Macauley's Thumb (Iowa Short Fiction Award)

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9780877454434: Macauley's Thumb (Iowa Short Fiction Award)
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Lex Williford's seriously eccentric characters find that traveling down life's highway leads to the breakdown lane as quickly as it leads to the fast lane. Their quirky philosophy can best be summed up by Bucklin Rudd, who just lost his business and his wife after losing the last bit of his good sense: "Nothing like working half your life for something just to find out you think you're pretty damn sure you don't want it." The ten stories in Macauley's Thumb - set variously in Texas, Old and New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, and Illinois explore the complicated lives of disenchanted characters who find ways to express their grief at the losses they face under impossible circumstances, losses so large and so small that no one - not even Smiling Joe's Insurance - can cover them.
A husband and wife, unable to speak to each other without arguing, face the dissolution of their marriage when they smuggle his mother's body out of Mexico. Two boys, confronting abandonment by their father, go to the Texas State Fair and stumble upon a way to get their mother out of bed. Thomas "Hoot" Ponder and his nephew find common ground in whiskey and storytelling amid the comedy surrounding death and dying. A chiropractor who loves science fiction movies struggles with his sexual fantasies about one of his patients, a Wal-Mart cashier who can't stop talking about her pain. In the powerful title story, Cal Macauley - driven mad by his wife's horrible death - faces mourning, regret, and the inevitability of forgetting by striking out against himself and the rattlesnakes on his mountain.
Inarticulate until overwhelmed by trouble, then wise beyond belief, Lex Williford's characters achieve a dignified fatalism combined with a generous dose of fast-paced humor.

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About the Author:

Lex Williford teaches at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

From Kirkus Reviews:

An impressive and highly readable debut from the co-winner of the 1993 Iowa Short Fiction Award (see Manfredi, above). Each of the ten stories here is set in the Southwest, and each depicts the life of an emotionally befuddled, romantically disenfranchised man, but the collection is nevertheless remarkably diverse in point of view and content. In ``Taking Nonie Home,'' a man's mother dies in Mexico while his wife (enthusiastically) and he (reluctantly) shepherd her along the honeymoon route she took with her husband 50 years ago; as they work together to smuggle her now-decaying body back across the border, the wife decides she doesn't want to divorce her bewildered but effective husband after all. In the wonderful ``Fair Day,'' two stalwart little Texas boys whose father has left them go AWOL from school to win their mother a new car at the fair. In ``Hoot's Last Bubble Bath,'' a newly divorced young man helps his alcoholic Uncle Hoot care for dying, deranged Aunt Lily, until a woman Hoot met just before he married Lily comes along to care for all of them--becoming Hoot's next wife and also introducing the nephew to a pretty girl who will be his next. Romantically, the next best thing frequently--and gratifyingly--happens in the remaining tales, except in the closing title piece, when memories of a dead wife are all the sweet, nostalgic protagonist has left. A writer to watch. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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