Kevin Canty   Nine Below Zero  
Kevin Canty    

Nine Below Zero: an excerpt

  The first big novel: the book in which a young American writer breaks free from the literary proving ground of the short story and the coming-of-age novel to create something larger and more embracing. Now the flashes of brilliance, the unique voice, the perfectly rendered moments are no longer enough. Now a writer stands up to join the finest writers of his or her generation. Nine Below Zero is that book for Kevin Canty. And without a doubt, he has succeeded.

Nine Below Zero is crafted with the spare, muscular prose and the sharp but tender insight that has become characteristic Canty in his debut collection, A Stranger in this World, which earned him comparisons to Flannery O'Connor, Raymond Carver, and Joan Didion, and his critically acclaimed first novel, set against the brutal landscape of adolescence, Into the Great Wide Open. But in Nine Below Zero, Canty's characters have been given their chances to learn life's lessons. Marvin Deernose, a Native American carpenter and recovering drug addict, has returned to his birthplace to escape the life he has apparently messed up beyond repair; Justine Gallego, a young woman who has been emotionally crushed by the death of her child and the weight of her crumbling marriage, flees her home to take care of her grandfather; Senator Henry Neihart, Justine's grandfather, has suffered a stroke and car accident that have reduced him to a husk of the man he had been, and yet he refuses to go quietly to his death. Now, here, huddled in their houses, bars, pick-up trucks, and Cadillacs against the vast, frozen terrain of Canty's beloved Montana, they must decide what to do with their acquired wisdom, strength, and self-knowledge. When do they extend beyond the effort of getting themselves from one day to the next to take a stab at something grander? And when is it appropriate to pour an extra-tall glass of grandfather's good whisky, too good for ice, and let the recklessness of love, the painfulness of loss, have its way?

In this issue of Bold Type we feature a new short story by Canty and the first chapter of his extraordinary new novel, Nine Below Zero.

Bold Type
  Photo of Kevin Canty copyright © Lucy Capehart

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