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Battleborn

Battleborn


Battleborn

valoraciones:
4.5/5 (26 valoraciones)
Longitud:
8 horas
Publicado:
Jan 1, 2014
ISBN:
9781470379674
Formato:
Audiolibro

Descripción

Like the work of Cormac McCarthy, Denis Johnson, Richard Ford, and Annie Proulx, Battleborn represents a near-perfect confluence of sensibility and setting, and the introduction of an exceptionally powerful and original literary voice. In each of these ten unforgettable stories, Claire Vaye Watkins writes her way fearlessly into the mythology of the American West, utterly reimagining it. Her characters orbit around the region's vast spaces, winning redemption despite - and often because of - the hardship and violence they endure. The arrival of a foreigner transforms the exchange of eroticism and emotion at a prostitution ranch. A prospecting hermit discovers the limits of his rugged individualism when he tries to rescue an abused teenager. Decades after she led her best friend into a degrading encounter in a Vegas hotel room, a woman feels the aftershock. Most bravely of all, Watkins takes on - and reinvents - her own troubled legacy in a story that emerges from the mayhem and destruction of Helter Skelter. Arcing from the sweeping and sublime to the minute and personal, from Gold Rush to ghost town to desert to brothel, the collection echoes not only in its title but also in its fierce, undefeated spirit the motto of her home state.
Publicado:
Jan 1, 2014
ISBN:
9781470379674
Formato:
Audiolibro


Sobre el autor

Claire Vaye Watkins is the author of Battleborn, winner of the Story Prize, the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Silver Pen Award from the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. Battleborn was named a Best Book of 2012 by the San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Time Out New York, and Flavorwire, and a Best Short Story Collection by NPR.org. In 2012, the National Book Foundation named Claire one of the 5 Best Writers Under 35. Her stories and essays have appeared in Granta, One Story, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, Best of the West 2011, Best of the Southwest 2013, and elsewhere. A graduate of the University of Nevada Reno and the Ohio State University, Claire has received fellowships from the Writers’ Conferences at Sewanee and Bread Loaf. An assistant professor at Bucknell University, Claire is also the co-director, with Derek Palacio, of the Mojave School, a free creative writing workshop for teenagers in rural Nevada.

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26 valoraciones / 30 Reseñas
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Reseñas de lectores

  • (3/5)
    Mostly set around Reno. Lots of video poker, a generous smattering of unwelcome pregnancies and a fair old amount of gold prospecting. Not terrible, but hardly comparable with Cormac McCarthy as the cover quote claimed.
  • (4/5)
    I received this book as a first reads giveaway winner. I'm not a big short story fan because I don't like getting such a small snippet of the characters' lives. But Claire does a great job of wrapping up the short stories so you feel like you are seeing a lot. She conveys a lot about the characters so you feel like you know them. I really enjoyed her writing. Good collection of short stories.
  • (4/5)
    I wrote a very deep review only to return to this page to find it wiped clean before I had completed my last few sentences and submitted. So sad. So here's the "short story version" of my very word novel of a first review. Fitting, right?Short story collections are tricky to review -- focusing on plot points would undoubtedly mean ruining one or more of the stories for the reader and I enjoyed this collection of stories too much to run the risk of robbing any reader from the experience of reading/experiencing Claire Vaye Watkins' "Battleborn". Unlike other short story collections I have read in the last couple years I did not get the feeling while reading that the reason for the short story collection's printing was one or two very good short stories that had (for one reason or another) not been capable of eventually becoming a novel outright sandwiched amongst a mediocre array of "filler" short stories in order to warrant the release of the book. There are no weak links here in the ten stories that make up this collection. And that's great. It feels like a collection. The stories stand on their own but are still cohesive as a group. That is not to say that some stories spoke to me more than others -- some did, but I read and enjoyed every last story.The setting of the stories is the rugged, rough and sometimes still lawless western US with many of the stories centered in the author's native Nevada. It is a place that you can feel she knows and therefore her characters know. The overarching themes of the stories are compelling. The legacy of both the characters and the land is central, focusing on both came to be. These are not idealized folks. They are real and have real problems and are really, in several stories, concerned about overcoming both the situations they have been born into as well as the poor decisions they have made. Identity is central and, I would argue a theme separate from legacy. The two overlap for some people/places but not necessarily so. There's some real poignancy in the themes, the title and the landscape which is what gives the stories the cohesiveness I mentioned earlier. These characters are imperfect both in the situations they were born into and the situations they have created for themselves. Similarly the land is imperfect. Gained as US territory from a legacy many people would like to forget -- existing today as a very real place with crime, rough around the edges, unforgiving in its landscape and weather. The land, the people and these stories are, essentially, battle born and will continue to be a place where battles of the legal, moral and historical sort will continue on.I highly recommend, obviously -- as have many fellow readers, fancy reviewers and literary panelists. I look forward to more.
  • (4/5)
    This is a wonderful, often gritty, collection of short stories.Two especially were memorable to me:The first entry in the book and one of my favorites is 'Ghosts, Cowboys'. It is more essay than short story about the hard scrabble state of Nevada's history. It segues into the author's own story. Her father, Larry Watkins, was a member of the infamous Manson family, living on the Spahn and also the Meyers Ranches. Although Watkins was present when Manson gave his Helter Skelter prophecy, he did not take part in the murders, and became one of the prime witnesses against Manson during Manson's trial. After the trial, Watkins acquired a job and a wife and eventually daughter Claire.My other favorite, 'The Diggings', recounts a story of two brothers hunting gold in Nevada. When they need extra help to work their claim, they befriend a Chinese father and his son. This is a sad part of American history as the Chinese were hated. The outcome of the story is very sobering. Excellent writer. I'll look forward to reading more of her work.
  • (4/5)
    4.5 if I had the option.

    A stunning collection of brutal, heart-breaking, inspiring and powerful stories. Set in and around Reno, Nevada, Watkins has put together a series of stunning vignettes of relationships or people teetering on the brink of collapse. The setting is critical to the atmosphere of these tense and sometimes tragic stories and Watkins is brilliant at evoking the cruelty of the desert both literally (in stories about people stranded in various ways) and lurking beneath the civilisation of the towns and cities of the region.
  • (5/5)
    Despite the title, there is no "Battleborn" story in Claire Vaye Watkins wonderful debut collection. Ms. Watkins imparts a two-fold meaning from her "made-up" word creating the perfect title. First there is the simple fact that all of the stories are set in Nevada. And Nevada's official state motto is 'The Battle Born State', as a result of attaining statehood in 1864 during the Civil War, Secondly, Ms. Watkins uses battle born as an organizing metaphor to highlight the tension between destruction and creation within both the characters and the landscape. Somewhat whimsically she has combined the phrase into one word, Battleborn, because she thought "it looks cool" and it does.Undoubtedly the preponderance of reviews for Battleborn will include words such as gritty, stunning and powerful. All of which are accurate and appropriate adjectives. But it is the sense of place within the varied Nevada landscape that is the dominating aspect of these stories. From the bright lights of Las Vegas, to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, to the Winnemucca Dry Lake Bed and the Black Rock Desert, to the clear, pristine lushness of Lake Tahoe. "We are who we are because of where we are." And it is this common refrain that is evident in every story and character within the collection.Confined by their life's circumstance the characters are pushing against their existing life. These people struggle so hard to make just a small improvement, if they make any at all. I guess some people go through huge upheavals and changes in their personalities but most of the time they kind of ease their way forward, or backward, but that's what people are like, at least most of the people I know.The stories in the collection are as varied as the landscape. There are untraditional stories about broken hearts and broken dreams, abusive relationships, gold diggers (of a couple of varieties), bunny ranches, and fireworks in the desert.This is the coming out party for a new, important literary voice of the West. This collection is spectacular and Claire Vaye Watkins is truly battleborn and the real deal.Note: This review was written June 4, 2012, yet never posted.
  • (5/5)
    An outstanding debut collection. Watkins presents some interesting characters and situations: gold prospectors in the 1800s, a modern scavenger of misplaced fireworks, Manson cult members, young women in impossible relationships, lost tourists. The landscapes of Nevada and California are crucial elements in these stories.Looking forward to more from this talented young voice.
  • (4/5)
    Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins; an ARC/ER; 4 starsThis is one of the best debuts of a book of shorts that I have had the pleasure of read in quite some time. Watkins' level of control over her prose is stunning and reads like the work of a writer much older than 29. She writes refreshingly opting for depth over the charms of style and mode favored by many of our younger writers today. Her characters are complex and real with personal depths that often seem bottomless making them in a sense unknowable. However perhaps it is that seemingly unknowable essence which makes them come truly alive for the reader. We can't explain them but we feel them in a way that confounds easy expression. Similarly the characters are equally unable to explain themselves and their struggle to do so is what lies at the heat of the book. They are in pain. They are 'battle born'. They are not quite sure why and end up battling themselves and their surroundings in order to uncover a narrative that would explain to them and to us how they've managed to end up here and quite possibly as a result how they can escape. Through their search the characters end up creating beauty, however fleeting it may be, from misery and Watkins does the same drawing the two so closely that by the end it is difficult to clearly distinguish where one ends and the other begins. Watkins shows how the search for a clean narrative, a story, is intimately linked with the act of redemption.I totally recommend this book of short stories.
  • (4/5)
    One of the reasons I'm drawn to fiction set in the West is that the good stuff, the really good stuff, brings this part of the world to life. It is a vivid, harsh, beautiful place that rarely nurtures but often rewards anyone who can handle it.Many of the characters can handle it in Claire Vaye Watkins's brilliant stories in Battleborn, which are set in Nevada and Northern California. They just don't know they can handle it until circumstances point it out to them abruptly.That's certainly the case in "The Last Thing We Need". Thomas Grey, who lives out in the Middle of Nowhere, finds the debris of what may have been a wreck and writes to the man whose name and address he finds on some prescription bottles. Even though he has a wife and two children, he lives mostly with his thoughts. And, because the man he is writing to has not answered, Thomas Grey begins to relay his thoughts. This is our old joke. Like all our memories, we like to take it out once in a while and lay it flat on the kitchen table, the way my wife does with her sewing patterns, where we line up the shape of our life against that which we thought it would be by now.I'll tell you what I don't tell her, that there is something shameful in this, the buoying of our sinking spirits with old stories.And later:On second thought, perhaps sometimes these things are best left by the side of the road, as it were. Sometimes a person wants a part of you that's no good. Sometimes love is a wound that opens and closes, opens and closes, all our lives.Grey finds out that there is something he cares very much about besides the past. He can handle where he is and what he has.Other characters need to leave to reach that epiphany. One leaves a brother to his own devices after his sibling is enthralled by something else out in the land where gold was hunted and where gamblers still believe they will come out on top. Another has been depending on her sister and reaches a point where, perhaps, her sister can now depend on her.Others are not so successful. Not all attempts by the men to be heroic succeed, as one old-time miner discovers. Not all attempts by the women to let go of the past succeed.For all of them, the men and the women, the ones who thrive and the ones who barely survive, promises matter. In a story, "The Diggings", set during the Gold Rush, a 49'er explains:A promise unkept will take a man's mind. It does not matter whether the promise is made by a woman or a territory or a future foretold. ... Because though I was afraid and angry and lonesome much of the time, I was also closer to my own raw heart there in the territory than I have ever been since.
  • (5/5)
    I waver between being so incredibly excited that Claire Vaye Watkins writing exists because it is just so lovely... and so incredibly jealous of how easy she makes it all look. Effortless and yet perfect. Every line, every word always so meticulously chosen. I hope to one day write something 1/2 as good as what she writes. Perfection.
  • (4/5)
    Even had I not already known the particulars regarding the real-life death of author Claire Vaye Watkins' mother, or how "Razor Blade Baby" got her name, I'm positive Battleborn's opening sentence would've still jolted me. Claire Vaye Watkins' gallows humor knows no bounds, and even though there's little amusing about suicide or the wild-eyed image of an impulsive Charles Manson abruptly "assisting" in a difficult delivery with a rudimentary scalpel, operating in unsanitary, squalid quarters out at some now long-since-mythologized Death Valley "Ranch," I can't help but laugh, disarmed as I am by Watkins' deadpan delivery. A delivery that often zips with wit, hooks and puns. Fun puns you don't see coming, ones that wallop you, as in the first (and I think her best) story, "Ghosts, Cowboys," a fictive/autobiographical rumination on beginnings both personal and universal in the history of the wild Wild West."The curse of the Comstock Lode had not yet leaked from the silver vein, not seeped into the water table. The silver itself had not yet been stripped from the mountains, and steaming water had not yet flooded the mine shafts. Henry T.P. Comstock ... had not yet lost his love Adelaide ... who drowned in Lake Tahoe. He had not yet traded his share of the lode for a bottle of whiskey and an old, blind mare, not yet blown his brains out with a borrowed revolver near Bozeman, Montana.Boom times."Excuse me while I see stars and rise slowly off the mat. Other times, however, I'm sorry to say, as in "Wish You Were Here," Watkins, rather than booming, is firing blanks. The story opens sounding more like an outline than polished prose. "It begins with a man and a woman. They are young ... They fall in love. They marry. They have a child." I suppose her staccato style throughout the story conveys an approximation of Marin's disjointed thinking, her confusion and anxiety she on the cusp of becoming a mother and how depersonalized, perhaps, her pregnancy is causing her to feel, especially in relation to her husband who, "Before bed -- when once he would have touched her -- he leans down and speaks to her midsection," but the start-stop choppiness of the writing itself, and not just the choppiness of Marin's emotions and interiority, are annoying without relief. The story, unfortunately, is one of the more irritating stories I've read. Marin feels (she sure feels an awful lot here) that the new tiny town she and her husband moved to in the desert recently, "with its city traffic whispering like the sea" (and what an unusually pedestrian, uninspired simile for Watkins -- "city traffic whispering like the sea") "tries too hard". I don't think it's just the town that is trying too hard in "Wish You Were Here." Thankfully, the majority of Watkins' stories are good enough they needn't bother trying so hard. Case in point: "The Past Perfect, The Past Continuous, The Simple Past," in which all three delineated vagaries of the story title's "past," seeping out in the sordid lives of the characters employed by, or who manage, the Cherry Patch Ranch, Nevadan outpost of legalized harlotry, mere inches beyond the Clark County line where prostitution remains outlawed, flow and intertwine with seamless ease.Darla is Michele's favorite delicacy on the Cherry Patch Ranch's "menu". He's lonesome since his too adventurous buddy, Rienzo, went and walked off alone into a desert state park outside Vegas, where he was possibly tricked into walking just a little further, a little further, by some shimmering mirage of summer's triple-digit wrath materializing on the sand. Maybe if he'd carried water he'd have come back. Days later, when Rienzo still has not returned or his body been discovered, despite the diligent efforts of local search-and-rescue teams, Michele, rather than mope around his hotel room or play blackjack in the attached megacasino, arrives at the Cherry Patch. His Italian suit and accent make the ladies come alive as he enters. "Pick me, pick me". Instead, he drinks beer at the bar and Darla saunters over night after night, for a week. All Michele does is drink, consummating his grief over Rienzo's loss through chit chat rather than a standard, burger-and-fries equivalent, "suck and fuck". Manny, the brothel's gay manager and bartender, develops a secret but intense crush on Michele, and so lets him sit at the bar all night with Darla rather than insisting he get down to the dirty and proper business of his brothel, like he'd demand of any other patron wasting his precious time schmoozing instead of screwing. "Army Amy" and her bulging biceps and colossal bosom could probably teach Michele and Darla a trick or two, no doubt envisions making bank with a lucrative mènage à trois, but Darla, wouldn't you know it (and my how Claire Vaye Watkins knows a narrative trick or two, turning her own as she plays some English-usage "pun and games" with the story's title and Michele's limited English usage comprehension) could be turning her last and most profitable trick ever on Michele, a cruel and platonic trick whose consequences may force Michele into making some forever-life-altering decisions he'd might not have made otherwise had he remained back at the casino awaiting news of Rienzo there.Other shrewd tricks showcased in Battleborn are equally as nuanced and devastating. Like the bored, romantic notions that spur two teenage girls into making an impromptu pilgrimage from their humdrum Minnesota town in "Rondine Al Nido" to that dream's oasis, Las Vegas. To the decadent, megalopolis of the deluded and their delusions that, from an elevated distance miles away, appears like "a blanket made of lights, like light is liquid and the city is a great glistening lake." A lake of fire. Though in the naive eyes of "Our Girl" (could "Our Girl" be a disguised Claire Vaye Watkins?) and Lena, that lake of fire's nocturnal radiance is paradise awaiting, and not their impending perdition. For little do our two heroines know that they are in fact about to pass through the gates of hell on earth once they open the doors to New York New York. Can you blame them that they want to be a part of it, New York New York? Still, it's hard not to cringe watching Our Girl and Lena go down a casino escalator, buzzed and struggling to hold their booze, when they make eyes at four cute guys -- and of course they're angelic imps -- going the other way, up up up. Uh oh. Don't go, Girls (I want to reach into the book and stop them), please don't go up like that in your skimpy skirts in awkward flirtatious pursuit (awkward because that's not really them), for these bad cads (don't you know? can't you see?), besides lecherous pigs, could be cons! Or worse....Our Girl and Lena soon regretfully realize that despite the iconic marketing campaign to the contrary, what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas, but follows you home. Claire Vaye Watkins is an endearing author at home in the literal and figurative desolation existing in deserts and in hearts. She could just as easily have been the daughter of Edward Abbey as Tex Watkins, so attuned is her soulful bond to the eastern Mojave of California and Nevada, and to its hardy denizens surviving on the fringes. When Watkins is on, she's fireworks. A writer exuberant and exciting to read. When she's off (which is rarer), she's still interesting, even if the stories -- the aforementioned "Wish You Were Here" and one I didn't mention, "The Archivist" -- ultimately fizzle. Though maybe those stories will soar for other readers in ways they didn't for me. Regardless, Claire Vaye Watkins is generally good and going to be genuinely great one day. I can't wait for her first novel.
  • (4/5)
    This one came out of the gate swinging. A good, muscular short story collection -- each one has its own momentum and gravity like a tiny, dense planet.The stories are set out west, mostly in and around Reno, which made for a little extra exotic twist for this east coaster, but they stand up on their own right. Good stuff, very immersive and each one compelling.
  • (5/5)
    Claire Vaye Watkins' Battleborn is a welcome addition to the contemporary western genre. The author bio states Watkins was “born in Death Valley and raised in the Nevada desert.” If you've been to Tonopah or Pahrump or driven Highway 50, you know there's a whole world of difference between Las Vegas and the rest of the state. Watkins explores desert desolation and small town boredom with a deft hand. Her stories are full of tension and I did not want to put this book down. I'll sit Battleborn next to Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx and Wallace Stegner's Big Rock Candy Mountain – and I can't wait to read her next book.
  • (4/5)
    This book of short stories really captures the essence of Nevada, or what we Nevadans like to think is our essence. The stories roam around from the desert to small towns, to big cities, both now and in the past. I liked this book a lot and I don't usually like short stories. I hope to read more from this author some day.
  • (4/5)
    Even had I not already known the particulars regarding the real-life death of author Claire Vaye Watkins' mother, or how "Razor Blade Baby" got her name, I'm positive Battleborn's opening sentence would've still jolted me. Claire Vaye Watkins' gallows humor knows no bounds, and even though there's little amusing about suicide or the wild-eyed image of an impulsive Charles Manson abruptly "assisting" in a difficult delivery with a rudimentary scalpel, operating in unsanitary, squalid quarters out at some now long-since-mythologized Death Valley "Ranch," I can't help but laugh, disarmed as I am by Watkins' deadpan delivery. A delivery that often zips with wit, hooks and puns. Fun puns you don't see coming, ones that wallop you, as in the first (and I think her best) story, "Ghosts, Cowboys," a fictive/autobiographical rumination on beginnings both personal and universal in the history of the wild Wild West."The curse of the Comstock Lode had not yet leaked from the silver vein, not seeped into the water table. The silver itself had not yet been stripped from the mountains, and steaming water had not yet flooded the mine shafts. Henry T.P. Comstock ... had not yet lost his love Adelaide ... who drowned in Lake Tahoe. He had not yet traded his share of the lode for a bottle of whiskey and an old, blind mare, not yet blown his brains out with a borrowed revolver near Bozeman, Montana.Boom times."Excuse me while I see stars and rise slowly off the mat. Other times, however, I'm sorry to say, as in "Wish You Were Here," Watkins, rather than booming, is firing blanks. The story opens sounding more like an outline than polished prose. "It begins with a man and a woman. They are young ... They fall in love. They marry. They have a child." I suppose her staccato style throughout the story conveys an approximation of Marin's disjointed thinking, her confusion and anxiety she on the cusp of becoming a mother and how depersonalized, perhaps, her pregnancy is causing her to feel, especially in relation to her husband who, "Before bed -- when once he would have touched her -- he leans down and speaks to her midsection," but the start-stop choppiness of the writing itself, and not just the choppiness of Marin's emotions and interiority, are annoying without relief. The story, unfortunately, is one of the more irritating stories I've read. Marin feels (she sure feels an awful lot here) that the new tiny town she and her husband moved to in the desert recently, "with its city traffic whispering like the sea" (and what an unusually pedestrian, uninspired simile for Watkins -- "city traffic whispering like the sea") "tries too hard". I don't think it's just the town that is trying too hard in "Wish You Were Here." Thankfully, the majority of Watkins' stories are good enough they needn't bother trying so hard. Case in point: "The Past Perfect, The Past Continuous, The Simple Past," in which all three delineated vagaries of the story title's "past," seeping out in the sordid lives of the characters employed by, or who manage, the Cherry Patch Ranch, Nevadan outpost of legalized harlotry, mere inches beyond the Clark County line where prostitution remains outlawed, flow and intertwine with seamless ease.Darla is Michele's favorite delicacy on the Cherry Patch Ranch's "menu". He's lonesome since his too adventurous buddy, Rienzo, went and walked off alone into a desert state park outside Vegas, where he was possibly tricked into walking just a little further, a little further, by some shimmering mirage of summer's triple-digit wrath materializing on the sand. Maybe if he'd carried water he'd have come back. Days later, when Rienzo still has not returned or his body been discovered, despite the diligent efforts of local search-and-rescue teams, Michele, rather than mope around his hotel room or play blackjack in the attached megacasino, arrives at the Cherry Patch. His Italian suit and accent make the ladies come alive as he enters. "Pick me, pick me". Instead, he drinks beer at the bar and Darla saunters over night after night, for a week. All Michele does is drink, consummating his grief over Rienzo's loss through chit chat rather than a standard, burger-and-fries equivalent, "suck and fuck". Manny, the brothel's gay manager and bartender, develops a secret but intense crush on Michele, and so lets him sit at the bar all night with Darla rather than insisting he get down to the dirty and proper business of his brothel, like he'd demand of any other patron wasting his precious time schmoozing instead of screwing. "Army Amy" and her bulging biceps and colossal bosom could probably teach Michele and Darla a trick or two, no doubt envisions making bank with a lucrative mènage à trois, but Darla, wouldn't you know it (and my how Claire Vaye Watkins knows a narrative trick or two, turning her own as she plays some English-usage "pun and games" with the story's title and Michele's limited English usage comprehension) could be turning her last and most profitable trick ever on Michele, a cruel and platonic trick whose consequences may force Michele into making some forever-life-altering decisions he'd might not have made otherwise had he remained back at the casino awaiting news of Rienzo there.Other shrewd tricks showcased in Battleborn are equally as nuanced and devastating. Like the bored, romantic notions that spur two teenage girls into making an impromptu pilgrimage from their humdrum Minnesota town in "Rondine Al Nido" to that dream's oasis, Las Vegas. To the decadent, megalopolis of the deluded and their delusions that, from an elevated distance miles away, appears like "a blanket made of lights, like light is liquid and the city is a great glistening lake." A lake of fire. Though in the naive eyes of "Our Girl" (could "Our Girl" be a disguised Claire Vaye Watkins?) and Lena, that lake of fire's nocturnal radiance is paradise awaiting, and not their impending perdition. For little do our two heroines know that they are in fact about to pass through the gates of hell on earth once they open the doors to New York New York. Can you blame them that they want to be a part of it, New York New York? Still, it's hard not to cringe watching Our Girl and Lena go down a casino escalator, buzzed and struggling to hold their booze, when they make eyes at four cute guys -- and of course they're angelic imps -- going the other way, up up up. Uh oh. Don't go, Girls (I want to reach into the book and stop them), please don't go up like that in your skimpy skirts in awkward flirtatious pursuit (awkward because that's not really them), for these bad cads (don't you know? can't you see?), besides lecherous pigs, could be cons! Or worse....Our Girl and Lena soon regretfully realize that despite the iconic marketing campaign to the contrary, what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas, but follows you home. Claire Vaye Watkins is an endearing author at home in the literal and figurative desolation existing in deserts and in hearts. She could just as easily have been the daughter of Edward Abbey as Tex Watkins, so attuned is her soulful bond to the eastern Mojave of California and Nevada, and to its hardy denizens surviving on the fringes. When Watkins is on, she's fireworks. A writer exuberant and exciting to read. When she's off (which is rarer), she's still interesting, even if the stories -- the aforementioned "Wish You Were Here" and one I didn't mention, "The Archivist" -- ultimately fizzle. Though maybe those stories will soar for other readers in ways they didn't for me. Regardless, Claire Vaye Watkins is generally good and going to be genuinely great one day. I can't wait for her first novel.
  • (2/5)
    I'm really scratching my head on this one. All this praise and great reviews, and I really hated this book. The scenarios were contrived with over-descriptive neurotic language. It's like she is trying to re-invent her past as if she was born and raised in the Nevada Desert with Charlie Manson. In reality, it seems like she is more trying to impress her friends with some condescending stories about the west. I didn't find it authentic. It was more Easterner gone West and being impressed with her own observations.
  • (5/5)
    “The mind is a mine. So often we revisit its winding, unsound caverns when we ought to stay out.” This is the insightful and beautiful writing of Clair Watkins in her first novel, Battleborn. It can be said of Watkins that she is a young woman with an old soul; such is the depth of her short stories. Watkins uses the soil from where she was raised to reveal her various characters – the deserts of Nevada and Death Valley, a rural and harsh land. The terrain reflects her narrative; suicide, violence, neglect and sorrow permeate. Yet, within the grief and melancholy, there is warmth and beauty. This is due to the author’s unmistakable ability to write exquisitely and profoundly. If this is the seed from which her writing will grow, Claire Watkins will become one of the great writers of our time. I look forward to future novels from this magnificent author.
  • (4/5)
    I first picked this up at the start of the month, read the first two or three stories, and then set it aside. The first stories left me cold; they were kind of odd and off-putting and left me with the sense that Watkins was showing off all that she had learned in various writers workshops. Bleh.But the book was an ER and I knew I needed to give it another chance before fully abandoning it. I don't know if I was just in the right head space for the book or if the first few stories were the weakest, but I ended up liking this book. I didn't love it. I still found some of the structural elements annoying. But the writing is breath-taking in places - very spare and bleak but beautiful and evocative at the same time. Watkins is certainly talented, and I will hold onto this book to revisit it in the future - especially those first couple of stories!
  • (4/5)
    Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins is an interesting turn at the short story collection. Ms. Watkins stores have plenty of texture and grit to spare even though the use of descriptive language is not overly deployed. The text and stories actually rise from the page like a cloud of dust, infused with defeat, lack of hope, and survival. The collection of stories are all set in the Nevada area which provides a lush amount of materials. Despite the common environs, each story is both unique and connected but that connection is a good one as there is no jump in quality or impact from story to story. Ms. Watkins creates realistic characters and realistic settings and manages to find the unrealistic nature of them without spoiling the relate-ability. The text is structured and paced in a deliberate trodding manner which really allows each line of dialogue and each emotion to resonate that much more clearly. This is a strong first effort that shows lots of promise. The tone and feel of the book is not one for those looking for a pick me up but it will impress both new and veteran readers of American fiction.
  • (3/5)
    "Western" caught my eye in the Early Reviewer's blurb about this book, and so I requested it. Stories of the wild frontier and its modern echo are the next subject I want to delve into deeply.The near-novella towards the end, "The Diggings", satisfies that pioneer craving of mine perfectly. It's all grit and hopelessness and wonder and history and I recommend it to anyone who likes a good story and good writing. The collection opens with the modern echo of that era in "Ghosts, Cowboys." The story starts over several times, as the narrator tries to find the right jumping off point to explain how the first sentence came to be: "The day my mom checked out, Razor Blade Baby moved in." By the time the first line is explained, we've hopscotched through the pioneer days Silver Rush, the 1940s Hollywood infatuation with the West, and the 1960s hippie era. Razor Blade Baby has an ancestry as old and perverse as the West itself.Most of the others are set in the modern era and are fantastically original in their structure and the story they are telling. I couldn't help but notice that all of the characters are incredibly under-employed and unhurried. I'm not sure if she's making a statement about how non-workaholic the people of the west are or whether it's all she knows, given her own profession. I didn't give this a higher rating because I don't think the stories here will linger with me for years to come, but I found the book lovely and satisfying.
  • (5/5)
    I am not always a fan of short stories; just as I start to get engrossed in the characters and plot, everything pulls to a close and I have to invest myself all over again in the next story. Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins has changed my mind. These gorgeous, devastating stories are so well told that you slip into their world within the first few lines. Based in and around Nevada, the characters are from different settings and different times. The emptiness of the landscape is echoed in the emptiness of the characters. They have all suffered loss and they all struggle to survive and to connect. At times heartbreaking, Battleborn is a beautiful book and Watkins is a writer to watch.
  • (4/5)
    I received and critiqued a few other early Early Review books this year that were short story collections. I had noted before that unless someone was a master of his or her craft, short story collections often turn out uneven. That is to say, there can be some brilliance, followed by a letdown. Watkins does it right. I was impressed and embarrassed - impressed by her talent, embarrassed that I didn't already know about her. But then, I saw that she hadn't written much prior. Coincidentally, I saw that one of her stories in this collection was published in One Story. One Story mails a short story once every three weeks to subscribers. I've been a subscriber for a few years, but usually read stories in between books - I keep at least one of the slim issues in my bag as a backup in case I finish a book early in my commute.Anyway, I actually had Watkin's story in the queue, so it was nice to have read the story in the collection instead. It also made more sense that Hannah Tinti, Editor-in-Chief of One Story had a blurb on the cover. Tinti is another favorite for short story collections, but I try not to read blurbs until after I finish the book - that was the case this time as well, but it doesn't matter. It wouldn't have swayed my opinion. Vaye Watkins is good and I'll be eagerly awaiting future works from this young talent. I almost forgot! A little about the actual stories - although easily standalone, they all tie-into each other as well without the tie-in being forced. The stories deal with loss and coping and all end with what I would consider many unwritten chapters (but still complete in their own right as-is).
  • (5/5)
    Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins is a gritty portrayal of life in the American West through a series of ten short stories, all set in and about Nevada, in what is her literary debut. Through this common thread, each story takes readers into the time, which goes back to the gold rush and through to the present. Watkins has crafted an impressive collection of stories, which illustrate to the reader the challenges, triumphs, and losses experienced by those in the west at various points throughout time. Battleborn is not a feel good read, but rather it is an honest, realistic look at the experience of living out west from multiple time perspectives. Watkins does an excellent job in making each story as unique as its predecessor, avoiding the tendency to make a mold or template and simply repeat the motif ten-fold. I found each subsequent story to be all the more engaging because of this and can easily recommend Battleborn to fans of historical fiction as well as short stories. Disclaimer: I received a copy of Battleborn through LibraryThing Early Reviewer programme, for review.
  • (5/5)
    These stories are heartbreaking, but I mean that in the best possible way. Every character seems like a real person - you close your eyes halfway through the story and you get the sense you can picture them perfectly. The stories are all centered around Nevada, and all at least mention the desert, though they are all otherwise unrelated. They're not feel-good stories, but they feel real and not overwrought. Some are small moments between friends, some are big gold-mining adventures. One thing I learned, if you go out into the desert, you will never have enough water.
  • (5/5)
    Gorgeous collection of short stories by author Claire Vaye Watkins, a gifted writer. Is there a common thread to the stories? To my mind it is all about the terrible parts of our lives and what we do to overcome it (or let it wash us away). Watkins is a wonderful storyteller, whether talking about the strain between husband and wife on a camping trip or brothers mining for gold. I was compulsively underlining passages and quotes in the book because I didn't want to forget any of it, so much of it struck me as truth, as life. All of the stories take place in the western U.S. in Nevada and thereabouts, and range from the 1850's to present day. Remarkable and lovely, I will certainly look forward to much more from this author.
  • (4/5)
    Heat, desolation, beauty, simplicity, and the solitary nature of the characters help to define this set of ten short stories. Characters struggle and move through their lives as described in the taut, crisp language of this young author. The human condition is reflected as one with little happiness, often searching for a reason to be... often just carried along by the circumstances that the characters face. This is a promising first work. Most important is the consideration of what will be the followup and where the author's vision will take us from here.
  • (5/5)
    absolutely exquisite stories. some hurt, and some cause wincing. all made me jealous of Ms. Watkins's sizable talent, and her spot on capability of getting it right in feel and dialogue. the scenes she evokes ride such a tension line- like the 67 year old who finds a pregnant 16 year old on a dried lake bed floor and scoops her up home, only to let her convince him to take her swimming after her recovery (Man-O-War). or the totally fucked up night in Rondine Al Nido, which leaves you sick feeling mostly because you have some past skeleton of your own way back there. some are 'plainer,' like the heartbreak in The Archivist or the failing fledgling marriage in Wish You Were Here. but the *fascination* she weaves in, the histories and details--i'm reeling as i'm turning the pages---just exquisite. the blurb on the back likens her to cormac mccarthy or denis johnson, and i don't know that i'd go that far, but i get the reference.... the grit of the landscape is one she knows well, one woven into the lives she writes. she spends just a little more time on the sunny side.
  • (5/5)
    This is a short story collection written by Claire Vaye Watkins, and is her first published book. Being her first book, I wasn't sure what to expect going into it, but I was pleasantly surprised. A major motif throughout the book is the expansiveness of both the Nevada desert and modern urban society how insignificant individuals are within each. Each of her characters strives to find a way to cope with this insignificance, which reveals a great deal of humanity in each of these fictional characters.One of the best compliments that I can give to Watkins is that I did not feel like I was reading the same short story repeatedly like I have when reading other authors' short story collections. She does return to the same tired story with only the settings and characters changed as happens so often in other collections. Instead, each story is unique and stands on would stand on its own outside of the collection. All were good and worth reading, and I did not regret the time wasted reading any of them.The highlight for me of the book was the story "The Diggings," which is almost more of a novella than a short story at 61 pages in length in my copy. Its about two brothers who go from Ohio to California during the gold rush in search of their fortune. One brother is crazed with finding gold so that he will be able to convince the love of his life to marry him despite his meager background. The other brother tells the story in the first person, which gives the reader the opportunity to experience the story as it unfolds. The story is reminiscent of Homer's Odyssey and Jason and the Argonauts of Greek Mythology in that is is an epic quest in search of gold. I found it to be a truly outstanding story and the book is well worth reading for this story alone.
  • (5/5)
    Claire Vaye Watkins has collected ten intriguing short stories peopled with characters who share two things - living in western America and living lonely lives. Most of the stories are set in Nevada with the desert playing some role in the characters' upbringing. One story is set in a brothel; another is set on the edge of a dried out lake bed; another follows three friends on a road trip to Virginia City. Whether the character is married, single, or looking for love, each has some empty hole within that they consider filling. Some attempt to fill that hole with other people, others with destructive behaviors. In "Rondine Al Nido," the main character, "our girl" is a sixteen year old waitress in a pizza parlor. She and her just-dumped coworker, Lena, head to Las Vegas after work. What follows is an escapade that can be interpreted as either a cry for help or a lonely teen acquiescing to a fate she believes is inescapable.In "The Diggings," two brothers set out in 1849 to join the many people who trekked across the country chasing their golden dreams. The experience the two have during their disappointing time as gold-panners on a ten-by-ten claim changes them forever. The younger, Joshua, narrates the tale and feels guilty about the false hope that his brother has about striking it rich. Joshua planted that seed of hope. In "Virginia City," Iris and Danny, friends since childhood, team up with Jules, a free-spirited girl who has no guilt about sleeping around. Iris believes that Danny is in unrequited love with Jules. Does Iris live with the status quo? Does she stake a claim of her own on Danny or on Jules? Does she step away from them both and let whatever happens happen? Iris is that unenviable third wheel or jilted best friend or younger sibling. When a new love comes into one person's life, whether fulfilled or not, the effects on those loved ones around him are not always obvious to those in the throes of new attraction.
  • (5/5)
    Battleborn is a remarkable collection of short stories by the incredible young writer, Claire Vaye Watkins. Believe all the reviews – these stories are true and fierce and grab you instantly and completely. Set in localities around Nevada, each story is perfect window: the history is fascinating, the people are real, the heat is palpable, the sexuality is tangible, and the sunsets are gorgeous.Ms. Watkins is the daughter of Paul Watkins who was one of Charles Manson’s followers. This family history is used a bit for marketing the book and is even featured in the first story of her collection. Do not let this color your perceptions negatively. Claire Vaye Watkins can proudly stand with any writer working today and she is not even 30 yet - I can’t wait to see what she publishes in the future. If I would ever want my own life chronicled by a writer, she would be my first choice.