A Washington Post Top 50 Fiction Book for 2014
In Mr.Tall, his first story collection in two decades, Tony Earley brings us seven rueful, bittersweet, riotous studies of characters both ordinary and mythical, seeking to make sense of the world transforming around them. He demonstrates once again the prodigious storytelling gifts that have made him one of the most accomplished writers of his generation.
In the title story, a lonely young bride terrifyingly shares a remote mountain valley with a larger-than-life neighbor, while the grieving widow of "The Cryptozoologist" is sure she's been visited by a Southern variant of Bigfoot. "Have You Seen the Stolen Girl?" introduces us to the ghost of Jesse James, who plagues an elderly woman in the wake of a neighborhood girl's abduction. In "Haunted Castles of the Barrier Islands" a newly empty-nest couple stumbles through an impenetrable Outer Banks fog seeking a new life to replace the one they have lost, while "Yard Art" follows the estranged wife of a famous country singer as she searches for an undiscovered statue by an enigmatic artist. In the concluding novella, "Jack and the Mad Dog," we find Jack-the giant killer of the stories-in full flight from threats both canine and existential.
Earley indelibly maps previously undiscovered territories of the human heart in these melancholy, comic, and occasionally strange stories. Along the way he leads us on a journey from contemporary Nashville to a fantastical land of talking dogs and flying trees, teaching us at every step that, even in the most familiar locales, the ordinary is never just that.
About the Author
Tony Earley is the author of the novels Jim the Boy and The Blue Star. His fiction has earned a National Magazine Award and appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, and Best American Short Stories. Earley was chosen for both The New Yorker's inaugural best "20 Under 40" list of fiction writers and Granta's "20 Best Young American Novelists." He lives with his family in Nashville, Tennessee, where he is the Samuel Milton Fleming Chair in English at Vanderbilt University.
Praise for Mr. Tall: A Novella and Stories…
"Hugely enjoyable... its loping, shaggy charm lands squarely between Theroux's dourness and Guterson's dreaminess, with a dallop of down-home Appalachian soul to boot."--Washington Post
"Earley's poetic sentences empower his stories, making them more poignant, more real, as when Jesse James's laugh causes a suburban woman to imagine "a mouth filled with cobwebs," or when, beset by a horrible flood, Jack the giant-killer's "brain began to shout the thoughts inside his head so that he might hear them." This collection reminds us that imaginative leaps may at times take readers away form what they call reality, but may just as easily bring us closer to it."--Boston Globe
"Tony Earley writes warm, funny stories that will break your heart. His humor and empathy will whisk you from beginning to end, and the sadness and regret at his stories' core will resonate in your memory... Here he has assembled a group of stories that are sad, droll and unforgettable. They are sophisticated and intricate in their construction, yet appealing and accessible--a pleasure to read, never a chore. They show Earley at his best."--Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Assured, evocative tales rich in humor and complex emotion."--New York Times Book Review
"Earley has grown up. Even if apple orchards still conceal secrets, mountain hollows house strange denizens, and the trains rumble reassuringly in the distance, there is undoubtedly a hard edge to this collection... Welcome, perhaps, to the Late Earley."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Punctuated by sharp insights and wry observations on the human condition, featuring strong, idiosyncratic characters having small epiphanies in their small towns."—Kirkus Reviews
"Both funny and bittersweet, these stories offer vivid characters and imaginative scenarios."—Booklist
"Tony Earley more than measures up with Mr. Tall—Vanity Fair
"Studded with his penchant for finding enchanment in everyday lives, their folk tale patina presages the more overt magic running through his new collection of short stories... Throughout, these new fables remain tethered to Earley's trademark preoccupations--the strange alchemy by which people connect, a heartfelt grasping for what comes next."—Daily Beast
"Time has passed, but Earley's still got the magic and a lot of wisdom to go with it."—The Rumpus
"Mr. Tall is a dazzling array of short fiction pieces, each one mythic in its own way, each one peopled with characters whose unlived lives are often more vivid than their lived lives."—Charlotte Observer