cover image The Bear Bryant Funeral Train

The Bear Bryant Funeral Train

Brad Vice, . . Univ. of Georgia, $24.95 (170pp) ISBN 978-0-8203-2745-7

The nine stories in this debut collection, set mostly in a well-drawn rural South, gorgeously examine loneliness and its companion, longing. Vice has a gift for making the extraordinary plausible, for rendering complex motivations in spare but metaphoric language and searing details. In the opening story, "Tuscaloosa Knights," a lonely young academic wife finds uneasy comfort in the arms of her husband's buddy-cum-fixer on a night when the Klan holds a cross-burning and escapees from a state asylum flee past them in their own white robes. "Chickensnake" depicts a disastrous day on a farm through the eyes of a boy working with his father, while "Mule" concerns a retired vice principal's discovery that he's competing with his wife's deceased first husband in a way he hadn't expected. In "Report from Junction," perhaps the strongest and most terrifying story, a rancher's son is buoyed by hope—and tangled in fear—at the thought of escaping a brutally demanding ranch life through a football scholarship under University of Alabama football icon Bear Bryant. The title story is a surprising tale of corporate espionage in some future time, grounded in the mythos of Bear Bryant, which ends this rich collection on a strange and fitting note of triumph. (Oct.)