In an intricately linked series of poetic, short tales set in a 1983 suburb, Greg Bottoms portrays his life as one of two “at-risk” boys as they attempt to learn how to be–and what it means to be–men. By turns funny, disquieting, and moving, Fight Scenes takes an unsparing look at juvenile disaffection and the dark side of white, working-class masculinity. By narrating his experiences with childhood buddy Mark, Bottoms shows how many of America’s young men learn to think about work, sex, weakness, violence, and themselves. As he tells stories of this time and place, we become part of the hazy summer the boys spend drifting past the insect-singing trees, the sulfur-smelling creek, the 7-Eleven and the strip mall and the car dealership, and in and out of the woods looking for something to do. In a pared-down, highly readable style that brings to mind the work of Raymond Carver, Sherman Alexie, and Denis Johnson, Bottoms has created a work of literature that shows how even the most accepted forms of “toughness” can have a damaging, disorienting, and finally dehumanizing effect on everyone, especially kids.
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An essayist, memoirist, critic, and story writer, Greg Bottoms is the author of The Colorful Apocalypse and Fight Scenes. He teaches creative writing at the University of Vermont.