In these nine surprising stories about love and the desertion of love, a father contemplates his bank balance amid receipts for ski vacations; a real-estate agent tries to sell a house while his small son bites other children; and a widower, resigned to television for company, discovers the pleasures of life with another woman. In Kevin Canty’s masterful collection, men convey the bitterness, tenderness, and humor of romantic relationships. Rarely is a man so revealing.
Excerpted from Where the Money Went by Kevin Canty. Copyright © 2009 by Kevin Canty. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
“What Russell Banks does for the Northeast, Kevin Canty does for the world west of the Mississippi . . . artfully capturing people at the tender moments just before they go off the rails.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“In a culture that considers male issues to be as simple as a fist to the jaw, Kevin Canty’s Where the Money Went shows us what it is to write like a man, and as one.” —Providence Journal
“Canty’s stories are set in a West that’s defined more by tourists than cowboys, and his characters reach out for love, though they know its futility. They’ll have another drink too, though they know where that leads.” —The New York Times
“[Canty’s] work has the sting of a Flannery O’Conner story . . . [and] the raw economy of Raymond Carver’s work.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Short stories are neither ‘shrinky-dink’ novels nor prose poems on steroids. They are their own gorgeous, obstinate, difficult-to-handle literary form. . . . Kevin Canty has mastered the form, and . . . Where the Money Went proves the point. . . . Deliciously entertaining.” —The Oregonian
“Canty possesses an instinctive ability to create old-fashioned, highly plotted stories, rich with incident and narrative tension.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Kevin Canty is a poet among storytellers.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Even the stories throbbing with anger come as a relief. . . . Canty leaves readers heartbroken and empathetic.” —The Plain Dealer
“Like the work of Richard Ford and Anne Beattie, Canty’s stories are skillfully paced. Models of compression, they draw us into their dramas, complicate our allegiances, and then leave us breathless.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Finely crafted. . . . [Where the Money Went’s] semi-successful relationships may be unconventional, but they're intense nonetheless. Who knew misery could be so refreshing?” —Bookslut
“Canty is a writer’s writer, never letting slip an extraneous word. But unlike many an artisan of his gifts, he is also a reader’s writer.” —The Baltimore Sun
“Canty . . . depicts the world through his characters’ eyes, allowing for the simple acknowledgment that, in life, recognition or expectation of a change begets fresh, full attention to the world, its materials and surprises.” —Los Angeles Times
“Wry [and] sad-funny. . . . There’s longing, love, loss, betrayal, too much drinking, and a whole lot of post-divorce change-of-address forms to fill out there, but . . . Canty keeps you laughing along the way.” —New West Book Review
“Canty’s characters are hobbled by their inability to make or maintain real connections with other people. It’s like reading nine different incarnations of Jake Barnes from The Sun Also Rises, all of them groping for a sturdy emotion that is just out of reach. . . . That Canty can resuscitate such sad sacks is a testament to his storytelling gifts. There just might be hope for this crew of lost souls.” —Time Out New York
“Canty’s stories are very much Americana, pointed and spiky like a basket of freshly-sharpened pencils. His characters are the people you might otherwise ignore, the people you don’t remark upon at the soccer match, the married couple you might think you know, but do not, the valiant losers and ungraceful winners.” —The Agony Column
“Amazing. . . . Concise yet lyrical, revolutionary without being preachy.” —Metro
“Canty is a writer who not only cares to the bone about his characters, but who honors them, endowing them with an emotional richness that resonates in startling, often frankly disturbing ways.” —The Star-Ledger
“Certainly one of the most talented short story writers working today. . . . Canty has proved that the short story can be as vital a genre as its more glamorous and wealthy cousin, the novel.” —Seattle Post-Intelligencer
1. After reading Where the Money Went did Canty’s stories challenge you to look at morality in relationships differently?
2. Belongingness is a theme throughout the book–the notion that people do not have a place to return–a place where they can be safe, where things are familiar and where they become easier with time. What does this say about the characters’ situations and predicaments? Is there any hope of happiness in relationships? If not, where do these people go wrong?
3. Canty shows that the characters can see the peril down the road. Why do you think people ignore such signs? Why do they persist to engage in doomed relationships, like affairs and tenuous marriages?
4. Canty shows that the characters can see the peril down the road. Why do you think people ignore such signs? Why do they persist to engage in doomed relationships, like affairs and tenuous marriages?
5. In the story, “Where the Money Went,” Canty begins with the end. The divorce and the only certainty of it all: the money. The order of the stories seems to suggest that Canty wants us to see that this is where the rest of the book is heading. No illusions. Every story from here on out will end in the same way. Does he accomplish this? And if so, why do you think he approaches the book this way?
6. In “The Emperor of Ice Cream,” why does Lander allow himself to be jealous of the attention that Soleil pays to Tim? What does this say about the propensity of male sexuality? Its persistence? Male sexual frailty?
7. In “In the Burn,” the narrator describes the movement of the tectonic plates beneath Richard and Nancy. What does this movement foreshadow? Metaphorically, what does fire represent in Richard’s life?
8. In “They Were Expendable,” Canty uses a confessional approach–the narrator is confessing to his late wife that he has found another woman. The narrator says, “Life loves life.” What does this mean?
9. In “No Place in This World for You,” Walter seems to be constantly afraid, worried, and nervous. He bites. Why does he bite? What triggers his biting? Walter’s father seems helpless against his distant and aloof wife, and powerless even in his job. What does the moment with Sally Drake–including the moment when Walter bites her–say about his predicament? He may not be able to protect Walter, but can he even protect himself?
10. Explain the significance of the title “Sleeping Beauty.”
11. In “Birthday Girl,” what significance is there to the story being set in a snowed-in hotel that features mermaids in a giant pool that can be watched from the hotel bar? What greater meaning can be found in this incongruent environment?
12. Like “They Were Expendable,” in “The Boreal Forest,” the narrator addresses the audience directly. Why does he do this?
13. In “Burning Bridges, Breaking Glass,” Canty writes of Rossbach, “He understood that he himself represented an outbreak of the unreal, the chaotic, the dream life intruding upon the daylit one…He knew he should just go, he should leave her alone. Rossbach was chaos itself. He was violence upon her.” Why does Rossbach pursue Karen? Is he a malevolent character?
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