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Fiction

Spring 2008

Salt Lick

Anyone familiar with Brian Ames’s three books of short stories—Smoke Follows Beauty, Head Full of Traffic, and Eighty-Sixed—will know that he’s a writer of imagination and depth. His stories explore the boundaries between everyday existence and the chaos that lurks beneath the surface of ordinary life. Some of his characters are shaken when they glimpse the reality that underlies the world of appearances, as when Dr. Mullenix, in “A Taste Like Fear” (SFB), discovers a murdered angel half buried at the edge of an African watering hole. Others slip through the fissures that open beneath their feet and are lost—sometimes literally, as in the title … » More …

Summer 2004

Prisoners of Flight

In Prisoners of Flight, Sid Gustafson’s veterinarian protagonist refers often to angels: “We haven’t heard from our angels in a long time. But they’re out there . . . waiting somewhere in the sky.”

Two ex-military pilots, Gustafson’s protagonist and his comrade, Henson, crash their plane into wilderness alongside Montana’s Flathead River. Former Vietnam POWs, they have wrestled with life’s trials ever since, holding to a single constant: a fierce longing for an idealized sky. Says Gustafson’s protagonist: “The flying rule is: When in doubt, do nothing. But I’m not flying anymore.” For indeed, Gustafson’s characters are themselves fallen forms of the angels they seek.

» More …

Summer 2007

Horses They Rode

Midway through Sid Gustafson’s new novel, Horses They Rode, I found myself put in mind of all the second chances I have had. His take on the reknitting of family, friendship, and one man’s tumultuous life is such a story—a tale of second chances where hope effervesces across a storyscape of high country, horse corrals, drunkenness, and regret that seems, at moments, irresolvable. It’s a wholly American novel, for of course, America is a land forgiving of first mistakes—where a shot at trying again is fair and right.

Wendel Ingraham, Gustafson’s protagonist, is a ranch hand who has roamed Washington State’s Inland Empire, Idaho’s panhandle, … » More …

Spring 2002

Breederman

Author Murray Anderson (’50 Dairy Husbandry) weaves his experiences as a herdsman, milk tester, milking machine salesman, artificial inseminator, and fieldsman into a novel that describes the struggle for survival of small farmers in northwest Washington.

In Breederman, Anderson takes readers back to the ’50s and ’60s, when every farm was a family farm, and farmers knew how many cows their neighbors had and how many pounds of milk they shipped.

The book grew out of a series of vignettes Anderson wrote about his experiences as an artificial inseminator.

“One of my goals was to capture the struggles of families to remain on the farm … » More …

Summer 2003

Smoke Follows Beauty

There’s a scene in “The Kanasket Chicken Killings” that illuminates a great deal of what Brian Ames (’85 Political Science) is up to in his collection of short stories, Smoke Follows Beauty. As he’s replacing the camshaft of a road grader, mechanic Henri DeLaat, trying to make sense out of what’s been happening on his farm, reduces the confusing events he’s been living through to a mathematical formula: “A, there are chickens going missing. B, it is probably the work of coyotes. C, coyotes can be stopped. D, how? A plus B plus C equals D, a simple equation.” Immediately, he drops a bolt into … » More …

Winter 2005

Head Full of Traffic

If his two latest short story collections are indicative, Brian Ames ’85 is a prolific writer of unsettling talent. Releasing both Head Full of Traffic and Eighty-Sixed: A Compendium of the Hapless in 2004, Ames packs 22-plus pieces into each collection. Granted, many of the works run only a few pages long, but these are stories brief only in word length.

In Head Full of Traffic, ostensibly labeled a collection of horror pieces, Ames skillfully adds his own flair to the genre. In “Carnival,” a crazed carnie imagines an apocalyptic Midway. “Weeb staggers away from the Fun House, swivels that cornpone head when he hears … » More …

Winter 2005

Eighty-Sixed: A Compendium of the Hapless

If his two latest short story collections are indicative, Brian Ames ’85 is a prolific writer of unsettling talent. Releasing both Head Full of Traffic and Eighty-Sixed: A Compendium of the Hapless in 2004, Ames packs 22-plus pieces into each collection. Granted, many of the works run only a few pages long, but these are stories brief only in word length. Rich language and dense atmospheres are Ames’s literary tools, and he manages to convey entire tableaus in single sentences. “He doesn’t fully comprehend meter or rhythm, only understands the voltage through his cortex, manifested in sudden spastic knee bouncing, rapid articulation, back and forth, … » More …