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Volt by Alan Heathcock
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Volt (edition 2011)

by Alan Heathcock

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1431083,804 (3.83)54
Member:richardderus
Title:Volt
Authors:Alan Heathcock
Info:Minneapolis, MN : Graywolf Press, 2011.
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:****1/2
Tags:None

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Volt: Stories by Alan Heathcock

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» See also 54 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
I found this hard to rate - the writing is razor sharp and the stories heartbreaking and intense, but I still couldn't quite embrace it. It's possible I'm just a bit over short story collections of brutal small-town Americana. I also struggled a bit to map out the links in the interlinked stories, and really couldn't quite put the timeline of it all together. This feels like a book I could easily have loved that just hit me at the wrong moment - definitely worth a look if you're a fan of the Woodrell/Bass/McCarthy school of American writing. ( )
  mjlivi | Feb 2, 2016 |
For my first "book club" read I wasn't too happy honestly with the book that I was hoping to enjoy immensely. The stories personally did not resonate with me in any fashion and in most instances felt like I was beginning to wonder why I was reading the book. I pushed through it because I never like to be the person to leave a book without reading the final word on the final page.

Mr. Heathcock does a great job of writing in this book, but that doesn't always mean that a story or in this case stories will resonate with the reader. He has too many stories in the woods or a wilderness setting that may be off putting to readers that do not enjoy the great outdoors. Also there is this almost "religious" feeling about the book that also didn't sit well with me. I am not an overly religious individual and that was some baggage I brought into reading this book which immediately put me off of it.

Also the theme of murder and death seemed to sound through almost every story contained within. While I love a good mystery these did not feel like those types of stories, save for one. These stories felt like just a reflection of anyone's life. These characters could have been anyone in any town, which may be what the writer was going for. It didn't work for me though. ( )
  SoulFlower1981 | Jan 20, 2016 |
For my first "book club" read I wasn't too happy honestly with the book that I was hoping to enjoy immensely. The stories personally did not resonate with me in any fashion and in most instances felt like I was beginning to wonder why I was reading the book. I pushed through it because I never like to be the person to leave a book without reading the final word on the final page.

Mr. Heathcock does a great job of writing in this book, but that doesn't always mean that a story or in this case stories will resonate with the reader. He has too many stories in the woods or a wilderness setting that may be off putting to readers that do not enjoy the great outdoors. Also there is this almost "religious" feeling about the book that also didn't sit well with me. I am not an overly religious individual and that was some baggage I brought into reading this book which immediately put me off of it.

Also the theme of murder and death seemed to sound through almost every story contained within. While I love a good mystery these did not feel like those types of stories, save for one. These stories felt like just a reflection of anyone's life. These characters could have been anyone in any town, which may be what the writer was going for. It didn't work for me though. ( )
  EricPatterson | Mar 30, 2013 |
Volt: Stories apparently is Alan Heathcock's first short story collection, and it's an impressive one. All eight stories take place in a beaten down U.S. farm town named Krafton, and some characters, like tenacious former grocer store manager and now sheriff Helen Farraley, appear in more than one. The stories therefore loosely tie together in various ways. My thanks to Richard for recommending this one.

The first story, "Staying Freight", features the aftermath of a terrible farming accident that kills a young boy. His father struggles to accept it, and in doing so. at one point finds himself in a nearby town taking punches for betting money. Escape, and the inability to really do so, is a theme of a number of the stories. These stories are often grim in their details, but true to life, and they demonstrate the resiliency the town's citizens have even in dark circumstances.

Krafton is not a home for celebrities or displays of wealth. Every penny and bit of happiness is hard-earned and precious. As one character, Jorgen Denmore, describes it, a sergeant urged him and his fellow soldiers in an overseas war to protect the world "back home, where folks ate cheeseburgers and kids had sleepovers and ballgames and people went to work and got angry over stupid shit that didn't matter. Like their TV ain't no good, or they ain't got the right sneakers. Some shit like that." While it was "supposed to rally us, I guess", all Jorgen, whose family is on the bottom rung of the town's ladder, can think is "how I ain't never had no sleepovers or ball games or none of that shit, and didn't none of it make a damn lick of sense."

In one story, faced with someone who committed a horrific act, Helen wreaks justice that is in the community's best interest, even though she knows community members wouldn't approve the means she uses. In another, she treats the criminal with compassion, as she knows he has a good heart and remembers him from when they were kids. Another woman explains how some go wrong, like her son: "You think some are bad or evil or whatnot, but somewhere along the way they were someone's baby, suckling the teat like anybody. Then something puts a volt in 'em and they ain't the same no more. You might think a man like Harlan don't care much what his mama thinks. But I shunned him and he couldn't ever shake it." Helen's view, expressed elsewhere: "Some are guilty the moment you lay eyes on them, and what the law ought to do is stop 'em 'fore they can do what they're born to do."

Heathcock obviously has deep feelings for his characters and their circumstances, and admires them for the way they handle the cards they've been dealt. It's a tough world, and there's room for compassion and kindness, but you better be ready to rise up to meet it when the time comes. ( )
4 vote jnwelch | Feb 12, 2013 |
Thanks to Richard for bringing this amazing collection of short stories to my attention. I say amazing because these stories are dark and disparaging, and yet it is not depressing to read them. They capture so exquisitely those moments of tragedy that are part of every community. I used to live in a small town that was mostly farms, and these stories that are anchored by their location, the fictional city of Krafton, ring true. It is important, I think, to read them in the order in which they are presented, some characters appear in more than one story and sequence becomes valid here, adding depth to their presence. All eight stories are good, but The Daughter was my favorite, and Lazarus was my least favorite. Dig in - I do not think you will be disappointed, and you will have food for thought long after you have closed the pages.

"'I wish I could take my brain and put it inside your head,' Winslow said. 'Just for a moment. Then you'd know what all I can't find how to say.'" - from The Staying Freight

"'Ever feel like your mind's set funny?' Hep said. 'Like ain't a person in the world could understand you? I think I'm crazy. I really think I must be.' Walt watched Hep's face, flushed in the mercurial light. 'Sometimes I wish I was in the movies,' he said. 'Not to be famous or nothing. I just wish I was made of light. Then nobody'd know me except for what they saw up on that screen. I'd just be light up on the silver screen, and not at all a man.'" - from Fort Apache

"The crop whispered, the corn swaying.... The sky hung a black cloth sprinkled with luminous dust." - from The Daughter

"Things vanished. People vanished. Clouds gave way to sun gave way to night. Only feelings, like spirits, endured, branded to the back of our eyes, laced into our marrow. Miriam lifted a sweater to her face, blue and soft and threadbare at the elbows, still holding a hint of her mother's scent. Try as she might, she couldn't imagine her mother on streets of gold, washed in ethereal light, couldn't even imagine her wearing this sweater, which had been her favorite. Miriam could only recall her mother as she'd seen her that day at the morgue, a sheet to her chin...She considered this life and the next, decided Heaven and Hell were just where the living chose to put you once you passed..." - from The Daughter ( )
3 vote Crazymamie | Jan 22, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Heatchcock’s language is direct, immediate. He doesn’t traffic in fluff, but he does aim right for the heart. The first page will cut you short; and, I’m betting, rouse you to tears.
 
Each interconnected story is equally devastating and I had to take small breaks in-between them to catch my breath. Heathcock’s prose possesses a plain spoken lyricism much in the same vein as Kyle Minor and Pollack. His descriptions of small town existence are vivid and painstakingly detailed, but not so much that the reader becomes lost in exposition.

Would it be fair for me to say that Volt heralds the arrival of a new major American voice? Yes, I would say so. Heathcock’s gifts are undeniable.
 
Volt sets a new standard to which all other fiction collections must now measure themselves. I sense it will be a long time before readers find anything worthy of close comparison, unless Alan Heathcock decides to publish another book, and soon.
 
Eight stories, by native Chicagoan Alan Heathcock, who lives and works in Idaho, where he seems to have found in that mostly rural state great inspiration in the pathetic and maniacal denizens of small towns around him - or in memories of rural Illinois, also, perhaps: several of these stories celebrating such country matters stand as tall as most of the best stories by many of our most accomplished writers.
 
“…The sensitivity to spiritual pain and healing reminded me plenty of Flannery O’Connor. The language took me to Faulkner and McCarthy. That the stories all take place in one fictional town, Krafton, reminded me of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. That it is a debut collection I think should find its way into the American canon…”
added by bookjones | editThe Mookse and the Gripes (May 1, 2011)
 
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A blistering collection of stories, in which the hard lives of Heathcock's characters try-- and sometimes fail-- to deal with the choices they have made.

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