Review: The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards
The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards by Robert Boswell
Publisher: Graywolf Press
From the cover:
Set mainly in small, gritty American cities no farther east than Chicago and as far west as El Paso, each of these stories is a world unto itself.
Two marriages end, one by death, the other by divorce, and the two wives, lifelong friends, become strangers to each other. A young man’s obsession with visiting a fortune-teller leaves him nearly homeless. And in the unforgettable title story, a man dubbed Keen recounts the summer he spent on a mountain with his best friend, Clete, and a loose band of slackers, living in a borrowed house, abstaining from all drugs (other than mushrooms and beer)—and ultimately asking just what kind of harm we can do to one another.
Wow. Where do I even begin reviewing this book? I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of short stories because I always felt that you don’t get an opportunity to develop a connection with the characters before the story ends. The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards, however, showed me how wrong those thoughts are. Each story carried its own weight and proved that you don’t need a 300 page book to develop the characters and get the point across. To put it simply, Robert Boswell is an amazing author and I can’t wait to get my hands on some of his other books.
What I loved most about this book was that even though the book was about social misfits and outcasts, it also felt like it was about your average day joe and jane along with their dysfunctional relationships. It’s about people that you ride with on the bus or subway to work, the people you meet in elevators, and perhaps you can even see a bit of yourself in some of the characters.
The stories focused on the emotional lives of the characters and the feelings and experiences they went through. Many of the characters were “broken” in that they were dealing with their loss, fear, bruises, and scars during the duration of their story. Sometimes the story would end with you scratching your head wondering if the character is now better or worse than when you first met him or her at the beginning. And as the characters are sharing with you their story, you can’t help but feel sympathy for them as well as go through a bit of self analysis as you ponder over your own life.
Boswell didn’t dwell on the big picture, but rather he zoomed in and focused on the small moments that drastically change our lives and he makes your realize that in a blink of the eye, everything can change.
Some stories in The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards were light and funny while others were dark and deep. It was an incredibly wonderfully collection of short stories and it’s a book that I know I’ll read again soon. One of the things I love about it being a short story collection is that I can always pull out the book and turn to my favorite short story and read in again in one sitting.