Basketball, Books, Reviews, Sports

Burning Sensation

06.21.06 | 1 Comment

After yesterday’s tech-fest, I thought today I’d talk about a book I finished up over the weekend: Scott Wolven’s collection of stories, Controlled Burn. I’d read a few of these stories when they appeared online – “Atomic Supernove”, for example, and “The Copper Kings” – so I knew this would be a good book, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Although subtitled “Stories of Prison, Crime, and Men”, some of the stories aren’t crime stories at all, and others only incidentally. They are really little slices of life. Wolven’s very patient with his plots – they tend to amble along – and there’s rarely a big payoff at the end. He writes about a permanent underclass who works hard but never gets ahead, men with dangerous jobs and difficult lives.

One thing that struck me about these stories is the sweep of time they encompass. In each we get the feeling that we’re reading only a chapter in a life. Most of those lives are bleak, unfolding like a road leading arrow-straight to the grave. There’s nowhere to turn onto a different path, and the only stops are liquor stores.

Wolven doesn’t seem interested in being hardboiled, but there is violence here, done by men who really don’t care what happens to them. By comparison, I have a story coming out later this year in which the main character is a bartender and bouncer. He gets punched by a college kid, loses his temper, and tosses the kid bodily from the bar.

In Wolven’s world, that kid would have ended up with cracked ribs and broken teeth. But I write from a middle-class perspective, and the character is a “fallen” middle-class kid himself.

(That’s not to say that Wolven is working-class himself – I don’t really know anything about him. But I think it’s fair to say that he writes from a working-class perspective.)

I bought the book at the local Half Price books, which means A) there’s someone else in Fort Worth that likes Scott Wolven, and B) it cost him a sale. Tell you what, Scott, if we ever meet I’ll just give you a fiver, and we’ll both come out ahead.

Mavericks update. I had a dream, and now that dream is gone from me. The Miami Heat finished off the Mavericks last night, winning the series thanks to the contributions of their three key players: Joe Crawford, Dick Bavetta, and Bennett Salvatore. If I say more, the league office will fine me $250,000, so I’ll shut up now.

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