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I have totally dropped the Words on Wednesday gig, and I’m sorry about that. I have been editing (my job), monitoring (Bailey), and getting out and about with Bailey.

So here’s the low down: I’m reading Daniel Woodrell’s short story collection “The Outlaw Album“. Daniel (can I call him Dan? I’ll do it without his consent) Woodrell is the author of “Winter’s Bone”, which as you may recall was turned into a flick, which starred Jennifer Lawrence, and which pushed her into stardom. Winter’s Bone is a good book, and you should read it, and I won’t give you a reason to right now, but if you liked “The Road” and “No Country For Old Men” you’ll like it. It’s called Country Noir, but that seems trite.

The Outlaw Album is a collection of short stories, and contains a portion of “Woe to Live On” which was also a movie called Ride With The Devil (Toby Maguire as Dutchy). Woodrell weaves tales in the first person with a clever pen. Damned near everybody is an unreliable narrator. The girl caring for her pedophile uncle? Unreliable. The Iraq war vet? Unreliable. The store owner? More of the same. All of these people have something hidden, and you can tell it ain’t good. Even the guy who does what sounds like a justifiable homicide has some issues.

Dan (see, I’m already on a shortened first name basis with this guy and we haven’t even met) reveals a good bit of truth in these short works. Everybody has blood or dirt on their hands. Everybody. Even the good guys, who are only slightly good, and then only sometimes.

I’m glad short stories are still written. Not because I can’t be bothered with reading a novel (damned that One Hundred Years of Solitude and anything by Dostoevsky). Because it takes a keen talent to craft a story in such a short span of space. That’s talent, and oddly enough Dan Woodrell has it. Did I mention he was a veteran? And a high school dropout, who eventually went to college and Iowa Writer’s. See, it’s not really talent, it’s practice. The talent is in the observation, and that is also what Dan does well. They can’t teach that at Iowa WW. That takes practice also. And a life.

Do I agree with the Country Noir label?

Hell. I don’t know. I think magical realism is a bunch of b.s., and if they want to label this fine, but at least it’s believable. Seriously. I could see a girl pushing her paralyzed pervert uncle off a bridge and into a river to drown.



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