An inventive, ranging debut story collection from a writer hailed by Charles Yu as "a stunningly original voice—warm, bleak, dark, ecstatic, full of silences and power and life"
Reinventing a great American tradition through an absurdist, discerning eye, Joseph Scapellato uses these twenty-five stories to conjure worlds, themes, and characters who are at once unquestionably familiar and undeniably strange. Big Lonesome navigates through the American West—from the Old West to the modern-day West to the Midwest, from cowboys to mythical creatures to everything in between—exploring place, myth, masculinity, and what it means to be whole or to be broken.
Though he works in the tradition of George Saunders and Patrick deWitt—writing subversive, surreal, and affecting stories that unveil the surprising inner lives of ordinary people and the mythic dimensions of our everyday lives—"Scapellato’s Big Lonesome is unlike anything else you’ve ever read" (Robert Boswell).
Scapellato's refreshing stories engage at every point and are capped off with perfect endings. Scapellato is an exceptional surrealist, and he seems to have a firm handle on his own exuberance and quirkiness, his characters reminiscent of familiar archetypes but served with a twist. His subjects never wander far from cowboys, cowgirls, and the myths of the cinematic West. His short stories have a lean trajectory and economy. "Immigrants" offers an idealized mini-biography of a child of immigrants, told from a parent's perspective; the name of the child is left blank throughout, emphasizing the universality and, perhaps, the triteness of this dream. Other evocative stories among them "Western Avenue," "Life Story," "Driving in the Early Dark, Ted Falls Asleep" are like high-resolution snapshots, full of vivid detail. The few longer, shaggier stories are filled with subtitles that break them into episodes and repetitive hooks that lend structure. "Cowboy Good Stuff's Four True Loves" features a sheriff's daughter (also a schoolteacher), a Spanish don's daughter, a prostitute, and a radio as well as some sidebar favorites. In "Cowgirl," the title character slowly comes to understand her own special strangeness. This debut collection is bracing and delightful.