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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Currently reading

Visible Empire
Hannah Pittard
The Deptford Trilogy
Robertson Davies
Life on Mars
Jennifer Brown
The Family Under the Bridge
Natalie Savage Carlson

Bear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories (Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction)

Bear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories - Melinda Moustakis

Bear Down, Bear North is a masterfully written collection of stories. Melinda Moustakis shows off her prowess of voice and perspective.  These stories, which are connected to one another in person and place, are written in first person (both singular and plural), third person, and even (thrice) second person. Moustakis is able to write in each of these and through the eyes of each of her characters with smooth precision.  While some of the perspectives are jarring, as a reader, to step into, they are done with great skill.  Moustakis understands the voice of these characters and does her best to deliver them in a way the reader will understand.

The overall feel of each story is poetic. The language is sparse and musical, but the book's poetic nature does not end there. There is a resonance that reminds the reader of poetry. These pieces are economical, with every word chosen carefully; they paint a picture, not so much a story, that leaves the reader with thoughts and emotions, but little plot to hold onto.

Despite the book's poeticism and Moustakis' smooth style, these stories are gritty. You'll walk away with a feeling that there is dirt grinding away at your teeth. You'll check your fingernails for grime. You'll want to trample on the carcass of a dead animal, strip naked, and pray that the rain will come and drench your miserable soul.  Part of you may wish you were in Alaska, roughing it yourself, but what would be the need? Moustakis has already taken you there.