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Rash’s stories are pure gold.
“I’d fish until it was neither day nor night, but balanced between. There never seemed to be a breeze, pond and shore equally smoothed. Just stillness, as though the world had taken a soft breath, and was holding it in, and even time had leveled out, moving neither forward nor back. Then the frogs and crickets waiting for full dark announced themselves, or a breeze came up and I again heard the slosh of water against land”
Nothing Gold can stay
Nothing Gold Can Stay is an omnibus of fourteen short stories by American author, Ron Rash. Ranging from the time of the Civil War through to the present day, the stories occur in a feast of Appalachian settings: Tennessee mountains, small town, a river between Georgia and South Carolina, a casino, a farm near the Tennessee border, a college campus, a slope in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a derelict old house, a pond and more.
Rash is a consummate storyteller who gives his reader a marvellous cast of characters: a prison trusty on a road gang, a desperate pair of drug addicts, a diver called in to recover a body, a debt-weary couple hoping for good luck, a pair of black fugitives, an Englishman with an interest in ballads, a father worried for his daughter serving in the Middle East, a husband fed up with his Florida in-laws, a mountain boy with a chance at a better life, a sixteen-year-old girl wishing for a more exciting life, a nineteenth century pastor who takes a drastic step to help a young couple, a grocery store manager prompted to recall an encounter in his teens, a night-time radio DJ and a retired veterinarian.
The stories are filled with twists, amusing plays on language and accent, black humour, irony and, of course, beautiful prose. Rash will cause the reader to think about deception, theft, loyalty, feuds, gambling, hopelessness, revenge, physical beauty and ageing. Rash’s love of the Appalachian setting is apparent in every paragraph: “He stood there in the late-afternoon light, absorbing the valley’s expansiveness after days in the mountains. The land rippled out and appeared to reach all the way to where the sun and earth merged”. Rash’s stories are pure gold.
These stories have such a strong atmosphere of the Appalachians, which is of course what Rash is best noted for. I wasn't sure if his stories would follow the same path of his novels, his brutal honesty in his treatment of his characters and his at times rather violent twists. One has to think when reading these stories, he leaves much out and never sets the reader on a clear path. Some of them do not have definitive endings and it is up to the readers interpretation to figure out what happened or will happen. These are different and though there is some humor I would not say these stories are read for fun, they are read for a great sense of time and place, interesting characters that can alternately be both victim and villain. They are read because Rash is just plain good.