I picked up Bonnie Jo Campbell’s short-story collection, American Salvage, at Myopic and got sucked right in. I’d heard her name a long time but didn’t have too much of a frame of reference. I knew she was related to the ex-girlfriend of a friend. But that’s not a reason to read a book.
She was in town recently and recorded an audio thing at Rite Liquors. Another point of connection. So when the book caught my eye, I decided it was time.
The stories are set in Michigan, around Kalamazoo, I think. I texted a friend who lives there and she confirmed it. Her characters are kind of fucked up but in engaging and unusual ways. The desolation and dead-end nature of their lives is punctured by humor all over the place.
The second story, “The Yard Man” is the one that really got to me. I liked it so much I spent an hour reading it out loud into a microphone. It’s about a guy whose dreams are so modest yet completely unrealizable. It’s so obvious and clear to him what happiness looks like. But the woman he’s with will never see it in a million years.
I know this guy so well.
Other stories in the book have more violence and ugliness. Typical small-town American shit. But that yard man and his absolute defeat is what stays with me. The way that two people who seem so right for each other just don’t live in the same galaxy, despite every outward appearance that they’re meant to be. Everything he holds dearest fills her with disgust. There’s no wishing or hoping that away.
More book-release posters…
Listen to this.