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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Book Review: Why Arizona chose Jason Brown for their faculty

    Our own campus celebrity, the renowned short story writer Jason Brown, has recently released his second collection, “”Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work.”” These eleven stories are linked by their setting, the small, fictional town of Vaughn, Maine, which may look like a normal town, except that everything that can go wrong there tends to.

    The harsh, remote setting of northern New England gives these stories a sense of malevolence even before the characters are drawn down into their misfortunes, which are numerous and range from death to alcoholism, fatherhood to forbidden love. And so it begins to seem that New England is indeed a cursed land, as the title story suggests, where the Devil takes pleasure in tormenting the inhabitants.

    What you might begin to question after reading a couple of Brown’s tales of misfortune, however, is whether the characters themselves are a part of the evil.

    In “”Afternoon of the Sassanoa,”” it is the father’s pride that leads to the trouble, the sinking of his family’s sailboat. In “”The Plains of Abraham,”” what seems to be a drowning only leads to more terrible events. Brown’s stories give a feeling of real life horror, in which ordinary people are doomed to live lives in which the bad can only get worse.

    But these stories go so much beyond horror: Every character is partly responsible for his traumas, and so we are able to empathize with them, recognizing that like us, they are only trying to get past their flawed selves and live a decent life. These characters are complicated, but, as we are shown, it is their mixed up souls that make them human.

    “”Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work”” is by no means perverse or overly scary, though. These stories are often humorous as well as somber, and Brown’s polished writing cannot fail to brighten the world he describes.

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