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Burning Bright: Stories by Ron Rash

Burning Bright: Stories (edition 2011)

by Ron Rash

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2281250,815 (4.07)22
Title:Burning Bright: Stories
Authors:Ron Rash
Info:Ecco (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library, Fiction

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Burning Bright: Stories by Ron Rash



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An excellent collection of short stories by a powerful voice from Appalachia.
Ron Rash was an author new to me, but now I know that I'd like to read anything else by him as his simple, spare, and penetrating style really appeals to me.

These twelve stories open a window on life in a part of the world not too often looked at. One of my favourites - "Dead Confederates" - is about two labourers, one trying to exploit the other in a search for lucrative buried artifacts in the graves of Confederate servicemen. Here's a flavour:

'He shuts up for a moment then, because he's starting to realise how easy it all sounds, and how much money I might start figuring to be my share. He lays his big yellow front teeth out on his lower lip, worrying his mind to figure a way to take back some of what he just said.'

'"Course they ain't going to pay near the price I showed you on them sheets. We'll be lucky to get half of that."..."Just wait for a clear night, and a big old Harvest Moon.," Wesley says, looking up at the sky like he might be expecting one to show up any minute. "That and keep your mouth shut about it. I've not told another person about this and I want it to stay that way."'
'"I'll loosen the dirt and you shovel it away," Wesley gasps, veins sticking out on his neck like there's a noose around it. "We can get it out faster that way."

Funny you didn't think of that till it was your turn to dig, I'm thinking, but that dog has set loose the fear in me more than any time since we drove up. I take the shovel and we're making the dirt fly, Wesley doing more work in fifteen minutes than he's done in twelve years on the road crew.'

In "Burning Bright" an east Tennessee rancher's widow comes to the heartbreaking realisation that her quiet and hard-working second husband could be the local arsonist setting fires in the peak of a drought.

'The worst drought in a decade, the weatherman had said, showing a ten-year chart of August rainfalls. As if Marcie needed a chart when all she had to do was look at her tomatoes shrivelled on the vines, the corn shucks grey and papery as a hornet's nest. She stepped off the porch and dragged a length of hose into the garden, its rubber the sole bright green among the rows, grasping the hose just below the metal mouth, as if it were a snake that could bite her. When she finished she looked at the sky a last time and went inside. She thought of Carl, wondering if he'd be late again. She thought about the cigarette lighter he carried in his front pocket, a wedding gift she'd brought him in Gatlinburg.'

In "Waiting For the End of the World" a divorced part-time copy proofer plays guitar at a local roadhouse. His ex-wife's father is out to catch him doing something, anything, with his time that can be used against him - ("We're just getting some additional evidence as to your parental fitness.") so turns up at the gig ready to provoke a fight.

'And speaking of gene pools, I suddenly see Everette Evans, the man that, to my immense regret, is twenty-five percent of the genetic makeup of my son. He's standing in the doorway, a camcorder in his hands. Everette lingers on Hubert a few seconds, then the various casualties of the evening before finally honing in on me.'
"What are you up to, Everette?" I say.
"What's the problem, Devon?" Hubert says, walking over from the bar.
"This man's working for National Geographic," I tell Hubert. "They're doing a show on primitive societies, claiming people like us are the missing link between apes and humans."
"That's a lie," Everette says, his eyes on Hubert's ball bat.'

These are stories of neglect and want, war secrets and hard times and strokes of luck. Whether they are set in an 1860s Boone smallholding, or 1945 Charlotte welcoming home a returning soldier, or are about middle-class meth addicts in Smoky Mountains National Park; the places and characters that Ron Rash introduced to me will remain vivid in the memory. A very good collection. ( )
1 vote Polaris- | Aug 2, 2015 |
This is the second collection of Ron Rash stories that I've read, and it's even darker than the stories were in Nothing Gold.
The stories are vivid and gripping, but not the kind of stuff that his local Chamber of Commerce probably wants to be published. ( )
  dickmanikowski | Mar 2, 2015 |
I'm always looking for new short story collections, and several LTers recommended Ron Rash. While I can't say that he has become an instant favorite, I did appreciate these stories and will likely look for more of Rash's work in the future.

The stories are set in Appalachia, most of them in contemporary times, but one dates back to the Civil War and another, "Hard Times," to the Depression era. All of the characters struggle with poverty and the fast-changing times. A man joins a coworker in raiding Confederate graves for buckles and other artifacts that they can sell to collectors; it's the only way that he can pay his mother's hospital bill. A farmer tries to catch whoever or whatever has been stealing his eggs. A pawnbroker attempts to rid his aunt and uncle of their meth-addict son and his girlfriend. A young boy steals valuables from the dead bodies in a downed private plane to support his parents' meth habit. Rash presents these stories in a straightforward, no-nonsense, non-judgmental manner: his characters are simply living and surviving the lives they have been dealt as best they can. My only caution: don't read this is you're in the mood for something uplifting. While I empathized with most of the characters, their stories were often quite depressing. ( )
  Cariola | Jan 2, 2015 |
Spanning time from the Civil War through to the present, divided into two sections these short stories are gritty and real. All the people are going through some type of adversity, while through their own fault or just life's circumstances. Many are trying to recover something they have lost, trying to find a new path or have taken something that do not belong to them.

Rash's rendering of time and place is nothing short of astonishing. The details in these short stories make one feel that they are reading something that could be much longer, they are that complete. My favorite was the story "Back of Beyond" in which a mother refuses to give up on a son that has turned her and her husbands lives upside down, with dangerous results. This ran so true to me because often parents are blind to the foibles of their children, it's not his fault is something said by many. This story really resonated with me. Never can go wrong reading this author, his knowledge of Appalachia and its people is openly displayed in his many works. ( )
  Beamis12 | Apr 24, 2014 |
Short story capsules of poverty, choices, epiphany. ( )
  EhEh | Apr 3, 2013 |
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Captures the eerie beauty, stark violence, and rugged character of Appalachia in a collection of stories that spans the Civil War to the present day.

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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