Thursday, July 9, 2009

My Favorite Reads #5: SAME PLACE, SAME THINGS: Stories by Tim Gautreaux

Alyce of At Home with Books hosts My Favorite Reads, a weekly feature spotlighting favorite reads from pre-blogging days. Because it's been a while since the books were read, these posts are not reviews per se, but rather impressionistic remembrances of a positive reading experience. I think of this feature as an opportunity to more deeply explore the range of my reading interests and those of other book bloggers and readers of book blogs outside of the current crop of new releases.

Do you have an old favorite that you'd like to share?

by Tim Gautreaux

Publisher: Picador
Pub. Date: August 1997
ISBN-13: 9780312169947
Sales Rank: 173,952
Edition Description: REV
Edition Number: 1

Synopsis(from the publisher):

In this collection of stories, Tim Gautreaux chronicles the lives of "ordinary" people who face extraordinary circumstances and decisions: a farmer faced with the prospect of raising his infant granddaughter; a young man who falls in love with a voice on the radio; a train engineer who causes a colossal disaster. In stories filled with heart and humor, event and consequence, the customs and culture of Louisiana come to life in the hands of a writer who blends rare talent with an even more unusual humanity.

Why I chose this book:

I love reading short stories, and there have been times in my life when that was pretty much all I read. I probably "discovered" Tim Gautreaux sometime around 1996 or 1997, shortly before this collection debuted. It might have been through THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES series or The Oxford American, both of which I used to devour. I recall being really excited to learn that there was soon to be a whole book of his work.

I may be a bit old-fashioned, but I like a story to have a beginning, a middle, and an end; I like to come away feeling as though an issue has been confronted and not just exposed. I want someone or something in the story to be transformed. The stories in this collection meet that criteria. Through description and dialogue, they also evoke a strong sense of place - rural Louisiana. And when it comes to capturing the musical cadence of the Cajun dialect, Gautreaux is a master.

I breezed right through these stories and then read them all again. I talked about the stories to everyone I knew. I gave copies of the collection as gifts. I carried my copy around with me in order to be near them. I just loved these stories.

Read a sample chapter from Tim Gautreaux's second collection of short stories, WELDING WITH CHILDREN, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 2000.

About the author:

Tim Gautreaux has written three novels and two collections of short stories, one of which, Welding With Children, was selected by The New York Times as a Notable Book of the Year. His fiction has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, GQ, and Zoetrope, and also in volumes of The O. Henry Prize Stories, Best American Short Stories, and New Stories from the South. He is a professor emeritus/writer in residence in the English Department at Southeastern Louisiana University.


Jules said...

This looks like a really good short story collection. I've been meaning to try and explore more authors who write short stories and read more short story collections etc. This might be a good place to start. Thanks for the review.

Zibilee said...

I don't read many short stories, but I really like your criteria for them. If I was to start, I think that I would want the same things. I have quite a few short story collections on my shelves, so I really have no excuse, but right now I am into huge door-stopping books. I may try to pick this one up though, great review!

Alyce said...

I like reading short stories, but I have to be in the right mood. I agree with your criteria - I enjoy short stories much more if they have a definite beginning, middle and end. I've read some short stories before where I was clueless as to what the story was even about.