. "Hey, Baby!" he began, and then as he went into the body of the letter he worked himself into a state of outrage and disgust. It was a letter to Rosie Rottencrotch, he said at the end, and what really mattered, what was really at issue and what was of utter importance was not Rosie Rottencrotch and her steaming-hot panties but rather the muzzle velocity of the M-14 rifle.
Hey Baby paid for the letter by doing a hundred squat thrusts on the concrete floor of the squad bay, but the main prize he won that night was that he became forever known as Hey Baby to the recruits of Platoon 263—in addition to being a shitbird, a faggot, a turd, a maggot, and other such standard appellations. To top it all off, shortly after the incident, Hey Baby got a Dear John from his girl back in Chicago, of whom Sergeant Wright, myself, and seventy-eight other Marine recruits had come to know just a little.
Hey Baby was not in the Marine Corps for very long. The reason for this was that he started in on my buddy, Jorgeson. Jorgeson was my main man, and Hey Baby started calling him Jorgepussy and began harassing him and pushing him around. He was down on Jorgeson because whenever we were taught some sort of combat maneuver or tactic, Jorgeson would say, under his breath, "You could get killed if you try that." Or, "Your ass is had, if you do that." You got the feeling that Jorgeson didn't think loving the American flag and defending democratic ideals in Southeast Asia were all that important. He told me that what he really wanted to do was have an artist's loft in the SoHo district of New York City, wear a beret, eat liver-sausage sandwiches made with stale baguettes, drink Tokay wine, smoke dope, paint pictures, and listen to the wailing, sorrowful songs of that French singer Edith Piaf, otherwise known as "The Little Sparrow."
After the first half hour of boot camp most of the other recruits wanted to get out, too, but they nourished dreams of surfboards, Corvettes, and blond babes. Jorgeson wanted to be a beatnik and hang out with Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, slam down burning shots of amber whiskey, and hear Charles Mingus play real cool jazz on the bass fiddle. He wanted to practice Zen Buddhism, throw the I Ching, eat couscous, and study astrology charts. All of this was foreign territory to me. I had grown up in Aurora, Illinois, and had never heard of such things. Jorgeson had a sharp tongue and was so supercilious in his remarks that I didn't know quite how seriously I should take this talk, but I enjoyed his humor and I did believe he had the sensibilities of an artist. It was not some vague yearning. I believed very much that he could become a painter of pictures. At that point he wasn't putting his heart and soul into becoming a Marine. He wasn't a true believer like me.
Some weeks after Hey Baby began hassling Jorgeson, Sergeant Wright gave us his best speech: "You men are going off to war, and it's not a pretty thing," etc. & etc., "and if Luke the Gook knocks down one of your buddies, a fellow Marine, you are going to risk your life and go in and get that Marine and you are going to bring him out. Not because I said so. No! You are going after that Marine because you are a Marine, a member of the most elite fighting force in the world, and that man out there who's gone down is a Marine, and he's your buddy. He is your brother! Once you are a Marine, you are always a Marine and you will never let another Marine down." Etc. & etc. "You can take a Marine out of the Corps but you can't take the Corps out of a Marine." Etc. & etc. At the time it seemed to me a very good speech, and it stirred me deeply. Sergeant Wright was no candy ass. He was one squared-away dude, and he could call cadence. Man, it puts a lump in my throat when I remember how that man could sing cadence. Apart from Jorgeson, I think all of the recruits in Platoon 263 were proud of Sergeant Wright. He was the real thing, the genuine article. He was a crackerjack Marine.
In the course of training, lots of the recruits dropped out of the original platoon. Some couldn't pass the physical fitness tests and had to go to a special camp for pussies. This was a particularly shameful shortcoming, the most humiliating apart from bed-wetting. Other recruits would get pneumonia, strep throat, infected foot blisters, or whatever, and lose time that way. Some didn't qualify at the rifle range. One would break a leg. Another would have a nervous breakdown (and this was also deplorable). People dropped out right and left. When the recruit corrected whatever deficiency he had, or when he got better, he would be picked up by another platoon that was in the stage of basic training that he had been in when his training was interrupted. Platoon 263 picked up dozens of recruits in this fashion. If everything went well, however, you got through with the whole business in twelve weeks. That's not a long time, but it seemed like a long time. You did not see a female in all that time. You did not see a newspaper or a television set. You did not eat a candy bar. Another thing was the fact that you had someone on top of you, watching every move you made. When it was time to "shit, shower, and shave," you were given just ten minutes, and had to confront lines and so on to complete the entire affair. Head calls were so infrequent that I spent a lot of time that might otherwise have been neutral or painless in the eye-watering anxiety that I was going to piss my pants. We ran to chow, where we were faced with enormous steam vents that spewed out a sickening smell of rancid, superheated grease. Still, we entered the mess hall with ravenous appetites, ate a huge tray of food in just a few minutes, and then ran back to our company area in formation, choking back the burning bile of a meal too big to be eaten so fast. God forbid that you would lose control and vomit.
If all had gone well in the preceding hours, Sergeant Wright would permit us to smoke one cigarette after each meal. Jorgeson had shown me the wisdom of switching from Camels to Pall Malls—they were much longer, packed a pretty good jolt, and when we snapped open our brushed-chrome Zippos, torched up, and inhaled the first few drags, we shared the overmastering pleasure that tobacco can bring if you use it seldom and judiciously. These were always the best moments of the day—brief respites from the tyrannical repression of recruit training. As we got close to the end of it all Jorgeson liked to play a little game. He used to say to me (with fragrant blue smoke curling out of his nostrils), "If someone said, 'I'll give you ten thousand dollars to do all of this again,' what would you say?" "No way, Jack!" He would keep on upping it until he had John Beresford Tipton, the guy from The Millionaire, offering me a check for a million bucks. "Not for any money," I'd say.
While they were all smoldering under various pressures, the recruits were also getting pretty "salty"—they were beginning to believe. They were beginning to think of themselves as Marines. If you could make it through this, the reasoning went, you wouldn't crack in combat. So I remember that I had tears in my eyes when Sergeant Wright gave us the spiel about how a Marine would charge a machine-gun nest to save his buddies, dive on a hand grenade, do whatever it takes—and yet I was ashamed when Jorgeson caught me wiping them away. All of the recruits were teary except Jorgeson. He had these very clear cobalt-blue eyes. They were so remarkable that they caused you to notice Jorgeson in a crowd. There was unusual beauty in those eyes, and there was an extraordinary power in them. Apart from having a pleasant enough face, Jorgeson was small and unassuming except for those eyes. Anyhow, when he caught me getting sentimental he gave me this look that penetrated to the core of my being. It was the icy look of absolute contempt, and it caused me to doubt myself. I said, "Man! Can't you get into it? For Christ's sake!"
"I'm not like you," he said. "But I am into it, more than you could ever know. I never told you this before, but I am Kal-El, born on the planet Krypton and rocketed to Earth as an infant, moments before my world exploded. Disguised as a mild-mannered Marine, I have resolved to use my powers for the good of mankind. Whenever danger appears on the scene, truth and justice will be served as I slip into the green U.S.M.C. utility uniform and become Earth's greatest hero."
I got highly pissed and didn't talk to him for a couple of days after this. Then, about two weeks before boot camp was over, when we were running out to the parade field for drill with our rifles at port arms, all assholes and elbows, I saw Hey Baby give Jorgeson a nasty shove with his M-14. Hey Baby was a large and fairly tough young man who liked to displace his aggressive impulses on Jorgeson, but he wasn't as big or as tough as I.
Jorgeson nearly fell down as the other recruits scrambled out to the parade field, and Hey Baby gave a short, malicious laugh. I ran past Jorgeson and caught up to Hey Baby; he picked me up in his peripheral vision, but by then it was too late. I set my body so that I could put everything into it, and with one deft stroke I hammered him in the temple with the sharp edge of the steel butt plate of my M-14. It was not exactly a premeditated crime, although I had been laying to get him. My idea before this had simply been to lay my hands on him, but now I had blood in my eye. I was a skilled boxer, and I knew the temple was a vulnerable spot; the human skull is otherwise hard and durable, except at its base. There was a sickening crunch, and Hey Baby dropped into the ice plants along the side of the company street.
The entire platoon was out on the parade field when the house mouse screamed at the assistant D.I., who rushed back to the scene of the crime to find Hey Baby crumpled in a fetal position in the ice plants with blood all over the place. There was blood from the scalp wound as well as a froth of blood emitting from his nostrils and his mouth. Blood was leaking from his right ear. Did I see skull fragments and brain tissue? It seemed that I did. To tell you the truth, I wouldn't have cared in the least if I had killed him, but like most criminals I was very much afraid of getting caught. It suddenly occurred to me that I could be headed for the brig for a long time. My heart was pounding out of my chest. Yet the larger part of me didn't care. Jorgeson was my buddy, and I wasn't going to stand still and let someone fuck him over.
The platoon waited at parade rest while Sergeant Wright came out of the duty hut and took command of the situation. An ambulance was called, and it came almost immediately. A number of corpsmen squatted down alongside the fallen man for what seemed an eternity. Eventually they took Hey Baby off with a fractured skull. It would be the last we ever saw of him. Three evenings later, in the squad bay, the assistant D.I. told us rather ominously that Hey Baby had recovered consciousness. That's all he said. What did that mean? I was worried, because Hey Baby had seen me make my move, but, as it turned out, when he came to he had forgotten the incident and all events of the preceding two weeks. Retrograde amnesia. Lucky for me. I also knew that at least three other recruits had seen what I did, but none of them reported me. Every member of the platoon was called in and grilled by a team of hard-ass captains and a light colonel from the Criminal Investigation Detachment. It took a certain amount of balls to lie to them, yet none of my fellow-jarheads reported me. I was well liked and Hey Baby was not. Indeed, many felt that he got exactly what was coming to him.
The other day—Memorial Day, as it happened—I was cleaning some stuff out of the attic when I came upon my old dress-blue uniform. It's a beautiful uniform, easily the most handsome worn by any of the U.S. Armed Forces. The rich color recalled Jorgeson's eyes for me—not that the color matched, but in the sense that the color of each was so startling. The tunic does not have lapels, of course, but a high collar with red piping and the traditional golden eagle, globe, and anchor insignia on either side of the neck clasp. The tunic buttons are not brassy—although they are in fact made of brass—but are a delicate gold in color, like Florentine gold. On the sleeves of the tunic my staff sergeant's chevrons are gold on red. High on the left breast is a rainbow display of fruit salad representing my various combat citations. Just below these are my marksmanship badges; I shot Expert in rifle as well as pistol.
I opened a sandalwood box and took my various medals out of the large plastic bag I had packed them in to prevent them from tarnishing. The Navy Cross and the two Silver Stars are the best; they are such pretty things they dazzle you. I found a couple of Thai sticks in the sandalwood box as well. I took a whiff of the box and smelled the smells of Saigon—the whores, the dope, the saffron, cloves, jasmine, and patchouli oil. I put the Thai sticks back, recalling the three-day hangover that particular batch of dope had given me more than twenty-three years before. Again I looked at my dress-blue tunic. My most distinctive badge, the crowning glory, and the one of which I am most proud, is the set of Airborne wings. I remember how it was, walking around Oceanside, California—the Airborne wings and the high-and-tight haircut were recognized by all the Marines; they meant you were the crème de la crème, you were a recon Marine.
Recon was all Jorgeson's idea. We had lost touch with each other after boot camp. I was sent to com school in San Diego, where I had to sit in a hot Class A wool uniform all day and learn the Morse code. I deliberately flunked out, and when I was given the perfunctory option for a second shot, I told the colonel, "Hell no, sir. I want to go 003—infantry. I want to be a ground-pounder. I didn't join the service to sit at a desk all day."
I was on a bus to Camp Pendleton three days later, and when I got there I ran into Jorgeson. I had been thinking of him a lot. He was a clerk in headquarters company. Much to my astonishment, he was fifteen pounds heavier, and had grown two inches, and he told me he was hitting the weight pile every night after running seven miles up and down the foothills of Pendleton in combat boots, carrying a rifle and a full field pack. After the usual what's-been-happening? b.s., he got down to business and said, "They need people in Force Recon, what do you think? Headquarters is one boring motherfucker."
I said, "Recon? Paratrooper? You got to be shittin' me! When did you get so gung-ho, man?"
He said, "Hey, you were the one who bought the program. Don't fade on me now, goddamn it! Look, we pass the physical fitness test and then they send us to jump school at Benning. If we pass that, we're in. And we'll pass. Those doggies ain't got jack. Semper fi, motherfucker! Let's do it."
There was no more talk of Neal Cassady, Edith Piaf, or the artist's loft in SoHo. I said, "If Sergeant Wright could only see you now!"
We were just three days in country when we got dropped in somewhere up north near the DMZ. It was a routine reconnaissance patrol. It was not supposed to be any kind of big deal at all—just acclimation. The morning after our drop we approached a clear field. I recall that it gave me a funny feeling, but I was too new to fully trust my instincts. Everything was spooky; I was fresh meat, F.N.G.—a Fucking New Guy.
Before moving into the field, our team leader sent Hanes—a lance corporal, a short-timer, with only twelve days left before his rotation was over—across the field as a point man. This was a bad omen and everyone knew it. Hanes had two Purple Hearts. He followed the order with no hesitation and crossed the field without drawing fire. The team leader signaled for us to fan out and told me to circumvent the field and hump through the jungle to investigate a small mound of loose red dirt that I had missed completely but that he had picked up with his trained eye. I remember I kept saying, "Where?" He pointed to a heap of earth about thirty yards along the tree line and about ten feet back in the bushes. Most likely it was an anthill, but you never knew—it could have been an NVA tunnel. "Over there," he hissed. "Goddamn it, do I have to draw pictures for you?"
I moved smartly in the direction of the mound while the rest of the team reconverged to discuss something. As I approached the mound I saw that it was in fact an anthill, and I looked back at the team and saw they were already halfway across the field, moving very fast.
Suddenly there were several loud hollow pops and the cry "Incoming!" Seconds later the first of a half-dozen mortar rounds landed in the loose earth surrounding the anthill. For a millisecond, everything went black. I was blown back and lifted up on a cushion of warm air. At first it was like the thrill of a carnival ride, but it was quickly followed by that stunned, jangly, electric feeling you get when you hit your crazy bone. Like that, but not confined to a small area like the elbow. I felt it shoot through my spine and into all four limbs. A thick plaster of sand and red clay plugged up my nostrils and ears. Grit was blown in between my teeth. If I hadn't been wearing a pair of Ray-Ban aviator shades, I would certainly have been blinded permanently—as it was, my eyes were loaded with grit. (I later discovered that fine red earth was somehow blown in behind the crystal of my pressure-tested Rolex Submariner, underneath my fingernails and toenails, and deep into the pores of my skin.) When I was able to, I pulled out a canteen filled with lemon-lime Kool-Aid and tried to flood my eyes clean. This helped a little, but my eyes still felt like they were on fire. I rinsed them again and blinked furiously.
I rolled over on my stomach in the prone position and leveled my field-issue M-16. A company of screaming NVA soldiers ran into the field, firing as they came—I saw their green tracer rounds blanket the position where the team had quickly congregated to lay out a perimeter, but none of our own red tracers were going out. Several of the Marines had been killed outright by the mortar rounds. Jorgeson was all right, and I saw him cast a nervous glance in my direction. Then he turned to the enemy and began to fire his M-16. I clicked my rifle on to automatic and pulled the trigger, but the gun was loaded with dirt and it wouldn't fire.
Apart from Jorgeson, the only other American putting out any fire was Second Lieutenant Milton, also a fairly new guy, a "cherry," who was down on one knee firing his .45, an exercise in almost complete futility. I assumed that Milton's 16 had jammed, like mine, and watched as AK-47 rounds, having penetrated his flak jacket and then his chest, ripped through the back of his field pack and buzzed into the jungle beyond like a deadly swarm of bees. A few seconds later, I heard the swoosh of an RPG rocket, a dud round that dinged the lieutenant's left shoulder before it flew off in the bush behind him. It took off his whole arm, and for an instant I could see the white bone and ligaments of his shoulder, and then red flesh of muscle tissue, looking very much like fresh prime beef, well marbled and encased in a thin layer of yellowish-white adipose tissue that quickly became saturated with dark-red blood. What a lot of blood there was. Still, Milton continued to fire his .45. When he emptied his clip, I watched him remove a fresh one from his web gear and attempt to load the pistol with one hand. He seemed to fumble with the fresh clip for a long time, until at last he dropped it, along with his .45. The lieutenant's head slowly sagged forward, but he stayed up on one knee with his remaining arm extended out to the enemy, palm upward in the soulful, heartrending gesture of Al Jolson doing a rendition of "Mammy."
- "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."—ChrisPower, author of Mothers
- On Sale
- Oct 16, 2018
- Hachette Audio