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Her novels, Out After Dark and Fall, have already established Kai Maristed as an original voice, one of "clarity and terseness, a muscular language" (Los Angeles Times Book Review on Fall). Now, with this splendid collection of nine stories, she displays her mastery of the shorter form.
Horses are not a hobby but an obsession for some people, and these memorable fictions go to the heart of that relationship. Many of the characters here are intimately connected to the world of horses, caring for and riding and learning from them. Ultimately such individuals turn out to be outsiders in the sense that every one of us is: They insist on their own lives, lives that often lead them away from love or the law or common sense.
The book opens with a chilling narrative of a young woman's abduction and long-term captivity--perhaps the most disturbing since John Fowles's novel The Collector. Maristed manages even the most disturbing subjects with a sympathetic eye, ear, and heart. Her character's inner lives and the "real-world" events surrounding them are always written in perfect balance, and she captures the lives of people who are down on their luck, or riding high, without a hint of condescension.
The community in which horses are the bond, drawing together disparate women and men, is fictional territory that she has made her own, in the process bringing it into the larger world.
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Kai Maristed's Belong To Me has the true barn-reek of sweat and leather, hay and manure. Set in and around racetracks and the show-jump circuit, in knackers' vans and on struggling farms, these horse-haunted tales take as their epigraph some lines from Edwin Muir: "In the first moment we had never a thought / That they were creatures to be owned and used." As possessions, horses are the supreme token of money and class. For most people, they are mere "aesthetic symbols," as one character notes: "What bugs me is there's no purpose, no end, it's simply this inarticulate class ritual that just goes on and on--look at the getup you have to wear, like a pantomime. And what it all costs, what you could do with that money--it's so egocentric!"
And yet, like the horses in Muir's poem, Maristed's animals are also fundamentally strange, charged with inchoate longing, like figures from one of our least interpretable dreams. In several of these stories, horses figure only as the vocabulary with which characters discuss what they can't quite put into words. And then there is "The Blue Horse," a harrowing tale of abduction and abuse that makes The Collector look like a children's story. The blue ungulate makes only the briefest of appearances, but he manages nonetheless to embody all the narrator's longings for freedom and affection.
If all this equine symbolism sounds heavy-handed, it's not; Maristed's characters are too thoroughly imagined for that. What's more, she has a rare knack for quickening a reader's pulse, as when a kidnapper stalks his victim or a rider jumps his way through a particularly difficult combination. Terse, unsentimental, frequently disturbing, these are fictions not just about horses but about obsessions and the dark places they breed. --Mary ParkFrom the Back Cover:
"A taut, bizzare, and lovely book you will enjoy a long time after you've read it."
--Andre Dubus on Out After Dark
Advance praise for Belong to Me
"These are spirited, unusual stories, dark with obsession and rich in
character: a pleasure to read."
--Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and Other Stories,
winner of the National Book Award
"Maristed's stories explore human will and desire in taut, unflinching realism. Her voice sparkles with racetrack know-how and idioms, but her work is always driven by an unflagging lyric vision."
--Maria Flook, author of My Sister Life
-- Praise for Fall --
"There is no doubt in my mind that Kai Maristed is a real talent and an accomplished storyteller."
"Kai Maristed is a stunning writer: Reading her, you feel absolutely gripped. In Fall, an unsparing glimpse of the tough, gritty world behind the glamour of the horse show, she creates characters so real that you practically hear them draw breath. I'll be a hopelessly addicted Maristed fan forever."
--X. J. Kennedy
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Book Description Random House, 1998. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0679444106