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The Graybar Hotel: Stories by Curtis Dawkins
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The Graybar Hotel: Stories

by Curtis Dawkins

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This collection of fourteen stories, centers around life in a penitentiary. Most are presented in the first person and the reader is taken along as the prisoner makes his way through his daily grind, living behind bars. There are two big surprises here: First off, I was amazed at the author's high level of craftsmanship. The writing is strong and fluid. It is introspective and laconic, with flashes of well-needed humor. The second revelation, is that the author, is serving a life sentence for murder. Dawkins earned an MFA, from Western Michigan University in 2000, but had always struggled with substance abuse issues. One night, in 2004, he smoked crack and was involved in a botched robbery and shot and killed an innocent man. He expresses his deep remorse in the acknowledgments.
I am very glad to have discovered this collection and I hope to spread the word. ( )
  msf59 | Sep 5, 2017 |
Reading about this book written by a convicted murderer serving life in prison, I was repelled that he should profit from his writing. However, subsequent reviews compelled me to read this book of stories about life in prison (the Graybar Hotel). It's hard to tell what is real and what is imagined though I am sure the stories are a combination of both. Curtis Dawkins is an immensely talented writer and I became immersed in the characters and their portrayal . But I also found the bio of Dawkins almost as compelling. He made a lot of bad choices in his life in spite of his intelligence and education. In his acknowledgments, he writes that upon "hearing a prison door slam shut, either you will die regretting the past or you'll learn to live in the present". Any profits he makes will be put into an education fund for his three children. ( )
  bogopea | Aug 29, 2017 |
This book first caught my attention because it's written by a convicted killer, serving life in prison. And so the stories hold a bit of voyeuristic intrigue, allowing a glimpse behind those fences and gray walls.

Curtis Dawkins is a gifted writer. There is beauty in his words, despite the darkness of the pictures he paints for us. I was prepared for a visit to a violent world. What I didn't expect was Dawkins' powerful portrayal of the utter boredom and what it does to the mind. We also see the inability to escape the chatter of people with whom you're forced to live in close contact, despite the fact that you'd probably never choose to hang out with them if given the choice.

These stories could be fiction, fact, or a mixture of both. They all have a strong component of realism, along with a surprising amount of depth. Curtis Dawkins shows us the humanity within the cold, uncertain world where we lock away our problems.

*I receive an advance ebook from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.* ( )
  Darcia | Jul 11, 2017 |
First, thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster publishers for the opportunity to read and enjoy this e-book. This book caught my attention right from the start, and not easy to put down. Most readers like to read about prison life, and this book was a delightful way to accomplish that. Short stories, very quick to get into, and very easy to like. Some quite humorous, some more serious about the life and problems of prisoners. Author Dawkins has been imprisoned since 2005 so is telling these stories from the front line. I would definitely recommend this book by Dawkins to friends and family. ( )
  annwelton | Jan 14, 2017 |
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"In this stunning debut collection, Curtis Dawkins, an MFA graduate and convicted murderer serving life without parole, takes us inside the worlds of prison and prisoners with stories that dazzle with their humor and insight, even as they describe a harsh and barren existence. In Curtis Dawkins's first short story collection, he offers a window into prison life through the eyes of his narrators and their cellmates. Dawkins reveals the idiosyncrasies, tedium, and desperation of long-term incarceration--he describes men who struggle to keep their souls alive despite the challenges they face. In "A Human Number," a man spends his days collect-calling strangers just to hear the sounds of the outside world. In "573543," an inmate recalls his descent into addiction as his prison softball team gears up for an annual tournament against another unit. In "Leche Quemada," an inmate is released and finds freedom more complex and baffling then he expected. Dawkins's stories are funny and sad, filled with unforgettable detail--the barter system based on calligraphy-ink tattoos, handmade cards, and cigarettes; a single dandelion smuggled in from the rec yard; candy made from powdered milk, water, sugar, and hot sauce. His characters are nuanced and sympathetic, despite their obvious flaws. The Graybar Hotel tells moving, human stories about men enduring impossible circumstances. Dawkins takes readers beyond the cells into characters' pasts and memories and desires, into the unusual bonds that form during incarceration and the strained relationships with family members on the outside. He's an extraordinary writer with a knack for metaphor, and this is a powerful compilation of stories that gives voice to the experience of perhaps the most overlooked members of our society"--… (more)

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