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Rumble, Young Man, Rumble opens in a sporting goods store, owned and operated by the members of an amateur paintball team. Logan Bryant, its self-professed star—as politically incorrect as he is knowledgeable about athletic equipment and barbecue grills—guides us through this world of barbells, guns and protein supplements. And by the end of “Balls, Balls, Balls,” we see that it is his insecurity and doubt, not his brawn and confidence, that have shaped him into the sort of man he is.
“Real emotion makes people nervous. . . . Passion is too Mussolini.”
"The Art of the Possible” puts us into the mind of an up-and-coming congressman making a bid for a second term. As we follow him from one photo op to another, we see firsthand what he must sacrifice of himself to please the many—from sleep to kindness to integrity. And in a final, heart-wrenching scene, the snapshots line up to reveal a particular truth—that these sacrifices are not borne by him alone.
“All you need to learn is that you can hit him and he can hit you and that it might hurt but you’re not going to kill each other.” “Except sometimes,” she said. I nodded again. “Except sometimes.”
In “The Ropes,” Alexander Folsom spends a summer with his father on Martha’s Vineyard, getting his strength back after his last boxing match, in which he fared the worse. Trying to work, trying to play, trying to flirt with the soon-to-be-married daughter of a well-to-do family on the Vineyard, Alex finds himself floundering in most every way as he attempts to reconcile the ends of both his athletic and his college careers—and to find a new, more personal form of discipline.
Throughout his debut collection of nine powerful stories, Benjamin Cavell shows us the darker side of being a “real” man. Along with the machismo, the self-assuredness and power comes a heightened sense of fear and mortality, and ultimately a deeper search for comfort, for someone or something to rely upon. Funny and smart, urgent, fearless and emotionally rich, these are stories without an ounce of fat on them. Though his literary forebears may be Ernest Hemingway and Norman Mailer, Benjamin Cavell speaks in a voice entirely his own.
“Writing prose about a territory in which men are men and you’d better watch out for them, Benjamin Cavell owes more than a bit to the tough-guy stories of Ernest Hemingway and Thom Jones…The method isn’t new, but the writing is. Headlong prose is the engine that drives Cavell’s work, pulling the reader along after it [with a] lunatic sensibility and zany grace.” —Kit Reed, Washington Post Book World
“Astonishing…Cavell gives us modern men as action figures, and each story brilliantly bends them into yet another bizarre pose…Cavell—in these pungently original stories—has made himself a legitimate contender.” —Mark Rozzo, Los Angeles Times
“This debut collection of stories is the literary equivalent of a right hook. It’s devastatingly good...both deft and deliberate...Reading Rumble, Young Man, Rumble is like going 12 rounds with a prizefighter. You’re battered and bruised by the time it’s over, but you’ve never felt more alive.” —Mike Pearson, Rocky Mountain News
“Neil LaBute couldn’t have written a colder, funnier or more brutal collection of stories than this debut by Benjamin Cavell…But it’s Cavell’s style—practically naked, muscular and tense—that might be the most male thing about this book. The spare description, the tight dialogue and the crude jokes all work here.” —The Nation
“Razor-sharp stories...Benjamin Cavell writes with the kind of hip tone that is a pleasure (if you get it, you’re hip, too).... Engaging, funny and heartfelt, Rumble, Young Man, Rumble is a provocative take on the new generation.” —T.B. Peters, San Francisco Chronicle
“Out of this epidemic of testosterone poisoning emerge a few tales of touching tenderness…Other stories all but freeze the blood—or would if their hair-raising depictions of men overboard weren’t so deliciously witty.” —Amanda Heller, Boston Globe
“‘Float like a butterfly sting like a bee’ [is] both epigraph to Cavell’s debut story collection and a summation of how [its] tales operate.... Rumble is a promising first round.” —Gregory Kirschling, Entertainment Weekly
“Benjamin Cavell comes on like gangbusters with a set of tightly coiled stories…. Like the author, a number of the characters here have bruising experiences as athletes…but not all of the slyly satirized machismo here is physical…[An] expert collection.” —Janet Maslin, New York Times
“A forceful debut collection…From a paranoid, obsessive-compulsive insurance claims adjuster…to a rookie congressman running for reelection, Cavell’s characters exemplify various species and dilemmas of American manhood, [and are] funny, pitiful and chilling at the same time. Think George Saunders and Matthew Klam.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The theme of masculinity and its discontents is the organizing principle of this terrific debut collection of nine tough-as-nails stories by a former collegiate boxer. This Rumble is a spectacle not to be missed. You’ll want a ringside seat.” —Kirkus
“Rumble, Young Man, Rumble had me up until the wee hours. This book is dynamite, pure TNT! Cavell’s take on the American musclehead culture is perfect, and he writes about it with hilarious irony, mercifully unfettered by the bounds of political correctness. A great new voice in American literature.” —Thom Jones
“Benjamin Cavell’s stories are air-tight meditations on American masculinity: both celebration and critique, sometimes manic, always precise. Like early Thom Jones; a great find.” —Richard Price
“So good I almost passed out; I knew I was in the hands of a major artist. Cavell’s men are comic masterpieces of our times. They’re funny when they’re dumb, and brilliant when they’re funny. You’ll read these stories and hear them resonate like the best unbridled young male roar.” —Matthew Klam