“If Eudora Welty wrote SF”

Thu 20 Jul 2017 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Leave a Comment | Posted by: Gavin

Telling the Map by Christopher RoweI really liked Craig Laurance Gidney’s short take on Christopher Rowe’s new collection, Telling the Map, “If Eudora Welty wrote SF, it might look like this. . . .”

The first reviews have been strong, including Gary K. Wolfe in the Chicago Tribune (“Rowe is endlessly inventive in presenting us worlds that are often dystopian, sometimes funny, but always original — and completely his own.”) and Nisi Shawl in the Seattle Review of Books (“Delightfully strange, these ten stories transport readers to futures full of sentient cars pining for their owners, automated horses, and tomatoes grown to give blood transfusions — an odd and interesting and deceptively bucolic setting for the narration of some astonishing events.”).

But the most enjoyable, perhaps because the take on it was so unanticipated, was Brit Mandelo’s in Tor.com. Of course I knew Brit had a Kentucky connection but this is where that ever-new chestnut, representation, rears its head. White, middle-aged college professors are maybe the only demographic (ok, and cops) used to seeing themselves or their lives regularly represented in fiction. For the rest of us it’s catch as catch can. Brit writes about this moment of wonder: where they saw the place they had lived picked up and looked at from unexpected angles, from a full and generous local perspective, where familiar locations and events were there on the page, but made new. All of which made the review a gift to me the reader, to see someone find a version of themselves or their life on the page.

I was recently reading an obituary in the local paper — it was someone I didn’t know — and it is so hard to try and capture what makes a person the love of someone’s life, what they loved, why they did the things they did. Fiction at least gives us the idea that we might be able to understand people far from us — and next door — and why they are living the lives they’ve chosen (or been thrust into). Anyway, here’s a chunk of Brit’s review, but I recommend you read the whole thing at the mighty tor.com:

“[T]here is one other consistent thread running through the entirety of the collection, and that is setting. In Telling the Map, Rowe has rendered Kentucky over and over again with a lush, loving, bone-deep accuracy—one that startled and thrilled me so thoroughly, as a fellow native son, that I had to read the book through twice to begin to form a critical opinion. . . . Across these stories, the drive to achieve and to exceed is a common factor. . . . Overall, though, this was a stellar set of stories that mesh well together. . . . Truly, Rowe’s skill at shifting the weirdness of the Appalachian South—the odd border state that Kentucky is—to a magic realist or scientifically fantastical future is singular and impressive. The result for a native reader is a feeling akin to awe, or perhaps just homecoming, but I suspect the result wouldn’t differ much for an unfamiliar audience either. If anything, the depth and breadth of comfort with a not-often-accessed culture and setting makes these stories fresh and engaging. It’s home for me; it might be a provocative unexplored landscape for someone else—but regardless, Rowe’s facility with language, description, and emotional arcs makes for a solid, intentional, and satisfying collection of short fiction.”

If you live in the southeastern part of the US you may see our above ad on your local bookseller’s website, see North Carolina’s Park Road Books or Malaprop’s for example. Indies are us! B&N, Books a Million, & other chains: also ok! Online behemoths who want to relentlessly squish all other businesses, feh!


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