New Finds

Exactly, Watson!

Another fine Mississipi storyteller, Brad Watson has a new story collection out.

Book Cover Though I tend to have difficulty in talking with the concision this space requires about story collections—not that you need to know my problems—in some ways that mirrors the difficulties and perils of short-form fiction. Both practitioners and non-practitioners (novelists) alike point out the rigor and economy demanded by short stories. I’ll try not let my inadequacies be an obstacle in talking about Brad Watson’s new collection, Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives (WW Norton).

It’s been about 10 years since Watson’s name was on multitudinous lips of the literary community (such as it is)—his novel, The Heaven of Mercury, was heavily award-nominated (which is, of course, one indicator of the regard with which it was held). Most of these stories have appeared (though perhaps not in the same form) scattershot through a variety of the stalwart publications that still champion such precious literary gems.

The story (or is it a novella?) from which this collection gets its name (there’s a fancy word for this—if you know it, feel free to replace this simpleminded phrase), the last to appear in the book, seems to have some resemblance to Watson’s own colorful life—two Mississippi teenagers get married, they think they are in love, and the girl is pregnant—but Watson throws an unusual twist (the story’s title is helpful here) into the plotline, and despite my own hard-headed predilection for realism I was drawn in.

The other 12 stories deal with all manner of family strife which Brad Watson makes palpable and heartfelt with prose so accurate and invisible, when you read his writing it’s as if you are imagining and creating the story. Needless to say, the peripatetic Watson is a great pleasure to read.
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