Greetings From Below, David Philip Mullins
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David Philip Mullins

Greetings From Below

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200 printed pages
Winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in short fiction, selected by David Means.
Winner of the University of Nevada’s Silver Pen Award.
«Mullins writes about these journeys, and about sex and the desert, with a wonderful, edgy lucidity. Greetings from Below is a remarkable debut.»––Margot Livesey
What would have become of Nick Adams if he'd been born along the ragged edges of a new American city, one with more churches per capita than any other, and twice the suicide rate? Meet Nick Danze, the main character of David Philip Mullins's vital debut collection, Greetings from Below. The opening story finds fourteen-year-old Nick and his pal Kilburg sitting in the Las Vegas desert, drinking whiskey from Kilburg's fake leg. It's the first of many shocks in Nick's sexual education, which begins with a kiss from Kilburg he calls “practice.” In later stories, Nick hires a call girl, visits a swingers' club on Christmas Eve, obsesses over obese middle-aged women, and meets the love of his life, Annie, only he's not sure he loves her and he's compulsively unfaithful. Ashamed of his behavior, he stubbornly repeats it. And lurking behind it all is Vegas, with its gilded casinos, neon-tinted suburbs, and dingy, outer-ring strip clubs. In Nick's wounded honesty and queasy self-consciousness, Mullins awakens us to the perverse power of alienation and shame.
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Foreword
TO FIND A BEAUTIFUL COLLECTION OF STORIES IN A PILE OF manuscripts is, for any judge of any contest, a wonderful surprise, a kind of revelatory experience. This comes in part from knowing––as most writers know––that a good short story is a balancing act, a tightrope walk of innumerable elements all working together for a short duration to draw out and reveal a particular mystery. It’s one thing to read a good story in a magazine, singular and alone, but it’s another to find an entire book of them, fully realized, each one honed to perfection, neat and tidy, into a collection that holds together like one of those great pop albums of yore, producing a cohesive aesthetic experience. What a pleasure to find not only a strong collection of stories, but a distinctive voice, clear and precise, and a vision that is unique and new while at the same time rooted in the traditions of the form, echoing Ernest Hemingway, Frank O’Connor, Flannery O’Connor, and all of the other great practitioners who took the risk of writing short fiction. As Frank O’Connor pointed out, each attempt at writing a story contains “the possibility of a new form as well as a possibility of a complete fiasco.”
Well, David Philip Mullins risked a fiasco and instead created a highly original collection of short stories. Mullins understands that inventiveness arises from acute attention to the demands of each story and respect for the material itself. Every writer finds a way into the work: Chekhov leaned close and, with his ear cupped, caught the intimate conversations between lovers––and serfs and masters––watching them move in what seemed to be isolated chambers of their desires. Borges sealed himself into a diving bell of his own fantastic style, plunging deep into seas of time and culture. Alice Munro maps expansive topographies of relationships, mostly female, using her utterly and deceptively unique
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