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Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives: Stories…
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Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives: Stories

by Brad Watson

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Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
I read about three-quarters of the stories in this collection over the past year and as I don't plan to finish it, decided I would write a review now.

The stories in the collection could most easily be characterized as modern southern gothic. Their subjects are deeply dysfunctional families in deeply dysfunctional situations and often in deep pain. I started it a year ago and some of them are quite memorable. My back almost hurts thinking back to the boy who jumped off his roof onto a rocking horse or some such. And in another story I read months ago, I can still see the nearly feral girl who walks around with her headphones. Or the story about a dead woman's body.

Several of them were worth reading, but as one might follow from those descriptions, it did not feel to me like a collection that I, at least, wanted to read from beginning to end. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
It's been more than fifteen years since I first read Brad Watson's first story collection, THE LAST DAYS OF THE DOGMEN. Then I found it in my shelves a couple years ago and was just going to look briefly at the first story, and ended up reading the whole book again. Because Watson knows how to create a tiny universe unto itself in the space of just 15-20 pages. The art of the short story, done well, is a tough trick, but Watson has mastered it. He does it again with this collection, ALIENS IN THE PRIME OF THEIR LIVES.

Just twelve stories, and all of them pretty damn good, although there is a kind of vaguely unhappy "sameness" to several of them, presented as what seem to be childhood recollections varnished with a thin but skillful veneer of invention; or tales of faltering marriages or relationships. Good FICTION, actually.

The three unnamed brothers in "Vacuum" seem unworried about the unstable nature of their parents' marriage, and you get the impression that they'll survive, no matter what happens. In "Water Dog God" you get Maeve, a wild child victim of incest, who shows up out of the wood with a pack of dogs. "Carl's Outside" gives us another child coping in the shadow of a troubled marriage. "Alamo Plaza" recounts a long-ago family vacation on the Gulf Coast recalled years later by the middle child. "Visitation" is what it sounds like, a divorced father trying to make his weekends with his son meaningful.

If I had to pick one weak story it would be "Fallen Nellie," the shortest, and a rather gruesome one that brought to mind Jim Crace's novel, BEING DEAD, a book I didn't particularly love.

The strongest story is, I think, the title one, about two teenagers, the girl pregnant, with strange overtones of the supernatural or, perhaps better, "alien" worlds. It's a damn fine story which may leave you scratching your head wondering what was real and what was imagined.

I thoroughly enjoyed Watson's stories. He's still got it. If you like a good short story, you'll like this book. I'll recommend it. ( )
  TimBazzett | May 19, 2014 |
I read about three-quarters of the stories in this collection over the past year and as I don't plan to finish it, decided I would write a review now.

The stories in the collection could most easily be characterized as modern southern gothic. Their subjects are deeply dysfunctional families in deeply dysfunctional situations and often in deep pain. I started it a year ago and some of them are quite memorable. My back almost hurts thinking back to the boy who jumped off his roof onto a rocking horse or some such. And in another story I read months ago, I can still see the nearly feral girl who walks around with her headphones. Or the story about a dead woman's body.

Several of them were worth reading, but as one might follow from those descriptions, it did not feel to me like a collection that I, at least, wanted to read from beginning to end. ( )
  jasonlf | Dec 22, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
"[T]he inexplicable everyday, the oddness of being, the senseless belonging to this and not that." This line, from the story "Alamo Plaza," seems to sum up the outlook of the disaffected characters in Brad Watson’s Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives.

I picked this book up thinking it would be similar to the quirky hipster tales of Kelly Link, Karen Russell or Aimee Bender, so I was surprised to find a collection that shared more in common with the subtle, disquieting stories of Raymond Carver. That being said, I suspect I'm one of the few people out there who doesn't really "get" Carver, so perhaps the comparison shouldn't be viewed as great praise coming from me.

Watson’s prose is spare and perfectly distilled to create a vague, low grade tension throughout each piece. There often seems to be something lurking just outside the margins, something unspoken and potentially appalling. Something that exists always just beyond the reader’s peripheral vision. My favorite piece, "Terrible Argument," about the rapid disintegration of a marriage after one strange and violent episode, is told from the point of view of the couple’s bewildered and melancholy dog. Another, "Fallen Nellie," relates the unfortunate history of the corpse of a young woman lying about ten feet from a hiking trail. The author focuses his lens on the minutiae of his character’s lives, while the larger, and ostensibly more important issues, like racism, adultery, divorce, domestic violence, rape, incest, murder, serve as a backdrop or a by-product, kind of blurry and slightly surreal. This makes the experience of reading the stories more like scientific observation, as opposed to emotional engagement. I suspect this is the author’s intent.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Watson still manages to insert scattered moments of dry, offbeat humor. Particularly in "The Misses Moses," in which a would be renter is doted upon by two spinster sisters or the opener, "Vacuum," wherein all hell breaks loose when a depressed mother of three nearly falls for the charms of an opportunistic neighbor. Ultimately though, both tales end on a poignant note.

I tend to shy away from contemporary short fiction, finding it more difficult to connect with than novel-length works. However, I approached Watson’s work with an open mind and was rewarded with a collection that was both atmospheric and thought provoking. ( )
  blakefraina | Sep 7, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The thread that linked this set of stories was that the author came across as trying too hard. Flannery O'Connor made it look easy, Brad Watson does not. The thing that stuck with me most after reading this book is how in the very first story, "Vacuum", the use of offensive language for the sake of atmosphere seemed cheap and gratuitous and that sense colored all the pieces that followed. ( )
  themockturtle | Dec 16, 2010 |
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To Jason and Owen
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The mother told the boys that she was much unappreciated in this house.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393057119, Hardcover)

Finalist for the 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction: "Watson's talent is singular, truly awesome; [his stories] are infused with an uncanny beauty."—A. M. Homes

In this, his first collection of stories since his celebrated, award-winning Last Days of the Dog-Men, Brad Watson takes us even deeper into the riotous, appalling, and mournful oddity of human beings.

In prose so perfectly pitched as to suggest some celestial harmony, he writes about every kind of domestic discord: unruly or distant children, alienated spouses, domestic abuse, loneliness, death, divorce. In his masterful title novella, a freshly married teenaged couple are visited by an unusual pair of inmates from a nearby insane asylum—and find out exactly how mismatched they really are.

With exquisite tenderness, Watson relates the brutality of both nature and human nature. There’s no question about it. Brad Watson writes so well—with such an all-seeing, six-dimensional view of human hopes, inadequacies, and rare grace—that he must be an extraterrestrial.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:37 -0400)

A collection of stories explores every kind of domestic discord: unruly or distant children, alienated spouses, domestic abuse, loneliness, death, and divorce.

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393057119, 0393338851

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