Book Review: Athletic Shorts

January 31, 2010

“Superman’s not brave. […] He’s indestructible. You can’t be brave when you’re indestructible. It’s guys like you and me that are brave, Angus. Guys who are different and can be crushed–and know it–but go out there anyway.”

Athletic Shorts:  Six Short Stories by Chris Crutcher is…a book of six short stories.  All of the stories except one feature characters from his books Stotan!, Running Loose, and The Crazy Horse Electric Game.  Of those books, I have read exactly none–not that it matters.  The stories are accessible and stand up well on their own.  They are also slightly spoilery for the other books–not that that matters either.  If anything, they made me more interested in the stories and worlds featured.

What I Liked

– My favorite story is probably the first one, “A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune.”  Mine and Hollywood’s since it was turned into a movie.  At any rate, Angus’s parents are awesome, his voice is awesome, and the story is a lot of fun.  It’s one of the two more light-hearted of the six stories, so that’s also a plus.

– Even though these are short stories, they are clasic Chris Crutcher, dealing with issues of death, racism, abuse, guilt, homophobia, and bullying.  You know, the usual.

– “The Telephone Man” is the story about racism and it is uncomfortable to read because it’s from the POV of a racist, but I liked its honesty.  Before each story is a small explanation for it, and this is what Crutcher says about Telephone Man:

Racism speaks volumes about those who hide behind it, says exactly nothing of those at whom is it directed.

I think the story does a great job of exposing the kid who hides behind racism and also where he gets his ideas.  (Hint:  It’s his daddy!)

– I loved the story about homophobia.  It was very affecting.  Great characters.

What I Didn’t Like

– I think there was maybe one story I’d count as a weak link.

In conclusion:  One weak link makes for a very solid short story collection.  It’s  a great introduction to the themes that dominate Chris Crutcher’s works as well as to his storytelling style.  I liked it a lot.

YA Challenge:  3/75

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