Bull Head

This one’s a little bit different from things I’ve reviewed so far.  This is my first short story collection review, but I will still be dealing with it like a regular novel.

As these stories are short, I’ll keep this review short, too.

The collection contains 8 stories, all centering on characters isolated from larger society and city life, all living in the unforgiving world of small towns or work camps.  The focus of the collection is predominantly on men – men with vulnerabilities and welling violence, men in emotionally taut situations, men who have made bad choices and continue to do so, men who know there’s something wrong but cannot articulate it or figure out how to change it.  There is one story in the eight that follows a female protagonist, but it can almost be said that she’s just a different perspective on another male protagonist.

The cover photo is beautiful and captures the essence of the stories so well.  Two pitbulls locked in combat, mouths unhinged, but their eyes cut off at the top, cast in a stark, unplaced field.  It’s violence stripped of identity, raw and unforgiving.  It’s the engine that powers the stories from beneath.

John Vigna knows the inner workings of people extremely well.  His stories are character-driven, and showcase a talent of realizing human emotion you don’t often come across.  His stories have extraordinary depth, packaging complex ‘human’ into his characters while keeping the surface narrative clear and coherent.  They’re intelligent but say what they have to say with restraint and nuance.

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and definitely the best I’ve read in 2016 so far!

Could not recommend enough.  It’s not often that one comes across short stories as powerful and efficient as these ones.

As always, thanks for reading 🙂