Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: "The Outlaw Album" by Daniel Woodrell

The thing that I find to be true for most writers in the noir or mystery genre is that they are rarely good short story writers, at least in the purest form. Although Chandler wrote good short stories, you just have to look at them and you can tell that they are basically novella length works. Lansdale’s stories verge on horror, and I cannot even find collections online for writers like Jim Thompson, George Pelecanos or Richard Price. It seems that it would be a natural, but I guess for writers like that they need not develop short story writing skills because their novels speak pretty well for themselves and the writer’s career. And it is an even bigger problem for a writer like Daniel Woodrell, whose novels are rarely over 200 pages and act like little grainy snapshots of perforated lives. Because his short story collection, The Outlaw Album, does not live up to the greatness I found in The Death of Sweet Mister. Much like This is How You Lose Her, I suspect that this book was put out to fulfill a publishing contract, because the type of styles and stories that this collection has is very scattershot, and to make a very bizarre complaint, I found most of these stories too short. They ended abruptly and are forgettable minutes after reading them. The great prose is there, but nothing really else to chew on. The first two stories in the collection are pretty good and worth your time. “The Echo of Neighborly Bone” tells the tragicomic story of a man who keeps murdering the same corpse to get rid of his anger problem. “Uncle” is a really revolting (in a good way) story about a woman who comes to love her abuser, until he steps over a line one to many times. But this collection is not up to par on what I know Woodrell is capable of. But it is a short read if you want to see the evolution of an insanely good talent.
Rating: 4/5

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