This is not the first time this title has been over here. My friend, Jeremy talked about his experience reading American Salvage at the beginning of last year. As soon as his post went live, I knew I wanted to read this collection of short stories.
I’m a junkie for local regionalism, and while I think Campbell’s stories aren’t necessarily regional in the sense that they are unique to southwest Michigan, there is definitely a regional flare with the language and places.
Just as I devoured Hemingway’s “Nick” stories that were set in northern Michigan, I sped through Campbell’s tales from the area where I went to college…both for my Bachelor’s and my Master’s. I became pretty well acquainted with the areas–from the wealthy professors and locals to the more rural areas where I did my student assisting.
Admittedly, my favorite collections of short stories are those from the Lost Generation: Fitzgerald, Hemingway, etc. And while Campbell focuses on the lower working class rather than the starving artists and upper classes, the themes are very much the same. As one of my students once said, “literature is all about someone wanting/needing something, trying to get that something, and then either succeeding or failing.” My favorite thing about short stories as opposed to novels is that a short story still follows this pattern, but in a nice tight little package.
There are not chapters and chapters of background. You don’t necessarily know how those characters ended up together–nor does it matter–the conflict at hand is what you have…a snapshot into their lives.
And there isn’t always a complete resolution in a short story either.
If the characters entire lives were the novel, this particular moment is the short story.
American Salvage is full of intense snapshots.
There are big questions left lingering after each story.
There is vivid imagery and powerful language.
The characters are raw and real.
I loved this book.
I want to take these stories and read them over again. With a class of students. And then pick them apart word by word, image by image, character by character.
When that happens? It means I’ve falling in literary love.