What Salmon Know

Elwood Reid, Author
Elwood Reid, Author Doubleday Books $21.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-385-49121-1
Reviewed on: 08/02/1999
Release date: 08/01/1999
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-385-49122-8
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-0-307-43017-5
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-10871-4
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The depressing, destructive and self-destructive sides of American masculinity are Reed's territory in his first book of short fiction, whose 10 stories range in tone from downbeat pathos to violent, scorched-earth bleakness. While Reid's prose is always crisp and clear, his images striking and memorable, it can be hard to feel for his characters: many come across simply as obnoxious drunks. In the title story, set in Alaska, two sloshed salmon poachers start a fistfight with two equally despicable soldiers over a half-dead and bloodily mutilated fish. ""Kill the fucking fish, Marley says. Kill the fish or I'm gonna fillet your fucking ass!"" In ""Overtime,"" Drew, a factory foreman, forces a family man to stay late and run the presses, though he had planned to attend his daughter's volleyball game. After the girl is kidnapped and murdered, Drew blames himself. Everyone else blames him, too: he is ostracized, then fired, and slides into unemployment, divorce and alcoholism. ""All That Good Stuff"" is Reid's misguided attempt at satire: a group of addicts, drunks and depressives form a Man's Forum, and then a dysfunctional softball team, under the tutelage of an incompetent Iron John type. The humane, moving ""No Strings Attached"" is a welcome departure: its rough-and-ready male protagonist falls in love with a gentle woman and has to deal with her sad, disturbing secrets. As in his well-received novel of college football, If I Don't Six, Reid's upsetting plots and foul-mouthed, minimally self-aware characters place him in a worthy tradition of American fiction, one staked out by Stephen Crane, Hemingway and Raymond Carver. But even readers aware of Reid's lineage might long for a time-out from these stories' scathing action, or accuse him of unnecessary roughness. (Sept.) FYI: Anchor will simultaneously release If I Don't Six in paperback.
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