These stories, told with economy and precision, infused with humor and pathos, excavate brilliantly the latent desires and motivations that drive life forward.
Long considered a master of the form and an essential voice in American fiction, Michael Knight's stories have been lauded by writers such Ann Patchett, Elizabeth Gilbert, Barry Hannah, and Richard Bausch. Now, with Eveningland he returns to the form that launched his career, delivering an arresting collection of interlinked stories set among the "right kind of Mobile family" in the years preceding a devastating hurricane.
Grappling with dramas both epic and personal, from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the "unspeakable misgivings of contentment," Eveningland captures with crystalline poeticism and perfect authenticity of place the ways in which ordinary life astounds us with its complexity. A teenaged girl with a taste for violence holds a burglar hostage in her house on New Year's Eve; a middle aged couple examines the intricacies of their marriage as they prepare to throw a party; and a real estate mogul in the throes of grief buys up all the property on an island only to be accused of madness by his daughters.
water and oil
None of this is true. All of this is true. I want to tell you about a boy in a boat on a nameless creek. About dawn reflected on the water but so dim over the swamp that it failed to illuminate the spaces between the trees.
The boy's name was Henry Rufus Bragg and though he was seventeen years old and would most likely have been offended by my description, there was still enough boy about him that the word remains appropriate. He was handsome but in an unfinished way, especially in summer when the sun freckled his nose and cheeks, blurring his features, a faint constellation half a shade darker than his tan. Six foot three now and not through yet, his bones ached at night with growing pains. A late bloomer, his mother called him, the last of the model airplane builders, a tender boy, a quiet boy, an odd and earnest boy who, like the keeper of some lost art, memorized old knockknock jokes and repeated them in his head when he was bored.
He lived on the nameless creek...
The first thing you notice about Michael Knight's Alabama-based Eveningland is his lovingly gentle writing style that is lyrical without being flowery. Knight imbues the stories within this collection with an attention to landscape and atmosphere that lend them a level of affection, thereby implying his personal relationship with their location. However, I was also struck by how he never allows place to overshadow the emotional connection to his characters. In fact, for the most part, these stories are universal enough that they could be located anywhere. Having never been to Alabama, I'm not completely sure if this is wholly positive.
(Reviewed by Davida Chazan).
Full Review (480 words).
Some of the action in Michael Knight's story "Our Lady of the Roses" takes place during Mardi Gras. The protagonist notes that the first celebration was in Mobile and not in New Orleans. That piqued my curiosity and I decided to do some research into this most colorful holiday.
The first thing I found was that, like many of our modern religious traditions, Mardi Gras (which translates to mean "Fat Tuesday") has its origins in paganism, in this case it is linked to spring and fertility. Apparently it was the Roman Catholics who adapted this custom (also known as Carnival, from the Latin carnis, which means flesh/meat and levare which means to leave off) to do something fun - a last fling, if you will - just prior to the 40 days of Lent ...
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