cover image Big Picture

Big Picture

Percival Everett. Graywolf Press, $12.95 (156pp) ISBN 978-1-55597-238-7

Rodeo riders and sensitive artistes pepper these disparate stories, some of which sing while others creak. Author of Zulus and God's Country, Everett is at his best when he reaches beyond the protagonist's self-study and gives other characters stage time. His strengths coalesce wonderfully in ""Wolf at the Door."" Here, the writer's descriptive acuity and storytelling panache have a real plot to hang on, and he captures the complexity of emotions when a father pressures his son to shoot a wolf the boy admires: ""Hiram raised the Weatherby and lined up a shot. The wolf didn't move, his eyes were as unyielding as his father's. He squeezed off the round and watched as the startled animal had only enough time to change the expression in his eyes. The wolf looked at Hiram and asked why, then fell over dead.... Hiram turned to his still-smiling father and said, `I hate you.'"" This memory preys on the grown up Hiram, now a country vet who faces a similar situation when the locals needlessly stalk a mountain lion. This story is so captivating it's hard to believe the same writer could product a piece as dismal as ""Cerulean."" This, the collection's weak start, depicts a painter who does a lot of yogurt-eating and smug introspection about the creative process (""What's your relationship with the color blue?'). The two-dimensional girlfriend character seems to exist only to resuscitate the precious artist. Lines such as ""I think I try to find spirits when I work"" or ""There's a lot of power in your work"" typify the sort of thinly disguised self-praise permeating ""Cerulean."" Although this story caves in on itself, others steer clear of abstract self-preoccupation and make for good reading. (May)