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The nine stories in Pale Moon are products of the OU English Department s creative writing workshops. The four writers are friends and classmates, but the style and content of their stories vary greatly. Take Browning s shorts Taylor s, Bedtalk and 15. The three stories are written in the voices of young guys who live and work in college towns. Browning s characters are sarcastic and nonchalant, and drop plenty of masculine anecdotes. The stories are to-the-point, vivid accounts of conflicts with women, and they will resonate with younger readers who are familiar with barfly banter and mascara-eyed emo people who play sad bastard acoustic music at coffee shops. Browning s stories are solid, Bukowski-esque looks into the lives of Average-Dude USA, though for the most part, they don t transcend the geography and nuance of a college town. As soon as you feel like you re stuck on a barstool at Tony s, however, Crandall s two pieces lift you up into a low-flying, crop-dusting airplane and drop you off somewhere in Nowheresville, where farmers and drunk handymen are getting by on not much at all. Crandall is precise, and his stories are consuming. Crop Dusting gives first-person voices to five rural characters: two rain-dancing farmers who recently lost a family member to an overseas war, a crop-duster airplane pilot, and two notoriously drunk brothers who volunteer to be strapped to the wings of the crop-duster and drop pesticide on the farmland. Do the math. Great story. Crandall s Moth Girl is just as strange and rural. It s told from the perspective of a quiet girl who can t understand why her classmates must have 34-packs of crayons while she only needs a 12-pack. She s not satisfied with the ridiculous names given to the crayons in the frivolous 34-packs, and her many anecdotes about current events, God and various wildflowers prove that she is frighteningly intelligent despite her dialect and poverty. Crandall s characters and settings are convincing and realistic, but reality seems to fade when Pivarnik and Yingling take over the last pages of Pure Moon. Pivarnik does not shy away from writing God as a central character in his smart and sentimental story, Sunset, and having the main character of Special Delivery open his apartment door to find a refrigerator-sized box full of nothing but post-modern irony isn t too much to ask of his readers imaginations either. Yingling s only literary contribution to Pale Moon, a short story titled What it Tastes Like, closes out the collection with a touching stroke of magical realism. The story questions memory, truth, love and reality with vivid images and hard-hitting details about a fight between two lovers gone wrong. Yingling s characters are as real and honest as the setting they find themselves in, but the story proves that nothing can be too real when you re hiding from the truth.
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