Contemporary American, E.J. Runyon, Ethnic American, Gender Identity, Gender Studies, Giveaway, Giveaway Hop, Giveaways, Latin American, Lesbian Lit, LGBT, Monthly Review, Regionalism, Sexuality, Short Story

Review: Claiming One by E.J. Runyon

14576593Claiming One by R.J. Runyon
Final Verdict: 3.75 out of 4.0
YTD: 23

Full Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Inspired Quill, with whom I have a working relationship; however, I was not in any way involved in the editing, publishing, marketing, proofing, or submission review process for this book.  In fact, I only received a copy because the editor-in-chief mentioned that this writer comes recommended by Catherine Ryan Hyde, who is a favorite writer of mine, so she thought I might like to take a look.

The collection is made up of seventeen short stories of varying length, some of which deal with the same characters and all of which deal with the same general region (southwestern United States / southern California) and the same type of people (struggling poor/working-class ethnic and sexual minorities).  Most of the stories are incredibly interesting and well-written.  There were a few stories in the bunch which did sometimes feel stressed or project-like, reminding me a bit of a bad hair day (not that the stories were bad, but that one starts with a good head of hair and, no matter how you tease it, yank it, or play with it, it just will not do what you want it to do).  That being said, these few stressed stories were definitely the exception, not the rule.  In fact, I wrote a ranking next to each story in the index (Poor, Good, Very Good, Great) and of the seventeen stories, only two were anything other than Good.

What struck me first about the writing is the narrative voice.  It is distinct, commanding, and engaging.  The first story, “The Giant Rubber Gorilla,” opens the collection with a perfect sense of what is to come. The reader quickly recognizes these people who will be explored, the situations that might be examined, and the tone which can be expected throughout.  Similarly, the collection closes with “Dandruff as Tall as Donald Duck,” which, in conjunction with the lengthier story which immediately preceded it, was a great way of wrapping-up the collection, reminding the reader of its major themes and the general determination of these people to survive, despite the perpetual road blocks placed in their way.

Some of the stories went even beyond good story telling.  “Mother’s Tongue” and “Secrets of the Days and Nights,” for example, were stand-outs in their creative approach and in the slight inkling toward hopefulness they emulated, which is not an overarching theme in this collection.  The stories work together the way a great fashion show should:  The collection has a primary theme, it starts with bang, and then has its lulls and explosions throughout, and finally ends with a reminder of what the collection was all about, leaving the memory of it strong in the mind.  Each story, like each piece in a fashion collection, simultaneously stands on its own and fits into the larger theme of the work.  In this case, the theme is a restless disappointment among a class of people on the margins.  There is a small, flickering light of hope that blinks throughout, meek but ever-present.

My personal favorites were the stories about Duffy and her family.  They were the most powerful and seemed to work almost like the back-bone of the collection. It would be very interesting to see Duffy and the others in her life appearing again in future collections.

With this first collection, Runyon is following in the tradition of the great regional American writers.   Flannery O’Connor, John Fante, Bret Harte, and Sinclair Lewis all wrote stories about a particular group of people in a particular region of the United States, and their stories stayed true to the people and their particular plights and successes.  The triumph of their stories was due in part to the writers’ craftsmanship and vision, but also to the honesty of the narrative which grounded the fictive worlds deeply in reality.

If Runyon continues to write about this world and these people, we might be witnessing the start of a very special body of work.  E.J. Runyon is a new writer to watch, and I applaud Inspired Quill for recognizing this talent and taking a chance on sharing it with the world.

Events, Gay Lit, GLBT, Green Carnation Prize, Lesbian Lit, LGBT, Literary Others Event

The Green Carnation Reading Project

Hello, Readers!

I wanted to share some information about The Green Carnation Prize.  This might be of particular interest to those who participated in last month’s “Literary Others” reading event.  I’m also working with a group of book bloggers on a “Green Carnation Project.”  Essentially, we’re reading the short-listed books, talking about them, and posting our reviews – and those reviews will be going up next week!

About The Green Carnation Prize:

“The Green Carnation Prize is a literary prize for any form of the written word by an LGBT writer. The prize got off to a great start in 2010 as the first award that celebrated the best fiction and memoirs by gay men. It provoked debate, produced an intriguing shortlist and chose a worthy winner in Christopher Fowler’s ‘Paperboy’. In 2011 it was followed by Catherine Hall’s ‘The Proof of Love’” (the prize also “opened itself to any LGBT author worldwide” in 2011).

About The Green Carnation Reading Project:

As many of you know, I was a panelist for this year’s LGBTQ Category of the Independent Literary Awards.  One of the other panelists contacted me with the idea of reading the books that had been short-listed for the Green Carnation Prize, conversing about them, posting reviews for them, and sharing our thoughts with our readers.  It sounded like a great idea to me, so I hopped board!  All of the books on the short-list this year sound good to me (seriously), so I’m excited to be a part of this and to hopefully share with you all (and the readers of the other project members’ blogs) some great new books/authors!

The Project Readers:

Cass of Bonjour Cass

Jodie of Book Gazing

Ana of Things Mean A Lot

Mat of MatLee Reviews

Adam of Roof Beam Reader

The Short List:

Jack Holmes and his Friend – Edmund White (Read by Adam. Review Date: Dec. 3rd)

Scenes from Early Life – Philip Hensher (Read by Ana. Review Date: Dec. 4th)

A Perfectly Good Man – Patrick Gale (Read by Mat. Review Date: Dec. 5th)

Carry The One – Carol Anshaw (Read by Cass. Review Date: Dec. 6th)

Moffie – Andre Carl Van Der Merwe (Read by …. Review Date: Dec. 7th) *We are looking for someone who would be interested in reading this book in the next few days and reviewing it by December 7th or 8th.  If you’re interested, please comment or e-mail me!

Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Before He Stole Me Ma – Kerry Hudson (Read by Jodie. Review Date: Dec 8th)

We are all really looking forward to discussing these books, sharing our thoughts with you all, and waiting impatiently to see who will win the prize (will we be able to predict the winner!?).  Hope you all enjoy the ride!  🙂