A posthumous and definitive collection of new and selected stories by "virtuoso of the short story" (Esquire) and National Book Award finalist Thom Jones
"Jones was an oracle . . . It's impossible not to marvel at the urgency of these stories." --Wall Street Journal
This scorching collection from award-winning author Thom Jones features his best new short fiction alongside a selection of outstanding stories from three previous books. Jones's stories are full of high-octane, prose-drunk entertainment. His characters are grifters and drifters, rogues and ne'er-do-wells, would-be do-gooders whose human frailties usually get the better of them. Some are lovable, others are not, but each has an indelible and irresistible voice. They include Vietnam soldiers, amateur boxers, devoted doctors, strung-out advertising writers, pill poppers and veterans of the psych ward, and an unforgettable adolescent DJ radio host, among others.
The stories here are excursions into a unique world that veers between abject desperation and fleeting transcendence. Perhaps no other writer in recent memory could encapsulate in such short spaces the profound and the devastating, the poignant and the hallucinatory, with such an exquisite balance of darkness and light. Jones's fiction reveals again and again the resilience and grace of characters who refuse to succumb. In stories that can at once delight us with their wicked humor and sting us with their affecting pathos, Night Train perfectly captures the essence of this iconic American master, showcasing in a single collection the breadth of power of his inimitable fiction.
This volume collects 26 shocking, grimly humorous stories (seven previously unpublished) by the author of The Pugilist at Rest and two other short story collections. Jones, who died in 2016, crammed whole disorganized lives into his stories, which are often told in the deluded voices of drug and alcohol addled protagonists who also suffer from a wide range of medical complaints. In "The Black Lights," a Marine who has been in more than 150 boxing matches and now has temporal lobe injuries is sent to a military neuro-psych ward and observes the doctors and patients there with mordant wit. Jones is an uneven writer at best, with moments of remarkable power alternating with sloppy passages. The volume, arranged in roughly chronological order, suggests a downhill slide in his work, which became increasingly crass and decreasingly compassionate. One example of this is "Tarantula," which envisions the many horrors visited on an ambitious high school administrator by his underlings. Another later, uneven story is "Diary of My Health," which consists of a dated series of diary entries of the physical symptoms of, and drugs consumed by, a protagonist who shares the author's name. While perhaps more Jones than the casual reader will want to handle, this collection condenses his literary output into an accessible volume with some standout stories.