Saturday, August 11, 2007

Richard Lange

Richard Lange is the author of Dead Boys, his debut collection of short stories published this month by Little, Brown.

T.C. Boyle, George Pelecanos, Alice Sebold, Scott Wolven, Scott Smith, Michael Connelly, Chris Offutt, Anthony Doerr, and Daniel Woodrell number among those with early, enthusiastic endorsements for Dead Boys.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I’m currently reading three books. First is Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. I think you’re supposed to have read this at 12, but I didn’t. In fact, this is my first Dickens novel. And you know what? I’m glad I waited, because now I can really appreciate what a feat this is. While the plot chugs along like an old steam engine – a bit creaky, but charming in its music-box complexity – the characters are utterly human, drawn with much love and great insight into human nature, which, if this book is any indication, hasn’t changed much in the years since. It’s like visiting some insanely-detailed Victorian-themed amusement park – pure entertainment.

Next is a collection of stories, Heaven Lies About Us, by Eugene McCabe. The stories are set in the border counties of Ireland, the characters mainly rural folk, but these are not pastoral tales of bucolic country life. McCabe shines a bright light on the various webs that ensnare these people; the many enmities – ancient and modern, private and political – that set them at one another’s throats. It’s English against Irish, loyalist against rebel, Protestant against Catholic, and, finally, brother against brother and mother against son. The prose is simple and direct, the sociology mind-boggling, especially to an outsider. I keep thinking of Iraq as I read this, with its occupying army, warring religious sects and tribal grudges. Man, we certainly stirred up a hornet’s nest.

Finally, there’s Fat City, by Leonard Gardner. His first and only book. Originally published in 1969, it chronicles with staggering empathy the foibles of a group of bottom-tier boxers and trainers in ‘50s Stockton, CA. This is 24 chapters packed full to bursting with the sad poetry of ordinary life and dialogue that kills. You don’t have to be a boxing fan to enjoy the book, just human. We are inside these men’s heads as they work, train, fight, drink and fall in and out of what passes for love in this world. Their small victories thrill us, their great failures bring us to our knees. Gardner doesn’t waste a word in his terse yet gorgeous descriptions of skid row flophouses, musty gyms and sun-baked tomato fields, but he gives us absolutely everything we need. I haven’t been this moved by a book in years, and these characters will haunt my dreams forever.
Read more about Dead Boys at the Little, Brown website, and check out Lange's brief essay "Taking The Long Way 'Round" about how twenty years of hard work at writing finally paid off with the publication of Dead Boys.

Read "Fuzzyland," one of the stories from the collection.

Visit Lange's website and the MySpace page for Dead Boys.

--Marshal Zeringue