It’s a book! Of stories! About people! There are no vampires in it! I am sorry!
Actually, I am not sorry that there are no vampires in it, though there is a werewolf motif in one of the stories, and if anyone contacts me and can tell me which story I will personally send them something non-creepy in the good old-fashioned mail.
Here is the first review, clipped from Publisher’s Weekly:
Peter Traxler is missing something. Ever since he left his family, his friends, and his adolescence behind in Jackson, Miss., he’s feeling lost. Despite the outward appearance of success—job, acquaintances, girlfriends—Peter is melancholy, his thoughts returning often to the past: “cotton diving” with his best friend Jeremy; sexual encounters with the local girls; the loss of his father and its impact on his mother; teenage angst bubbling over into semiviolent outbursts. His connection to his old friends is growing weak and distant; “when you’ve been on party manners with so many people for so long, it’s hard not to growl,” he says. Hathcock’s captivating debut collection of nine closely linked stories reads much like a novel. While many take place in the 1990s, the powerful Mississippi setting often feels akin to the American farm culture of the 1950s (at least until Jeremy dresses up like Ricky Martin for Halloween, or Peter’s Dad watches Nash Bridges on TV). The ghosts of the Old South are present throughout, even while the main character’s struggles are distinctively contemporary. It’s all here, the awkwardness of reconnecting with childhood friends, the impossibility of integrating your youth with your adulthood, the longing for home when home is a time and not a place: Hathcock writes haunting, unforgettable stories.
It also has a star next to it! God bless Publisher’s Weekly. (Or is it Publishers’ Weekly? Just where does that apostrophe go?)
Where is it?
Or if any of those avenues are inordinately painful for whatever reason, just send me an email: barrett dot hathcock at gmail.com. Let’s make a deal.
The Portable Son heralds the arrival of an important new writer from the South. Barrett Hathcock knows his material well and writes with both verve and sensitivity, in stories that surprise in countless ways. I’m keeping an eye on this guy, and you should too, as you will discover in these pages.
—Steve Yarbrough, author of Visible Spirits, The End of California, Safe From the Neighbors, and many more
In the telling stories of The Portable Son, this son of the South, Barrett Hathcock, laminates the fine layers of southern soft pine with the addictive adhesive grammar of neo-gothic and hyper-realistic glue. He has, in this stunning work, managed to coat all the famous tropes and memes of the region with this wistful, whispering finish that is always universal, lasting, highly reflective and reflexive. The Portable Son makes new the New South effortlessly, effervescently, and endlessly.
—Michael Martone, author of Michael Martone, The Flatness and Other Landscapes, Four for a Quarter, Alive and Dead in Indiana, The Blue Guide to Indiana, and so much more
Barrett Hathcock is a writer I know and think is one to watch. I look forward to the debut of his work.
—Diane Johnson, author of Le Divorce, Lulu in Marrakech, Natural Opium, and others
In The Portable Son, Barrett Hathcock has captured to a remarkable degree what it was to be an adolescent in the 1990s. But not just that: he updates the South for a new generation of readers. Anyone who reads this delightful book will understand that the great works of Southern fiction are encoded in his DNA.
—Scott Esposito, critic, writer, and editor, proprietor of the Quarterly Conversation and the literary blog Conversational Reading
“Hathcock crafts Peter’s beautifully imagined world with grace and style, rocking gently from sweet compassion to brutal, and often humorous, truth. He’s one to watch.”
—Jackson Free Press
Hathcock has fashioned a sad reminder of what it’s like to be left alone in the world, even when friends and family are close. It’s also a delightful glimpse of a seldom-seen genteel side of the American south: a world away from dungareed rednecks, where hearts are broken gently, and only memories ache.
Peter’s separation from his old friends goes beyond their diverging career paths and geographical distance, though: in the penultimate story, when one asks how long he is going to hold onto his father’s death, the rest of the stories suddenly come into focus. The effect is heartbreaking. Hathcock’s exploration of how the loss of a parent can derail a life—particularly when that life is already in a transitional stage—is resonant and impressive. Throughout the book, Peter’s mother and extended family assure him that his father would have been proud of him, and it’s easy to understand why this makes him feel so lost: under that kind of pressure, who wouldn’t want to indulge their sense of nostalgia, to idealize a time when each mistake didn’t carry so much weight? The stories Hathcock shapes around this question give The Portable Son a deceptive gravity.
—John Shortino, The Collagist
—Here’s an interview I did with WJTK’s North Florida Today (96.5).
—Here’s an interview I did with the Memphis Flyer.
—And for completists, here’s a mention of the book also from the Flyer.
If all this personal flogging of the book doesn’t make you want it, then I just don’t know what will.