Sunday, April 28, 2013
SHORT STORY SUNDAY with Troy D. Smith
Today I'm going to highlight the second unit in a three-way tie for my all time favorite western short story -last month I talked about the first, "The Last Boast" by Dorothy Johnson.
This time around it is Ed Gorman's "The Face," winner of the 1993 Spur Award. It was anthologized a couple of times in the 1990s, and I think I may have seen it for the first time in the pages of Louis L'Amour Western Magazine, if I remember correctly. I am posting links below to two mass market paperbacks, long out of print, where you can find the story if you get 'em used... if it is available in digital form, and/or in a way that'll make Ed a buck if you buy it, someone please let us know.
TALES OF THE AMERICAN WEST
I am going to throw around some superlatives here. Ed Gorman is one of the best writers alive today, in any genre. I'm far from the only person to feel that way, I am sure. And this work is one of his best -in fact, in my opinion it is one of the best short stories written about the American Civil War, ever. It is a profound, disturbing, thought-provoking, poetic, and subtly terrifying tale. In his introduction of the story found in the book mentioned above, Richard S. Wheeler said: "It is the most haunting study of men at war that I have ever read. It brims with horror and beauty and darkness and evil."
I can't really give much away -in large part because Gorman's artistry in this particular work has little to do with plot and everything to do with tone and atmosphere. In a nutshell, though, "The Face" is about the effect on a Confederate military camp when a wounded man is brought in, immobile, an empty shell of a person, really -with his face seemingly permanently frozen into a horrifying expression that defies definition. The reader soon intuits that those features reflect all the horrors and grief of war in human experience. The soldiers, and the reader, are -to put it in contemporary terms -freaked the frack out. As we should be.
If you haven't read the work of Ed Gorman, this is a good place to start... but so is anything he has written, really.