MFAW-VT faculty member John McManus’s new collection of short stories Fox Tooth Heart has garnered amazing reviews since we posted about it two weeks ago. Join us in celebrating John’s success, and read all about it below!
From LitHub Magazine:
“The first sentence of McManus’s short story “Bugaboo” establishes mood, setting, and character all at once. “I first met Max on my way home from the Gulp, a bottomless whirlpool in the Everglades where people go to commit suicide,” writes the story’s narrator, also named Max. Here, there’s a stylized version of reality, but one still rooted in history—Max’s description goes on to reference Andrew Jackson, the Intracoastal Waterway, and Florida’s history as a state where slavery was part of daily life. It’s of a piece with the overall tone of Fox Tooth Heart, a book that takes its title from a particularly evocative Tennessee Williams quote. These are stories in which the pastoral, historical atrocities, and contemporary bad behavior all collide.
In “Bugaboo,” questions of landscape repeatedly move to the forefront. The narrator has a fondness for free-climbing mountains, and the title refers to a mountain range in British Columbia. And while the tone of it varies considerably relative to “Gateway to the Ozarks,” which follows it in the collection, they share certain qualities, including a certain geographic feature. Carl, the story’s protagonist, is a clone of Thomas Jefferson living in the Southeastern United States; he, too, has a fondness for mountains.
The wind on his naked skin might feel magnificent, but what he sought climbing Thistle Mountain was serenity. Gazing into a wild but consistent landscape dotted with fiery blooms, he lay still.
It’s a quality that helps make him seem empathic, even as the story heads into an absurd territory, a funhouse riff on Orphan Black with a group of teenage boys sniping at one another online. Here, landscapes and perceptions of them are woven even more deeply into the story’s plot: Carl takes on the task of editing his home region’s Wikipedia page to make it seem more inviting, and thus to acquire status in the eyes of his fellow clones.
McManus can also convey a space or an image with a deft phrase—a character in one story is described as “smelling of Cheetos and motor oil;” a bar’s blinking neon sign emblazoned with Busch serves as useful shorthand for the location in another. And even when working in a more restrained mode, as in the story “Cult Heroes,” McManus can find the surreal in certain landscapes. “He laid his bike on the gravel beach and stood in awe of the colored canyon wall that rose before him,” McManus writes as one scene opens, and it’s perfectly cinematic, a study in contrasts that echoes those found in both the story around it and the collection that contains it.”
Links to Reviews:
Links to Short Stories from the book: