The WEB DEL SOL review
American Rites of Passage: A review of Dennis Must’s BANJO GREASE An online review
by Jack Smith in CrossConnect. Read the full review.
Mandrake Poetry Review, 2000, reviewed by Jack Castleman
Red Rock Review, 2001 Issue 10, reviewed by Maria Lium
Conspire, May 2001, reviewed by Fanoula Sevastos
These stories float through the reader like frozen images. Each one fits into the others unevenly as jagged glass. This is the essence of great fiction at the end of the century; Ray Carver and Thom Jones plowed into some stupendous forcethat whips along with a tilted wild energy. These are stories men will love for the railroads, the old cars, the grandfathers who are ex-cons, and women will love for the huddled desires, for the way each story tears at the shreds of love and leaves remains flapping that are somehow remnants worth having. Kate Gale, Poet and Editor of Red Hen Press, Granada Hills, California.
Dennis Must's stunning collection BANJO GREASE is just what one hopes for: a series of intriguing, interlocking stories whose cumulative force goes far beyond the sum of its parts. There remain many possible variations on the theme of initiation, and Must touches on most in a way that invites favorable comparison with Hemingway, Twain, and Sherwood Anderson. Many of his stories are related from the point of view of Westley Daugherty at various ages, and are mostly rooted in family, both immediate and the rag-tag fringes: what a colorful lot the Daughertys and their kin are, much like the town of Hebron where most stories occur: loquacious, a bit seedy, convivial, familiar, eccentric, always compelling. Further, each story is impressively fulfilled at its end, where abruptness startles and surprisesyet when the surprise fades, it is replaced by the sure knowledge that what has transpired on the page was always inevitable. Banjo Grease is the best collection I've read in a long time. Geoffrey Clark, author of several books including Jackdog Summer, Schooling the Spirit, Rabbit Fever, and All The Way Home.
Graced by quicksilvery dialogue and sure-footed prose, BANJO GREASE offers refreshing boldness: Dennis Must refuses to re-observe the familiar anterooms of fiction, embracing troubled characters with an understanding that allows them to show their heart. Mark Wisniewski, author of Confessions of a Polish Used Car Salesman.
Dennis Must understands the pull and promise of the places we call home. These are tough and tender stories about people who don't ask for much, and frequently get a little less. And yet Must has an eye for the small pleasures and sustaining hopes that shine through our darkest days. Michael Downing, author of Perfect Agreement, Mother of God, and A Narrow Time.
Dennis Must is a storyteller not simply content to tell a good tale; through flawless prose that flows like the blues, he finds music in unlikely places. His talent is for telling the story beneath the story, for listening to the voice that a lesser writer would easily dismiss or simply be deaf to. The best of these stories show us, no matter what our station, how closely tied the human experience is, how similar the hymns and prayers and desires. Certainly the fiction of BANJO GREASE is at times difficultMust does not simply tell the story you want to hear, or one assumes the story he would like to write, but the whole melange, in all its painful beauty. Jamie Wasserman, Editor, The Alsop Review
“The emotional mysteries of families are the domain of Dennis Must, mysteries alluded to by fathers, pushed by circumstance, to sons. Must is a master of the revelation of conflicting perceptions of women, the woman ‘profoundly religious clothed tight to her cervix’ and the woman seductress. Men ache for acceptance by their wives, regret their shortcomings, and surprise with small acts of great devotion. Must's power is the twist on which these stories turn, twists that show characters both ‘aroused and stricken’ by sexuality as they are by their faith.” Terry Farish, author of Flower Shadows, If The Tiger, and A House In Earnest.
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