Between Here and the Yellow Sea
By Nic Pizzolatto, MacAdam/Cage, hard cover, $18.50.
A collection of one author’s short stories is usually a hit-and-miss proposition. The good news is that in these collections, you usually can find something to enjoy in even the worst writer’s grab bag. But there’s bad news, too, because in order to get to the good stuff, you often have to wade through a lot of dreck.
Then, every once in awhile, you come across a really good collection; one in which every story in it knocks your socks off. Rare, yes. But they’re out there.
The proof of this is to be found in Nic Pizzolatto’s debut collection “Between Here and the Yellow Sea,” now in hardcover from publisher MacAdam/Cage. A graduate of the creative writing program at the University of Arkansas, Pizzolatto writes stories that are little sticks of dynamite; each a blockbuster of poise and form, timed to split the hard rock of character.
Line by line, Pizzolatto’s prose is hard to beat: smooth, clear and lacking the glibness that seems to be robbing much otherwise good fiction of its heart these days. On a story level, his plots and characters sing as well.
Highlights of this thoroughly impressive collection include the title story, about a coach and his former player who travel to California to kidnap the coach’s daughter; “Ghost Birds,” about a park ranger who BASE jumps at night from the St. Louis Gateway Arch, and “Haunted Earth,” about a Vietnam-obsessed burnout trying to lose his virginity in the midst of a small-town UFO panic.
The stories in “Between Here and the Yellow Sea” are what good literary fiction is all about: deep and complicated characters, making choices and then living with the consequences. Careful, subtle and yet unmistakably brave, Pizzolatto is a writer we’re sure we’ll be hearing and reading more from in the near future.