I first heard of Edward Falco from a friend who was reading his stories. He recommended I make it a priority to check this writer out. Unfortunately, I had long ago decided that the stacks of books in my home dictate that I can't follow up on many recommendations, no matter how trusted, so I put off reading Falco for a couple months until I received a proof of his novel Wolf Point in the mail.
A little ways into Wolf Point, I couldn't understand why my friend liked Falco's writing so much. Sure, the story was engaging (I finished it in less than a day), but the characters seemed stock and I figured I could tell where the book was going. But the more I read, the more I watched Falco reveal the intricacies of each of his three characters and the more I saw how exceptionally well Wolf Point was crafted. When I told my friend I had read Falco, our verdict was immediate: his work is extremely well-handled.
Like Wolf Point, the stories in Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha feature characters that you think you know. Most often, they're men; men with a very palpable masculinity that is being suppressed. They're responsible parents, or pimply teens, or lost twentysomethings.
At the start of any of these stories you know these characters. But over the course of 10-20 pages Falco shows you that you really don't. The protagonist's other side comes bubbling out, irrepressible, and the story is how they manage the transition. They learn--just as you learn--that they're not as straightforward as it seemed. Some of them embrace change, others struggle to maintain their former selves. What's constant is the fact of reevaluation, the continual shift of identity as people must deal with new facts that they remember and discover about themselves.
What I dislike about many short stories that depict internal transitions like these is they they're not really stories. They're more like internal meditations, prolonged monologues that never exit the protagonist's head. There's no scenes, no gripping interactions, no suspense, no drama, nothing to force me to read on.
But not Falco. If there's one thing the man knows how to do, it's tell a story. There's drug smuggling, father-daughter confrontations, teen sex, chess matches, cars lit on fire, arguments in diners--whether sensational or everyday, Falco's stories have meaty plots. There's always more than one thing going on, and Falco brings these multiple lines together in interesting ways. In Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha, he provides the story; it's up to you to figure out what it means.
We're going to discuss Sabbath Night the week of February 6 through February 12. Be sure to read a few of these stories and then come back ready to talk. Among other things, on Thursday, February 9, Greg Michalson of Unbridled Books will discuss why they published Sabbath Night, as well as why they publish literary fiction in general, and will respond to your questions in the comments field.
Update: Ed Falco will be discussing Sabbath Night, publishing, and writing on Wednesday, Feb. 8. He'll also respond to your questions.