Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On "The Man Back There and Other Stories" by David Crouse ****

David Crouse's newest collection didn't seem to me to start off as strongly as his previous collection, but it got better. In fact, it got very good. And this was a relief. Discussing the book with a friend, after I'd first started it, my friend warned that, if it's a book of stories and I'm not terribly excited about the first ones, then that doesn't bode well. But this collection builds steam. And sometimes, a collection needs that. Sometimes, the sum total is more than its parts. Sometimes, you have to let a group of stories set the mood. I left the collection wanting more rather being relieved I was done--and for that I am very happy. (It's certainly better than the opposite--beginning a collection with excitement and leaving it, by the end, simply wanting it to be over.)

Crouse writes dark stories. These particular stories are set around the lives of lonely men. My favorites--there are quite a few--would be "Show & Tell" (the tale of a toy thief), "What We Own" (about a young man who tries to commit suicide), and "Torture Me" (about a man whose porn tape his wife finds). But the piece I like most is "The Forgotten Kingdom." This story, about man working in an office at the tail end of a set of going-out-of business layoffs, captures so much so well--the surreal, sad environment in such an office building; the longing one sometimes feels for one's past, even though one doesn't really want to return to the past; and the desire just to talk--to anyone. "The Forgotten Kingdom" is a forgotten video game, one through which the narrator bonds with another lonely soul. This story, more than any other in the collection, struck me with its presentation of men alone and wanting. (If only a David Crouse story were online, I'd feature it--he's a wonderful writer, and I look forward to his next collection.)


Anonymous said...

He has a little website at and I think it has a couple of stories up there.

Short Story Reader said...

Hey, thanks for the tip. I'll add that site to authors. Story write-ups to come.