The Outlaw Album: Stories Hardcover – Oct 5 2011
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Praise for THE OUTLAW ALBUM:
"Woodrell writes about violence and dark deeds better than almost anyone in America today, in compact, musical prose that doesn't dwell on visceral detail. An unerring craftsman, he can fully describe a murder in one rich sentence....Most of the stories deal with the darkest recesses of the human heart, and once you begin reading them you can't stop."―Donald Ray Pollock, New York Times Book Review
"An intense volume of fury and blood in the Ozarks, it crystallizes Woodrell's slicing wit and unflinching confrontation with criminality and tragedy."―Donna Seaman, Kansas City Star
"The Outlaw Album is a collection of stories by one of the world's great novelists, Daniel Woodrell, and it's brilliant."―Roddy Doyle, Guardian, "Books of the Year"
"A stunner. Woodrell has the rare ability to tell compelling stories rooted in familiar soil that are simultaneously simple and complex, local and universal, funny and tragic."―St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Best Books of 2011"
"Woodrell's prose is spare, even stern, yet capable of unexpected lyricism. Amid the rage, despair, and hatred his characters live with, he teases out and displays their deep stores of love and loyalty, and a surprisingly bracing humor."―Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe
"A writer whose words flow with the elemental power of Cormac McCarthy, William Gay, and Chris Offutt, he's chipped an impression of the Ozarks and its people in stone that will endure time....Let these stories be your Bible."―Chris Talbott, Associated Press
"The human desperation behind the violence is gripping. If anyone understands what motivates a man to keep shooting a corpse with a squirrel rifle, it's Woodrell."―Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly
Praise for WINTER'S BONE:
"Woodrell's Old Testament prose and blunt vision have a chilly timelessness that suggests this novel will speak to readers as long as there are readers."―David Bowman, The New York Times Book Review
"Despite the roughness of the content, Woodrell has a poet's sense of how to turn a phrase. . . . Seek him out now, throw down fifteen bucks, and bend your face to the page. You'll come away as I do--darkly changed, begging for another."―Benjamin Percy, Esquire
"The lineage from Faulkner to Woodrell runs as deep and true as an Ozark stream in this book...his most profound and haunting work yet."―Denise Hamilton, Los Angeles Times Book Review
About the Author
Five of Daniel Woodrell's eight published novels were selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Tomato Red won the PEN West Award for the Novel in 1999. Woodrell lives in the Ozarks near the Arkansas line with his wife, Katie Estill.
Top Customer Reviews
1. The Echo of Neighborly Bones - An Ozark man kills his Minnesotan neighbor, a rude opinionated man. He keeps going back to revisit and rekill the corpse while we learn of the Minnesotans affronts to the man. It isn't until the end we learn the real reason he was killed. Short, but mesmerising. (3/5)
2. Uncle - A woman and her daughter are abused by her (I guess dead) husband's evil brother. He also takes lone tourist college girls floating down the river and rapes them. One day the daughter hits him viciously over the head blaming it on his last victim and now she had a 200 lb baby in a wheelchair to look after. This is creepy and where it heads and finishes is creepy too. (4/5)
3. Twin Forks - A fine story to read, haunting, but it's just weird. An event occurs but it is more about the man's past, his feelings, his having a moment in life and choosing which "fork" in the road to take. (3/5)
4. Florianne - Well this one is just kinda creepy.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
He writes with the artistic efficiency of poetry without artifice, and knows exactly where to begin and end a tale. The rage of class, the inequality that dare not speak its name, begins and ends this collection, perfect bookends for 12 tales of people who've lost something, and try to find what it was, how to get it back, or just how it was stolen from them.
I could have read this in an evening, but chose to savor them. They bring you to a place in the mind. I've never been to the Ozarks, and I may never visit outside of a national park, having read these tales, but I felt like I drove through, stopped for a slice of pie and chatted up a lifelong local who told me the tales of the town that form its mythology, giving me a sliver of understanding the strong bonds of family and place that define its people.
"Desperation - both material and psychological- motivates his characters." There is an element of moral decay and hopelessness to these stories, most taking place in the rural area of the Ozarks. I found a certain similarity in theme to the great writer, Donald Ray Pollock. Both writers attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
The Echo of Neighborly Bones is a haunting story of a man who murders his neighbor for killing his wife's dog. Once his neighbor is dead, he kills him over and over again in different ways - as though his anger cannot be assuaged.
I found Twin Forks to be the most powerful story in the collection. It begins, "A cradle won't hold my baby. My baby is two hundred pounds in a wheelchair and hard to push uphill but silent all the time. He can't talk since his head got hurt, which I did to him. I broke into his head with a mattocks and he hasn't said a thing to me nor nobody else since." The baby is the narrator's uncle, her mother's brother. He is a serial rapist who the narrator catches raping a coed in the barn. The narrator, too, has been a victim of her uncle's incestuous rapings. She beats his head in and then must care for him in his vegetative state. There comes a time when she realizes that even in a wheel chair and not talking, he remains evil.
Florianne is a haunting story of a man whose seventeen year-old daughter was kidnapped eleven years ago. His world is comprised of his trying to figure out who the kidnapper is. He suspects that it must be someone he knows or it could be anyone. His world is consumed by his suspicions.
In Back Step, Daren is at home recuperating from injuries he received in the war in the middle east. His mother is dying of cancer and Darden is plagued by memories of death and devastation that he witnessed. His big job at home is to kill a cow that has a broken leg, and then to dispose of the cow's body by burning it.
Night Stand is one of the stronger stories in the collection. One night as Pelham and his wife lay asleep, a naked man appears at the foot of their bed growling. Pelham grabs a knife that happens to be on his night stand and stabs the growling man twice, killing him. He later finds out that that the man he killed is a disturbed veteran and also the son of a childhood friend. Pelham obsesses over the knife - how did it find its way to his night table?
Two Things is a powerful story. Cecil has been a bad egg all his life. Currently, he is in jail for thievery. He also has a history of violence. A woman who works with him in some educational or social work capacity in jail, visits Cecil's father and shows him a book of poetry that Cecil has written. She believes that Cecil has a rare talent and wants Cecil's father to allow Cecil to come home and live with him as part of his probation. Many of the poems are about crimes that Cecil has committed against his father. The woman believes that these rage-filled poems are amends for his wrong-doings. Cecil's father isn't quick to believe that Cecil has really changed and does not want Cecil living with him.
I enjoyed Dream Spot a lot and it still haunts me. Janet asks Dalyrimple to stop and pick up a female hitchhiker. As Dalyrimple prepares to do this, Janet begins to have delusions that this unknown woman is the love of Dalyrimple's life. A simple act of picking up a hitchhiker leads to tragic consequences.
In Returning the River, a man on parole from jail burns down his neighbor's house so that his dying father can regain his view of the river which the neighbor's house has obscured.
The stories in this collection are raw and disturbing, leaving the reader with questions and a sense of being creeped out. They create goose bumps and a sense of uneasiness. The characters seem to have no moral center and are lost to what we think of as `normal'. Woodrell has a natural way of creating an ambiance of what it is like to be mentally ill or live outside the circle of normalcy.
Well, ok: There is the story of the guy who killed his neighbor, multiple times, and the 17 year old girl kidnapped while mowing a yard, and the jockey beat with 2 x 4s before being left on the railroad track, the guy who rode with Quantrill and Coleman Younger, and the guy who burned his neighbor's house down because it blocked his bed-ridden father's view of a river. So, yeah, these actions, and others Woodrell recounts here, technically are criminal activities, the actions of outlaws.
But each of these characters have been rooted in mainstream Ozark society. Good people. Good neighbors. Good parents. They became outlaws when they were pushed to the periphery of their world. It's important to recognize that while browsing through this album Woodrell presents these characters to us not just as people, but as characters in whose minds we're comfortable because of the beauty of Woodrell's prose, and because in a twisted way they react to the world in a way the reader accepts, even as there's a voice in the back of our mind shouting: no, no, no.
The stories are narrated from within the mind of either the subject, or someone close to the action described. Woodrell makes the reader quite comfortable in the minds of his characters. Shooting a neighbor because he shot your dog doesn't seem so outlandish. Nor does pushing a sexual predator to his death. I found myself wondering as I read: just how far removed are these characters from those of us living closer to the center of acceptable norms?
And as every good short writer should, Woodrell twists each story at the end. These are revelations that galvanize each story, often to the point where the reader has to take a breath and stop, such as the revelation at the end of The Horse in our History.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am no fan of Woodrell's writing. I also recently acquired The Bayou Trilogy and cannot get into it if it was the last book on earth. When Woodrell writes long, it seems to me, his writing gets flabby. There's lots of dialogue and explanation that does not advance the story, in this reader's eyes, anyway.
That's not the case in Outlaw Album. The writing often is a stream of poetry. With the proverbial few brush strokes, tone, and other artistic touches, Woodrell makes these outliers authentic and credible.
I have two regrets after reading this album: 1) that Woodrell doesn't write this well when he writes novels; and 2) that this book is so thin.
Come Christmas, I'll definitely include this one in my box of books to family and friends.
I will let other reviewers describe his work.
Woodrell's writing is distinguished by the attitude of his characters and the unique subject of each story. The good guys are not much better than the bad guys. There are no real heroes, only scores being settled, family traditions enforced, vigilante justice. We are immersed in a kind of modern day frontier. You won't read any of his characters wishing a sheriff "Have a nice day." They go out of the way to avoid lawmen.
I have read 4 of Woodrell's previous books. This one is an excellent introduction to his distinctive writing style, to the unusual core of each story and to his larger body of work. Each story is new with the one exception of Woe to Live On.