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On Sale: December 18, 2007
Pages: 208 | ISBN: 978-0-307-42753-3
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In this widely acclaimed literary debut, Benjamin Cavell stalks the male ego, unleashing a ferocious volley of nine sharply written and deeply penetrating stories.

In Balls, Balls, Balls, we are introduced to Logan Bryant, the star member of the “fourth best paintball team in the tristate area.” Despite his knowledge of napalm recipes and his skill during Military Simulations—MilSim, for short—Logan’s armor shows fractures with every move he makes. In The Death of Cool, an insurance adjuster has come to realize much too clearly the range of threats that surround him. “Tired of trusting in the other guy’s morality,” he embraces his paranoia and leaves as little to chance as possible. The Ropes opens in a hospital room after Alex Folsom has sustained a devastating concussion. With both college and his boxing career behind him, he reunites with his father on Martha’s Vineyard to assess the damage--both physical and emotional. Rumble, Young Man, Rumble is a ground-shaking announcement of the next heavy hitter in American letters.

Excerpt

BALLS, BALLS, BALLS

On Thursday, a man comes into the store and asks me how to kill his wife. I know, because it’s my business to know, that what he really wants to ask is how to kill his wife and not get caught.

The man wears a short-sleeved button-down shirt and dark blue Dockers. His face is cratered with acne scars. It looks like the surface of the moon. I know without being told that this man works at one of the tech firms that have sprung up in the last year or so all along the road from Albany. He has never lifted a weight in his life. He has probably never been in a fight. He has never even been paintballing. But for some reason I feel sorry for this poor, bony fool and so I ask him whether he has a gas furnace.

I explain how to drill a hole in the main line that will allow a tiny stream of gas to trickle into his basement. The emission is so gradual that his wife is unlikely to notice. This is less detectable than disabling the pilot light on a gas stove. Also, it’s more controllable than blocking the return-air vents and filling the house with carbon monoxide. Then I tell him that he’ll need a spark.

The spark can come from anything. The static electricity of shoes scuffing a rug, the momentary discharge from the flipping of a light switch, the red power light on a clock radio that usually clicks on when the alarm sounds, a lightbulb that has been filled with gasoline and then screwed back into the socket—each can become a trigger that will turn out all the lights, if he knows what I mean. He does. He buys the Taskmaster Tool Kit (Deluxe Set), $179.99 on sale.

In the afternoon, I tell a nineteen-year-old in a fatigue jacket how to make napalm from gasoline and frozen orange juice concentrate (just mix equal parts—diet cola and gasoline works also) and then he buys a superthin Maxi-Grip C-series folding knife ($124.99)—which can be concealed in a boot or even inside a shirt collar for easy access—and a telescoping graphite police baton ($64.95). I tell him two stories about my time in the SEALs and show him my tattoo of Freddie the Frogman and then sell him The Mercenary’s Guide to Urban Survival ($19.99, paperback), and he leaves smiling and even salutes me, almost dropping his new baton.

The tattoo is temporary (I got a whole box of them two years ago at a novelty shop in Jersey City) and I’ve never been in the Navy. I’ve never even been farther than Philadelphia. And I can’t swim.

My name is Logan Bryant. I sell sporting goods.

Actually, I sell sporting goods, hardware, athletic equipment, patio furniture, barbecue grills and hobby literature.

But don’t get me wrong: I’m not just some wanna-be. Truth is, I could have been a SEAL if I’d ever bothered to learn to swim. I hold at least a green belt in several fighting disciplines and am nearly a black belt in Thai kickboxing (I just haven’t had time to take the test). I am the uncontested star of what is generally acknowledged to be the fourth-best paintball team in the tristate area. (We were scheduled to compete for the national title on ESPN2 but were scratched at the last second. Politics.) I have a full collection of green and brown face paint in various shades. I was All-Conference at middle linebacker my junior year of high school and would have been All-State or maybe even Honorable Mention All-America the next year if I hadn’t quit. I used to have subscriptions to Soldier of Fortune and Guns and Ammo until Barry told me that no one reads those anymore. Also, I am confident in my willingness to take the life of another human being.

And I can almost bench-press three eighty-five.

Barry arrives as Lou and I are totaling Thursday’s receipts. Lou nods to him and Barry swaggers around a standing rack of catcher’s mitts and ducks under the counter. Barry is wearing a lime-green New York Jets warm-up jacket.

“The average American,” I am telling Lou, “has an IQ around seventy-three. At that level of intellect, even basic functioning requires considerable effort. Decisions that you or I would consider simple border on impossible for Joe Citizen. That’s why people are so easily swayed by celebrity pitchmen and Oprah Winfrey and demonstrations of the new-and-improved Spic and Span. That’s why a presidential candidate can give the same speech over and over—they’re all talking to five-year-olds. People are just like children.”

“But all people were children at one point,” Lou says.

“So?”

“So, if they’re children now, what were they then?”

I sigh. “I’m trying to illustrate a point.”

“And what is that?”

“What is what?”

“The point, guy, the point.”

“My point is that people, for the most part, have no understanding of the realities of the world. That’s why it’s so easy for guys like you and me to get ahead.”

Lou finishes with his receipts and lays them down on the counter in a neat stack. “Isn’t that the same point you made on Monday?”

“No,” I say, exasperated. “My point on Monday was that college degrees are meaningless and that the only useful intelligence is street smarts. And that guys like you and me should really be running this country—and would be if we had little pieces of paper that said we’d gone to Princeton. Also, my point on Monday was based on the figure they released over the weekend, which put the average national IQ around seventy-six. In light of the most recent data, the conclusions must be even more extreme.”

“And who,” Lou says, “is compiling this data?”

I stare at him. “What do you mean? It’s a study.”

“By who?” He smiles. “Who’s ‘they’?”

Before I can answer, Barry says, “Do you doubt what he’s saying, Louie?”

Lou shrugs. “I just don’t know if people are so dumb.”

“Don’t know,” Barry says. “Look around you, man. We have the corrupt, liberal media. We have unchecked and unquestioned federal power. We have suppression of the First and Second Amendments, babies being murdered, kids’ shows that promote homosexuality, twenty-four-hour music videos, political correctness, celebrity magazines that promote homosexuality, celebrity talk shows, school shootings, celebrity profiles, celebrity political campaigns, celeb- rity fund-raisers for homosexual causes. This country is in the midst of a moral, racial, political, economic, social, sexual, military, environmental, educational, moral, fiscal, ethical, moral, class-based, moral crisis. We have forgotten our morality. We need a leader with character, who can provide moral stewardship and protect our kids from nudity and foul language and violence in the media and from entertainment with a homosexual agenda and who will institute a foreign policy to keep the ragheads in check and who has the compassion necessary to phase out the welfare system that lets fifty million unwed, teenage black mothers live lazily in the veritable lap of luxury by sucking on the overtaxed teat of real, hardworking Americans. Instead, we get these goddamn midwestern smooth talkers, chosen—by fifty-three percent of voters according to the most recent statistics— on the basis of height, for Chrissake. And you don’t know if people are dumb?”

I watch Lou triumphantly.

“That’s quite a speech,” he says.

“Damn right,” Barry says. “I always have one ready for you goddamn bleeding hearts.”

Lou frowns. “Are you sure there are fifty million black girls on welfare?”

“Sure I’m sure,” Barry tells him.

“I’m tired of losing,” Barry says.   “At paintball?” I say.

“That’s right.”

“We don’t lose too often.”

“Often enough.”

We’re at our gym, which is called Size, and Barry and I are taking turns on the leg press. He is wearing a tan leather weight belt to support his lower back. I pull the pin out of the weight stack—it was at two hundred, the weight Barry uses—and slide it into the hole marked four twenty-five.

There are only a few sluts in the weight room, stretching on the mats in the corner or else working on the lat pulldown, all of them dressed in spandex and string-strapped tank tops. I wait until a few of them are done with their various sets and then I lie back on the red-padded machine and set my feet shoulder width on the dimpled metal plate and push hard against it. The rack I am on slides away from the unmoving metal plate, and next to me four hundred twenty-five pounds of Bodysmith Nautilus weights creak upward in a quivering pile.

I can’t see anything but the white plaster of the ceiling, but I know the sluts must be looking. Even if they hadn’t already noticed me, the sound would have gotten their attention.

The ideal weight-lifting sound is never very loud. If you scream, you look like you’re trying too hard. The sound should combine the moan of sex with a muted angry roar. It should grow louder with each repetition, ending at about the same volume as a normal speaking voice.

When I am finished with the set, I sit up with my legs hanging off the edge of the machine and blot my face with a towel, looking out the side of my eye at one of the wall-size mirrors, inspecting the veins on my arms and the bulges of my chest and shoulders under the T-shirt.

I stand and Barry lies down for his next set.

“I’ve decided to bring in an expert,” he says.

“What kind of expert?”

“You know—an operator, a specialist, a mechanic.”

“Like a mercenary?”

He glances around us to see if anyone heard and motions for me to lean toward him, and when I do, says, “Like a mercenary.”

I keep my breathing normal. “Where’s he from?”

Barry smiles, our faces still close together, and says, “Israel, I think.”

“Why Israel?”

“Because they’re experienced.”

I groan. “But they don’t even lift. He probably has skinny little arms.”

Barry stares at me.

“Also,” I say, “what does some yid have to teach me about being hard?”

“He might know more about it than you think. And don’t say ‘yid.’ ”

“Sorry, but this all comes as quite a shock.”

“He’ll be here for our morning session on Saturday.”

He waves for me to move away from him and starts his set.

In the locker room, after we shower, Barry and I examine each other’s bodies and give constructive criticism. I know this sounds bad, but I just want to assure everyone that I’m not a fag. In fact, I would hate fags except that I read somewhere that hating fags meant you were a fag yourself. So I don’t hate them. I’m just not one. Really.

My apartment looks onto a grassless soccer field and the abandoned hulk of a paper mill and then onto the bright gray surface of Route 90, stretched out between banks of rust-colored trees, separated from the soccer field by a chain-link fence.

I turn on the television and slouch, sore-limbed, on the sofa. I drink a ready-mixed vanilla Met-Rx. The light from the television flickers across my face as I prepare the hypodermic and line up the bottles of pills—Dianabol, Nolvadex, Maxibolin, creatine phosphate. After I swallow the pills, I give myself the injection of B-12 and, so that doesn’t keep me up all night, follow it with two Seconal capsules the color of velvet-red cherries. I take four chalk-white zinc pills to keep the steroids from putting zits on my back and then I lie back and watch the bright gray screen.

The champion has teased hair and a sequined dress. She sings “I’m Still Here.” She is seven years old. She would like to thank God and her parents. She smiles all the time. The judges give her three and a half stars.

The challenger is an eleven-year-old boy with blond hair that flops over the sides of his head. He smiles wider than the girl. He sings “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” marching energetically in place. Suddenly, I have a vision of this boy in fifteen years, bruised, crying, track marks all along his arms. He is curled in a ball on the floor grabbing at the ankles of a V-bodied stud in leather pants. The big stud is saying, “It’s over, Julian. It’s . . . over.”

The judges give the challenger two and three-quarters stars.

The Seconals take hold and I am drifting and my chin sags to touch my chest. My eyelids droop closed and then pop open and droop closed again and do this over and over until finally they do not open anymore and I am asleep and the television is saying, “Kill, kill, kill.”

On Friday morning a blond slut in a purple tank top comes into the store and asks me about recumbent stationary bicycles. I am wearing a dark blue T-shirt with the Navy SEAL crest over the heart and UNITED STATES NAVY SEAL TEAMS across the back in white. The sleeves hug my biceps. My jeans are dark and boot-cut (I never wear a taper). My boots are tan Timberlands ($59.99 with the staff discount).

The slut stares at me hungrily. I lift up my T-shirt, using the bottom to wipe some imaginary grime from underneath my eye, showing her the cobblestone abs and the striations of the obliques.

“Are you an athlete?” she asks.

“I’m captain of the store paintball team.”

“Are you any good?”

“Bill Cookston said I was almost the best he ever saw. He said I could make any team I wanted, including Shockwave.”

“What’s that?”

“You’ve never heard of Shockwave? They’re only the winningest team in the history of the World Cup of paintball.”

“So, were you guys ever in that tournament on ESPN?” she says.

I snort. “ESPN.”

“I thought those guys were the best.”

“That’s what a lot of people think,” I say. “But for the serious MilSim competitor, that stuff is a sellout. It dilutes the purity of the sport.”

“What’s MilSim?”

I look at her for a few seconds and then say, “Military Simulation. What do you think we’re talking about?”

“I thought it was called war games.”

I can feel the muscles tighten in my shoulders. “It’s not a game.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I say, teeth clenched.

To calm myself, I put my hand on the seat of the Ergometer 9000 with optional heart-rate monitor and reading rack ($1,499.95).

“The recumbent feature,” I say carefully, “is particularly important if there will be any men riding the unit. Studies have shown that the upright models tend to promote impotence.”

“How do they do that?”

“Excuse me?”

“Promote impotence. The upright bicycles. How do they do it?”

“Well . . . I believe it has something to do with”—I look around for Lou, but I don’t see him anywhere—“with the ah . . . the heat of the testicle walls.”

Stevie is the only other salesman on the floor. He is showing a Merry Men compound bow ($334.99) to a fat-body in jungle camouflage complete with bush hat. I catch Stevie’s eye and he says something to the fat-body and walks toward me. The fat-body lays down the bow and begins fingering various arrowheads and stroking his thick mustache.

“Hello,” Stevie says when he reaches us.

“Hello,” the slut says. She is looking at Stevie with the same expression she had when I showed her my stomach. Stevie is taller than I am, but thin, and I wonder whether I am misreading her reaction.

“I was just explaining how upright bicycles cause impotence by overheating the testicle walls,” I say.

“Well,” Stevie says, smiling at me, “of course, that’s part of it. Also, the pressure restricts blood flow and damages the soft tissue.”

He walks the slut toward the displays of upright bicycles.

When erect, my cock is nine and a half inches long and as thick as some men’s wrists. A year ago, Stevie started working at the store and I heard from some slut we both know that he was packing almost eleven. Since then I have been seriously considering the experimental penile-enlargement surgery, which has been performed (I understand) with great success by two doctors in Sweden.
Benjamin Cavell|Author Q&A

About Benjamin Cavell

Benjamin Cavell - Rumble, Young Man, Rumble

Photo © Marion Ettlinger

Benjamin Cavell attended Harvard College, where he was a boxer and an editor for The Harvard Crimson. Rumble, Young Man, Rumble is his first book.

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Benjamin Cavell
Author of RUMBLE, YOUNG MAN, RUMBLE

Q. You’ve created a world of men who often seem consumed by violence and sex but are also yearning for answers. What made you want to explore what it means to be a man?

A:
In large part, I think, it was my perversity. That is, I want to write about what it means to be a man to some degree because that subject is so out of fashion. The most striking effect of that trend is that it is possible (and maybe even likely) to graduate from an American university these days without ever having been assigned Hemingway. And yet there may not be a 20th-century writer who has had more influence (positive and negative) on the generations that followed him.

The world my men inhabit is awfully crowded and dominated by extra-human technology (in which elevators speak for themselves) and by rules of behavior that are made more restrictive because it is so difficult to know what specifically they are. This is not to say that I think technology is so bad; I don’t. I also don’t think violence is so bad. I know that there are people who argue that the world would not be in its current state if human beings could somehow eliminate their instinct for violence. I don’t know that it’s even worth arguing this point, since it seems just as likely as eliminating human beings’ need for sex or food. (I am reminded of the character in Slaughterhouse Five who says writing an anti-war book is like writing an anti-glacier book.) I can’t imagine all the conditions that would have to be met for human beings to eliminate violence (wouldn’t they include the death of evil and good, sadness and joy?). The only answer I can give to such a criticism is that I want to live in a world with things in it that are worth fighting for. For me, the real argument concerns what those things are.

Q: Evolution immediately brought to mind recent news events, namely the sniper killings in Washington. Do you feel that this story offers any kind of an explanation for events like that?

A:
I guess it would be fashionable to say that fiction can never explain the kind of evil or amorality shown in the sniper killings. But I think good fiction should offer an explanation for—or, better, a way of understanding—any human action. (I am often struck by the passion with which people try to deny the power of fiction. Robin Williams’ character in “Good Will Hunting” rhetorically asks Matt Damon’s character, an orphan, “Do you think I have the slightest idea how hard your life has been because I read Oliver Twist?” But what marks Dickens as a great writer except his ability to give us more than the slightest feeling for the lives of other people?) That said, I’m not sure the sniper killings require much explanation. I don’t mean to sound reductive—I tend to agree with the statement (although I can’t seem to remember its author) that totalitarianism is, at its root, the attempt to apply easy solutions to complex problems. All I mean is, how hard is it to understand that a certain combination of loneliness and depression and desperation can lead a man (and the boy he has taken under his wing) to kill at random? In fact, I would think it’s much easier to kill a person who is only a tiny figure in your gun sight whose face you can’t even see than to stab someone and look into their eyes as they die. For some people, explaining actions is akin to excusing them. That is not the case for me. I regard Muhammad and Malvo each as terribly sad in some way and yet I feel no mercy for them. I think being a good writer (not to mention an intelligent person) requires that one be honest about the world and admit that there probably is no absolute evil or absolute good and that one can feel sorry both for a murderer and for his victim.

Also, just as it is a mistake to think of rape as being about sex, I think it’s a mistake to think of the sniper killings as being about violence. They are about power. In Evolution, the characters regard killing both as a source of power (there is a discussion about the power they wielded over the family they decided not to kill) and as a kind of last frontier for the modern man in his attempt to return to his natural state—they are trying to eliminate conscience as a censor to their actions and killing is the ultimate transgression.

Q: To what extent did your experiences as a boxer inform the story, THE ROPES, and this book in general?

A:
The story that Alex tells in The Ropes about being five years old and having his father bring him a tiny pair of gloves and then kneel on the floor in front of him and say, “Hit me,” is almost the actual story of the day I learned to box. The only real difference is that it was not my father who taught me to box but an old friend of his named Kurt Fisher, who had grown up in Vienna and fled to Shanghai with his mother when the Nazis came. Apparently there was a boxing league in Shanghai (made up, I think, of British sailors) and Kurt beat whomever there was to beat in their middleweight division and became middleweight champion of China. So it was a former champion (sort of) who showed me the basics of boxing. Somewhat later, Hemingway and Muhammed Ali each taught me ways that boxing could be turned into a literary subject. And somewhat after that, Tommy Rawson, the Harvard boxing coach, told me his stories and taught me that I had a talent for boxing that most people did not have.

I’m not sure to what extent my experiences as a boxer inform the stories that are not about boxing. Probably boxing has given me a more realistic sense of violence. It has also given me a confidence, which I think comes through in my writing, that I otherwise might not possess.

Q: Race and class are components of nearly all of your stories. Why do you keep coming back to them?

A:
Race and class are two of the great subjects and particularly two of the great American subjects, and yet it seems difficult for anybody to say anything interesting about them. I try to have race and class be part of the fabric of my stories without being the focus. I think fiction that is explicitly about race (or racism) and class tends, even when it’s written by great writers, to feel preachy and over-simplified. Also, fiction like that often relies on symbolism in place of reality, perhaps because problems of race and class seem so insoluble. I don’t regard it as the job of fiction to solve those problems, only to show them more clearly and thereby to influence people’s thinking about them.

As for the question of whether a white, middle-class man ought to take on those subjects (which is a question one often hears), the easy answer would be that any writer should have the right to write about anything. A more controversial answer is that most literature comes out of a struggle between guilt and longing, and children of the middle class tend to have grown up wrestling with their shame at being well-off and their desire to be better-off.

Q: “Any of the people you pass on the street could pretend to trip and stumble into you and sorry sorry my mistake pour a glass full of cyanide into your bare forearm . . . You are at their mercy. You are alive because they want you alive or because they do not care whether you live or because they do not notice you . . . You rely on the kindness of strangers.” This opening passage to THE DEATH OF COOL is a frighteningly dim outlook. I literally shuddered as I read it. Is this something that you think of often?

A:
I’m not sure that I think of it often, but I’m certainly aware of it and it’s easy for me to imagine a character who has become paralyzed by his fantasies of the dangers that surround him. In some way, I think The Death of Cool and Evolution come from similar impulses in me—The Death of Cool is about all the things other people don’t do to you; Evolution is about all the things you don’t do to other people.

I suppose I ought to say that The Death of Cool was written in response to September 11th (which is true to an extent), but I had been trying and failing for some years to write a story in which the protagonist suffered from that kind of paranoia. I wrote the opening passage almost in its final form shortly after I graduated college. In fact, in the original version it was anthrax (not hantavirus) that the narrator tells us could be released in the subway. I changed the reference after the real anthrax attacks, in part because it would have felt cheap to leave it in and in part because I think the power of paranoia is that it is not limited by reality.

Q: Comparisons are already being made between your writing and that of Ernest Hemingway and Norman Mailer. How do you feel about this, and who are your literary heroes?

A:
Of course, it is impossible to respond directly to such comparisons. You can either say, “Thank you!” which may suggest that you don’t feel worthy of the company (death, I think, for an ambitious writer) or else say, “I don’t want to be the next Ernest Hemingway, I want to be the first me,” in which case everyone will (rightly) hate you.

Hemingway and Mailer have been tremendous figures for me since I was fourteen years old and beginning to think seriously about what it would mean to be a writer. Their influence has been at turns inspiring and stifling, so comparisons of my writing to theirs can make me worry that I have slipped into the trap of imitation. I hope that the comparisons come from a more general sense of similarity in our subjects and maybe even in the size of our ambitions.

It took me a number of desperate years to get out from under the Hemingway style. I found it (as, I think, did Mailer) madly attractive and madly limiting. There are themes one might want in one’s work that seem unable to exist inside the hard muscles of Hemingway’s sentences. The major writer in the second half of the last century had to be responsible for an enormous breadth of subjects, particularly Philosophy, many of which would not have interested Hemingway. And this new, post-9-11, world seems even more complicated, for an American, than the Cold War world in which Mailer did much of his writing and in which we better understood our enemies.
I don’t want to give the sense that all of literature is, for me, to be found somewhere between Ernest Hemingway and Norman Mailer. There are many other writers I admire (often for their energy and honesty and lack of sentimentality), in addition to those (Homer, Shakespeare, and so on) whom one does not really have the right to admire or not admire.

Q: The women in your stories range from simple objects of desire or fascination to figures that have a strangely powerful hold on male characters. Why do women seem so peripheral in your work?

A:
I’m sorry to hear that women seem peripheral in my writing. They are certainly not peripheral in my life or in my thinking about the world. If I don’t write much about women, it’s only because I feel as though there are other writers who have written about them better than I can. I don’t yet have a lot of interesting things to say about women that haven’t been said before. I think the saying “write what you know” is often misinterpreted as “only write about things you have actually done.” I take it much more to mean, “write what you understand well enough to be interesting about as you work to understand it further.” I intend to write more about women, but I don’t want to do it just because I ought to and to be forced to lean on clichés or to rehash other people’s work. I figure if I don’t have anything new to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all.

Q: You’ve offered us serial killers, football superstars, Jamaican “yardies,” stressed out politicians, struggling artists, and a few guys with some severe mental problems. Your portrayal of each seems so effortless; what’s your secret?

A:
The kind of imagination that interests me most is moral imagination—that is, the ability to imagine what it’s like to be the other guy. (I am often thrilled by the imagination required to create “Star Wars” or Dune or even The Lord of the Rings, but that kind of thing often feels like cheap, hot, tasty, fast food that leaves you hungry an hour later.) I think a well-developed moral imagination may be the most important quality in a good writer. I also think that the reason there have been so few good upper-class writers—I mean writers from the upper class, because of course there have been many who have written well about it—and so few good totalitarian writers is that each group tends to lack moral imagination.

It is not difficult to see, superficially, what is desirable and what is frustrating about most lives. After that, one can begin to imagine the internal life of a character in a given set of circumstances. It is more difficult, of course, to create a character who is unlike you not only in circumstance but in personality—a killer, for example. But most people have in them the capacity to be good and evil, kind and sadistic. In order to create an aberrant character, a writer (like an actor) takes the mostly unused piece of himself that is the dominant feature of the character and extrapolates what it might be like to be controlled by that piece.
There are some things one can make oneself learn about writing. But I often think that moral imagination, like an ear for authentic-sounding (which does not necessarily mean good) dialogue, is something one either does or does not have.

Q: Having been a teacher, what advice do you have for other young writers?

A:
Don’t be sentimental; it’s cheating. And don’t use adverbs (or italics), unless you absolutely need them.

Q: What’s next for you?

A:I hope that what’s next includes watching the Red Sox win their first World Series title in eighty-five years. More likely, I will make my annual journey from the wild optimism of March to the despair of September when the joy leaves Mudville and the Sox fade from the pennant race. Also I’m at work on a novel, which I hope to finish this spring or summer.

Praise

Praise

“Benjamin Cavell comes on like gangbusters with a set of tightly coiled stories. . . . [An] expert collection.” —The New York Times

“Bad boys abound in this knockout collection of short stories. . . . [Cavell] writes with the assurance, the intelligence, and the ownership of his craft of an author who’s been winning laurels all his life.” —The Boston Globe

“Razor-sharp. . . . Engaging, funny and heartfelt, Rumble, Young Man, Rumble is a provocative take on the new generation.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Astonishing . . . rude, manic, calculating, over-the-top, often hilarious and utterly surreal.” —Los Angeles Times

“Headlong prose is the engine that drives Cavell’s work, pulling the reader along after it [with a] lunatic sensibility and zany grace.” –The Washington Post Book World

"Cavell . . . has a beautiful sense of rhythm. His sentences are staccato short, and as toned as a fighter two minutes before ringside." –Chicago Tribune

"This is minimalist prose reinvigorated. . . . Cavell finally shows us not just how men hit each other, but why." –The New York Times Book Review

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

“This debut collection of stories is the literary equivalent of a right hook. It’s devastatingly good. . . . 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.” –Rocky Mountain News

"A CAT scan of the male psyche. . . . The tight-lipped realism of Cavell's dialogue approaches stoic poetry." –The Columbus Dispatch

“Neil LaBute couldn’t have written a colder, funnier or more brutal collection of stories about what it means to be a man than this debut by Benjamin Cavell. . . . The spare description, the tight dialogue and the crude jokes all work here. Even when [his] characters are overtly frightening, their insecurities insure their complexity.” –The Nation

“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

“'Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee' is both the epigraph to Cavell's violent debut . . . and a fair summation of how each tale operates. . . . Cavell’s writing is lean and mean, stripped down to make his cast of imploding alpha males all the more naked and frightening.” –Entertainment Weekly

“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)

"Armed with clean, simple prose . . . [Cavell's] straightforward tales course with the haunting hum of men fated to sublimation and the anger it breeds." –The Onion

“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 (starred review)

Rumble, Young Man, Rumble is the work of a writer of extraordinary talent. Bristling with intensity, these stories are filled with insight into human frailty, motivation and possibility. Cavell [is] a skilled and serious fiction writer with a very bright future.” –January Magazine

“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

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