Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Men In the Making

By Bruce Machart
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 190 pgs
From my personal library
Rating: Yeah.....okay

Someone or something dies in every one of these stories; more often than not it's a person, sometimes a opossum.

Men In the Making is a slim volume of 10 short stories by Bruce Machart. Each story considers a defining event in the life of a blue collar man. These men pull the second shift at the oil refineries south of Houston; shoot logs through the mills in the Piney Woods; and drive delivery trucks full of bio-waste from a hospital, in one memorable case. These men are trying to figure out how to be blue collar men in a world that finds them lacking. It is no longer enough to be the men their fathers were. Now they have to be that man plus a man that shares his feelings and shops for groceries and takes his daughter to gymnastics. Most of the men in these stories are trying but I don't have much patience for this sort of thing. You know what? Boo hoo, suck it up.

I enjoyed some of these stories but the collection in sum is disappointing. There's nothing new here.  Mr. Machart is talented but has a way to go still. I will follow his work. He has potential. That said, there were a couple of stories I liked very much. "The Only Good Thing I've Heard" is about a husband trying to find a path out of the fear, anger and soul-sadness of a late-term miscarriage for himself and his wife. This story is delicate and hesitant and warm and reminds me of honey. The next story I like is "Among the Living Amidst the Trees." This story recalls a horrific crime that took place in East Texas when actual evil showed up and tied a black man to the bumper of it's pickup and dragged him behind it until all that was left of that man was grease. This story explores how a man in the making who calls this town home would face such a horror, especially when the national media arrives and holds a mirror up for him to see.

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