Battleborn

Winner of The Story Prize
Listed by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the Best Books of 2012
NPR Best Short Story Collections of 2012
Named one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35″
  fiction writers of 2012

Reviews

“A real treat… Through remarkably assured writing that manages to be both bristly and brittle, Watkins chronicles despair and loneliness, catalogs valiant fights for survival and desperate please to be heard, and every time has us rooting for her underdogs.” –San Francisco Chronicle

“Readers will be taken into the hardship of a pitiless place and emerge on the other side — wiser, warier and weathered like the landscape.”
Antonya Nelson, New York Times

“Dazzling.” O, The Oprah Magazine

“The most captivating voice to come out of the West since Annie Proulx – though it’s to early Joan Didion that [Watkins] bears comparison for her arid humor and cut-to-the-chase knowingness.” Vogue

“Exceptional… A writer of great precision and greater restraint, Watkins is a natural storyteller whose material enriches that gift rather than engulfing it… One doesn’t have to be from the Battleborn state to recognize and appreciate literature that resonates like this.” The Rumpus

“[A] breathtaking debut… [Watkins'] stories… carry the weight and devastation of entire novels.” Flavorpill

“Absorbing… [Battleborn’s] true setting is a Faulknerian desert of the heart, where the soil is cursed by its precious metals and one’s personal history can be just as toxic. Clear-eyed and nimble in parsing the lives of her Westerners, one of Watkins’s strengths is not dodging that the simple fact that love can be tragic, involving, as it does, humans so flawed, so often tender and yet incapable.” The Boston Globe

“A powerful new voice that deserves recognition… [Watkins maps] a regional portrait while pausing for detailed sketches, with a strong perspective that blends the romanticized past of Larry McMurtry, heartbreaking characters of Annie Proulx, and bleak timeless landscapes of Cormac McCarthy.” The Onion AV Club

“As if Watkins’ prose embodies the desert landscape of Nevada itself, the stories are stony, unkind, and harsh, though never unattractive… Beneath these confessions runs a spiritual undertow—that salvific beauty can arise when brutality is brought to light… All of her stories left me feeling purged and oddly cleansed, easily making Battleborn one of the strongest collections I’ve read in years.” The Millions

“Her incredible talent fills every page of this raw, wild, soaring debut. She may be the coolest real-life literary lady we’ve discovered in quite a while.”Flavorwire

“As grounded as they are in real places, the stories are fictions, crafted with the skill of an artisan, working from the starting points of Mary Gaitskill and Aimee Bender.” Los Angeles Times

“Vibrant and assured… The settings of Watkins’ home state—evoked with craft that echoes Cormac McCarthy or Richard Ford—were the perfect settings for heartbreak.” Time Out New York

“What distinguishes Watkins’ work… is her command of time. Nearly all the stories are set in the present, but her characters constantly live with aftereffects of the past. They’re not simply “scarred” by history; they’re irradiated by it, queasily lit from within.” Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“[An] assured debut… Here’s hoping Watkins will continue to delve into Nevada’s unsound caverns and emerge with such worthy plunder.” Dallas Morning News

“Gloriously vivid stories about the human heart.” Kirkus

“In her debut short story collection Battleborn Claire Vaye Watkins marries character to landscape as well as anyone I have read in years. These stories set in the Nevada desert are gritty and brilliant, and foretell an auspicious literary future for their author.” Largehearted Boy

“A coolly impressive new voice of the American West.” The Financial Times

“The people in Battleborn… aren’t characters in stories, but human beings perpetually yearning for warmth… Entering the varied lives is akin to watching a tightrope walker high overhead, moving with steady confidence without a net… Watkins writes with precision and care, the sentences themselves as surprising as the events, the dialogue, and the spare description… There is a purity to the prose that is a constant pleasure to read… There is great originality in these narratives… But the generosity and personal sacrifices of the people are as universal as the stars at night.” –Chris Offutt, Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Readers… will find much to admire in this arresting collection, which one hopes is merely the first stop along the way for a writer who deserves a sustained literary life.” Library Journal (starred review)

“The book feels like a portrait of the human heart, famished for beauty and love, but finally and almost always wrecked by its own hungers.”
—Paul Harding, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning TINKERS

“A fresh, fierce, fabulous collection. Watkins writes like the divine Didion – cool and clean with not a word wasted. Where’d she come from? I’m glad she’s here”
—Joy Williams, author of THE QUICK AND THE DEAD

“As blistering hot and wondrously expansive as the gritty, wide-open Nevada desert.”
—Donald Ray Pollock, author of THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME and KNOCKEMSTIFF

“Claire Vaye Watkins is never, ever satisfied with the ordinary. Each story in this brilliant debut surprises. Watkins offers us amazing visions of a funny, savage, haunted West-and one of the most outstanding short story collections in recent memory.”
—Christopher Coake, author of WE’RE IN TROUBLE and YOU CAME BACK (forthcoming from Grand Central)

“Claire Watkins’ astonishing, thrilling collection could not have been more aptly named. Like Nevada, the “Battleborn” state where most of these stories are set, the characters here are fierce, sometimes desperate, born out of struggle and ambition and frantic, driven hope. Written in gorgeous prose and animated with an exceptionally rich vision, the stories are searing portraits of the places our hungers will drive us, and the battles that await us there.”
—Erin McGraw, author of THE SEAMSTRESS OF HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD

 

 

 

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