Set in the author's homeland of West Virginia, this panoramic collection of stories traces the people and animals who live in precarious balance in the mountains of Appalachia over a span of two hundred years, in a disappearing rural world. With omniscient narration, rich detail, and lyrical prose, Matthew Neill Null brings his landscape and characters vividly to life.Read more...
Set in the author's homeland of West Virginia, this panoramic collection of stories traces the people and animals who live in precarious balance in the mountains of Appalachia over a span of two hundred years, in a disappearing rural world. With omniscient narration, rich detail, and lyrical prose, Matthew Neill Null brings his landscape and characters vividly to life.
"Allegheny Front has few sentimental trappings. . . . Men's stubbornness is a rock face, in these intelligent and unpretentious stories, their anger a crown fire, their occasional tenderness a rill. . . . It remains at a distance from judgment, at a remove from easy definitions, unspooling a lucid and often painful history of appetite, exploitation, and bereavement."Lydia Millet, from the introduction
"Rich in history, speech, incident, flora, fauna, vernacular, geology, politicsMatthew Neill Null's work is dazzling. . . . If anything ever happened in the state of West Virginia, Null knows the long and short of it, and will make its story sing."Salvatore Scibona
Matthew Neill Null is the author of the novel Honey from the Lion (Lookout Books). A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, winner of the PEN/O. Henry Award and the Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, his short fiction has appeared in the Oxford American, Ploughshares, the Mississippi Review, American Short Fiction, Ecotone, and elsewhere. He divides his time between West Virginia and Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he coordinates the writing fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-03-07
- Reviewer: Staff
The deceptively powerful stories in Null’s first collection, after his debut novel, Honey from the Lion, create a map not only of the geography of rural West Virginia but also of its people. These are characters inhabiting places largely ignored by the outside world. In “Mates,” a man kills an endangered bald eagle on his land, believing himself to be above the law, and is then stalked and tormented by the eagle’s mate. In “Gauley Season,” a group of ex-miners turn to operating rafting companies after their mining jobs disappear, but the promising new industry quickly leads to tragedy. The rugged lives of a group of log drivers in the late 1800s are chronicled in “The Slow Lean of Time.” In the astonishing “Telemetry,” a young scientist’s camp on Back Allegheny Mountain is visited by a local man and his daughter, their presence forcing the scientist to confront her relationship to her own origins, which becomes a recurring theme in the collection. Violence is inevitable in these stories—guns are almost always present, and they aren’t just decoration—but there is plenty of beauty, too. Landscape is an essential element, as well as the constant presence of wild animals, but Null focuses on the ways that a setting can shape how we identify with the world. The scope of the collection contains voices from multiple generations, and the result is a kaleidoscopic portrait of a distinctive region of North America, as well as an exercise in finding the universal in the particular. (May)