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Title

Sweat Stones

Document Type

Campus Access

Degree Program

English

Degree Type

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)

Year Degree Awarded

2016

Month Degree Awarded

May

Keywords

Southern, Poverty, Class, Nature, Flash Fiction

Abstract

Sweat Stones is a story collection and a novel excerpt. All of its parts are set in the American South, and are concerned with the intersection between class and geography. The majority of the characters are a part of underrepresented portions of their local population—they are trapped within cycles of poverty, in turns longing for escape and wearing their mixed brands of anguish like badges. The longer stories have firm roots in Realism, while the shorter ones, which serve as breaks between the collection’s major sections, are tinged with degrees of Absurdism or Magical Realism.

Through these stories I hope to have translated what can be translated about a place—its rhythms and personalities, the images and logics that distinguish it from anywhere else. It’s a kind of language-made hallucination. As the characters buckle under the weight of their rigors, their stories push against the limits of plausibility. Most share these stylistic concerns, especially those written in first-person. But even when the voice and tone shift into what seems like a different narrative realm, what holds them together are the dire situations of the characters. A poor family suffers the death of a child and the father has to leave them for work. A marginalized group of stage riggers use up all of their energy for nothing. A man feeds into his self-loathing as a series of capricious relationships unravel.

Sweat Stones, which takes its name from the flat slates that heat the contemplative atmosphere of a sweat lodge, is a reflection on the mutual burdens borne of laborious life. It’s a gesture of solidarity for a particular kind of struggle, in which I have participated in one form or another. Along the way I met the people, grew up around the places that would become the subjects of this fiction.

Available for download on Thursday, May 06, 2021

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