Like the work of Cormac McCarthy, Denis Johnson, Richard Ford, and Annie Proulx, Battleborn represents a near-perfect confluence of sensibility and setting, and the introduction of an exceptionally powerful and original literary voice. In each of these ten unforgettable stories, Claire Vaye Watkins writes her way fearlessly into the mythology of the American West, utterly reimagining it. Her characters orbit around the region's vast spaces, winning redemption despite - and often because of - the hardship and violence they endure.
The arrival of a foreigner transforms the exchange of eroticism and emotion at a prostitution ranch. A prospecting hermit discovers the limits of his rugged individualism when he tries to rescue an abused teenager. Decades after she led her best friend into a degrading encounter in a Vegas hotel room, a woman feels the aftershock. Most bravely of all, Watkins takes on - and reinvents - her own troubled legacy in a story that emerges from the mayhem and destruction of Helter Skelter.
Arcing from the sweeping and sublime to the minute and personal, from Gold Rush to ghost town to desert to brothel, the collection echoes not only in its title but also in its fierce, undefeated spirit the motto of her home state.
The day my mom checked out, Razor Blade Baby moved in. At the end, I cant stop thinking about beginnings.
The city of Reno, Nevada, was founded in 1859 when Charles Fuller built a log toll bridge across the Truckee River and charged prospectors to haul their Comstock silver across the narrow but swift-moving current. Two years later, Fuller sold the bridge to the ambitious Myron Lake. Lake, swift himself, added a gristmill, kiln and livery stable to his Silver Queen Hotel and Eating House. Not a bashful man, he named the community Lakes Crossing, had the name painted on Fullers bridge, bright blue as the sky.
The 1860s were boom times in the western Utah Territory: Americans still had the brackish taste of Sutters soil on their tongues, ten-year-old gold still glinting in their eyes. The curse of the Comstock Lode had not yet leaked from the silver vein, not seeped into the water table. The silver itself had not yet been stripped from ...
Throughout the collection, the stories and their characters convey feelings of loss and regret, for what has - or hasn't - happened to them and to the place where they live, whether globally or more locally...This fear - of smallness, of loss even to the point of extinction - pervades nearly all of the stories. Some are almost painful in their bitterness and brutal in their sparseness. But there's a bleak beauty here too, both in the landscapes Watkins portrays and in the restrained prose she uses to bring this stark place to life for the reader.
(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).
Full Review (569 words).
Readers will notice immediately that the narrator of Claire Van Watkins's opening story, "Ghosts, Cowboys," shares a name with the author. This isn't an accident. The story, which is about a young woman trying to outgrow the legacy of her past, is Watkins's own. "About once a year someone tracks me down," she says. "Occasionally it's one of Charlie's fans wanting to stand next to Paul Watkins's daughter, to rub up against all that's left." The "Charlie" in question is Charles Manson, whose "Family" spent time at the famous Spahn ranch in Nevada which was used as a movie set for many westerns. Paul Watkins, the author's (and narrator's) father, was Charles Manson's right-hand man: "Charlie's number one procurer of young girls.
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