Congratulations to past participant Victoria Patterson for winning The Story Prize in Fiction! I'm very much looking forward to reading this provocative collection of short stories set in Orange County.
Here are a few of the many positive reviews...
From the SF Chronicle
By Michael Leone
In "Drift," Victoria Patterson's extraordinary collection of interlinked stories, she introduces us to an unexpected Newport Beach, where many flounder among the shimmering beach vistas and yacht-clogged harbors of Orange County. Most of Patterson's characters are outcasts, alienated - sometimes intentionally - from family and friends. They are teenagers, waiters, divorcees, transvestites, vagrants, adulterers, alcoholics and drug addicts, but the reader will feel something for each of them.
The rich who inhabit these stories - a man who fired his brother from the family business, only to have him commit suicide; a soused widow who preys on the pity of the customers who frequent the posh restaurant established by his wife's fortune - have little self-worth and, despite their bursting bank accounts, not much stability or courage. Almost all resent their self-absorbed parents. "I used to imagine Dad had a timer on his shoulder," one character says. "I had sixty seconds to say what I wanted before I lost his attention."
Patterson gives us a John Wayne, but he bears no relation to his real-life prototype; perhaps, in gentle mockery of the Duke, who plowed Newport Bay in his yacht, the cowboy who appears in these pages is a homeless skateboarder suffering from brain damage. Thus, "Drift" is a portrayal of the American Dream as hangover.
The prose is so accomplished, so effortlessly nuanced and suggestive, that more than once I had to check Patterson's bio to make sure this was her first book. (It is.)
From The Los Angeles Times
The female characters in this debut collection inhabit some of the more disorienting landscapes in Southern California -- Newport Beach and environs. Waitresses, single mothers, teenagers -- their bodies are often described in the language of Cubism: planes and angles and unreliable, shifting surfaces. The proportions of things, from utensils to emotions, often fail to fit the environment -- the hallways and beaches and temporary living spaces meant to contain Victoria Patterson's characters. Light glows in their blond hair as though it is trapped; sexuality and cannibalism are discussed in tandem; punishments and guilt often come long after the character's transgressions. Things are out of sync, making these stories infinitely disturbing. What happened to childhood? Is numbness the most a girl can hope for? "She wonders how she will function this day, the next, and all the days that follow." Even wondering, in this memorable collection, is a form of prayer.
- Susan Salter Reynolds
Starred review from Publisher’s Weekly
Patterson illustrates how deceiving initial impressions can be in her dark debut, a collection of 13 interconnected stories. At first glance, the characters seem to be blessed, living in tony Newport Beach, Calif., but Patterson quickly scrapes off the glitter, examining the complicated lives of Rosie, a confused teenage girl; John Wayne, a brain-damaged, homeless stoner; Anne, a lesbian psychologist in love with Rosie's mother; Melody, a trophy wife cheating on her husband, Henry Wilson, who has a secret of his own; and Joe/Christina, a transvestite. The majority of the stories feature Rosie, a nerdy teenager whose attempts to make sense of her life lead her down increasingly self-destructive paths, though she remains touchingly aware of others' suffering. In “Winter Formal: A Night of Magic,” Rosie and a seemingly perfect blonde princess have a nightmare evening; in “The First and Second Time,” Rosie violently loses her virginity. Later, in “Joe/Christina,” Rosie, now an alcoholic community college student, finds an unlikely savior in the local transvestite. Patterson's unflinching account of the seedy side of a real-life Xanadu is frightening, immersive and wonderfully realized. (June)
You can read more about the book on Victoria's Website
6 months ago