cover image One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist

One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist

Dustin M. Hoffman. Univ. of Nebraska, $19.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-8032-8854-6

In his debut collection, Hoffman digs into the lives of blue-collar workers%E2%80%94including house painters, tour guides, and firemen%E2%80%94and average joes to craft 16 tales of success and failure. Suburban subdivisions take center stage in many of the stories, as workers attempt to construct fountains ("One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist") and avoid fist fights ("Sawdust and Glue"), and thieves try to steal equipment to score some quick cash ("We Ride Back"). The best stories find the author subverting reader expectations. "Workmen's Compensation" is cleverly structured to resemble a list of instructions. In "Subdivision Accidents," a painter watches as coworkers gain special powers after losing fingers and arms. "Everything a Snake Needs" begins as a narrative about two feuding reptile salesmen, but transitions into a funny and touching story about working as a team. "Ice-Cream Dream" sees an ice cream truck driver caught in a turf war with other drivers disguised in Jimmy Carter masks, and "The Shepherd's Work" finds a shepherd trying to jump-start his wool business by increasing his flock, only to be constantly interrupted by random swordplay between strangers. Despite the often repetitive scenery, each story contains a unique spark of life, and the joy found on the page makes for a thoroughly memorable read. (Sept.)