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Haskell is expert at clarifying the moments when his characters feel estranged from themselves. The defiance of Haskell’s title is a form of self-denial echoed throughout most of these stories. He is so shrewd at depicting this sort of moment, that for him it is apparently sufficient to carry whole stories. Once he has achieved the revelation, he seems ready to end his story. If he has a deficiency, it’s his inability to convert his fascinations into whole pieces of writing that prove the artistic adequacy of his idea. If Haskell is desperate to show us how people hide from themselves and conspire against their own better interests, working as multiple identities in agonizing contexts—which is, after all, a familiar enough idea routinely explored, or dramatized, by many writers—then it’s upon him to make our experience of this idea immediate, visceral, and potently refreshed. Maybe it’s not upon him , but when the idea is centralized, as it is in Haskell’s work, and narrative is deliberately excluded, there is a risk when that idea does not seem novel.
Alabama Blues by Billy Hutchinson: This is the land of tornadoes, thunderstorms, scorching summers, packed churches, magnolias, kudzu, pecans, cicadas ...
We used to have gym together, I didn’t know him too well, and I never would. Those were the facts — no opinions, no emotions I could translate into ink on a page, touch, understand. The words were gone. I sat at my computer with my fingers on the keys, shaking, sweating, smudging, but there was nothing to say.
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