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Despite the world's insecurities, the most common drama of all is not of apocalypse now, but of apocalypse deferred; the pain of living is having to wait it out. In Apocalypse Then, DeMarinis's characters try alcohol, they try travel, and (most of all) they try off-limits love. They find themselves in harm's way, or put themselves there--but in life, as the title story states, "sometimes the worst doesn't happen."
"The Art & Craft of the Short Story" explores every key element of short fiction, including: the generation of ideas, story structure and form, creative believable characters, how to begin and where to end. As well as technical aspects such as point of view, plot, description and imagery, and theme; examples from the work of a wide variety are used. The author includes five of his own stories to demonstrate these topics.
Traveling salesmen, small-time hustlers, hitchhikers, harried fathers, and sex-obsessed sons: Rick DeMarinis's stories take men at the end of their rope, then give them just enough line for things to get interesting. Style rhetoric drives a burned-out high school teacher to violence in "Wilderness"; answering a Help Wanted ad leads to disastrous results in "Billy Ducks Among the Pharaohs." In charting the downward arc of their character's lives, DeMarinis's smart, self-conscious tales run the gamut from experimental fables to down-to-earth realism. In "Insulation," for example, his protagonist has a genetic predisposition for being struck by lightning; the gently naturalistic "Voice of America," on the other hand, follows a 17-year-old boy who both loves and resents his promiscuous mother and dreams "of waking up as someone else, in a different place, where things were decent." Even those stories that begin as mere narrative exercises soon turn into things greater than the sum of their parts. "Romance: A Prose Villanelle," for example, crosses the preposterous conventions of a romance novel with the strict patterning of the villanelle (the famously difficult poetic form in which two lines are repeated at intervals throughout; think "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night"). The results are odd, hilarious, and curiously apt: "Silence slips into the bloated prose," one repeated passage tells us. "It invades each trumped-up scene.... It is there, smirking, when you begin, there in the middle, showing a wider grin, and it waits for you at the dead end--a surprise ending of dead paper, rustling with the last word." It's difficult for fiction to interrogate itself and engage the reader's sympathies, but DeMarinis pulls it off. In Borrowed Hearts, he shows himself one of the funniest and deadliest American writers at work today: a Flannery O'Connor for the Prozac age.
Gus Reppo's parents have everything figured out for their son, right down to the county where they hope he'll practice dentistry. And when they follow him to the air force base where he enlists--who else will make sure he's served adequate meals?--he realizes it's not going to be easy shaking off his kin, or their Mantovani obsession. After his mother introduces the possibility that his parents are not who they seem, Gus's life takes a turn for the weird, in this latest hilarious novel from American original DeMarinis.
Now in paperback, The Year of the Zinc Penny is a contemporary classic. Trygve Soren Napoli is a ten-year-old just beginning to realize that he is alone in the world. Certain inescapable quirks tip him off: He cannot stop himself from repeating aloud each of his sentences, even after his stepfather tapes his mouth shut. Strange black hairs grow from the back of his hand. He has a weird name, unlike the other kids in Los Angeles, his new home. Even the cousin he looks up to calls him crazy. He doesn't have a father, but then the country is in the middle of the biggest war ever, and a lot of kids are missing dads. His uncle drinks, and Trygve sees him hit Aunt Ginger, but then it was his uncle who gave him the roll of zinc pennies--and Uncle Gerald is the one who somehow manages to lay hand on the valuable copper wire needed to build an antenna for Trygve's shortwave radio, the boy's one sure link to the external world. The Year of the Zinc Penny is a masterful rendering of a young consciousness. From his war-hero daydreams, to his obsession with Bela Lugosi's Dracula, to his first encounters with sex and violence, to his disgust and fear at the depravity of the hodgepodge adults in his life,Trygve's search for meaning is one of contemporary literature's most compelling.
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