William Young, a Midwestern native, has resided in Los Angeles for many years. His work has appeared in Agni, The Paris Review, and the Southern Review, among other publications. Twice he was a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers' Conference. He has taught at universities in Boston, Laramie, and Tempe. He founded the creative writing program at Arizona State University.
“A richly textured, engrossing collection of tales about people discovering who and why they love.”
– Kirkus Reviews
The subtle rules and rituals of relationships are unveiled in these quietly penetrating stories.
Young’s yarns capture ordinary Americans in moments of stress and resolution that change their attitudes toward marriage, love, and life. Tales include the following: A man takes boxing lessons and deploys them against his wife’s lover; a Harvard graduate student engages in a game of mutual exhibitionism with a neighbor through a window, which falters when he encounters her in a bookstore; a dad becomes fascinated with a 13-year-old neighbor girl’s lesbian affair with a classmate; a young woman arriving in San Francisco meets the playboy scion of a famous painter on a nude beach and accompanies him back to his yacht; a formerly homeless woman picks up a currently homeless man on the beach in Venice, California; a Mexican American English professor in Los Angeles is drawn to a splendidly manly actor brimming with alt-right conspiracy theories; and a four-story cycle tracks a young man growing up in the 1960s from a high school romance to young adulthood as he withers under a failing marriage and an agonizing job as a door-to-door cookware salesman under the shadow of the Vietnam War. Young’s protagonists are adrift and dissatisfied, full of ruminations about their lives and larger political and racial tensions, and they’re usually pretty horny and avid for sex as a transformative or at least edifying experience. His spare, clear prose is raptly observant of mundane moments (“He wanted to know more about her—but having already said goodbye twice, no doubt starting up once more would strike the girl as odd, or aggressive”). But in lyrical passages, he conveys a sense of something grander underlying the everyday (“She laid out the bedroll, opened the wine, and watched as the light from the sunset curved and spread throughout the valley, like the hand of a god”). Young’s characters are steeped in confusion, but the collection is lit with a painful awareness and yearning that make them fascinating.
A richly textured, engrossing collection of tales about people discovering who and why they love.
Pub Date: March 1, 2021
Page count: 149pp
Review Posted Online: April 22, 2021
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021
Close-knit communities get roiled by dubious loves in this pair of novellas.
Young’s two tales explore families, school groups, and small towns beset by buried secrets and unspoken desires. Joseph and Mary: A Family Romance centers on the Wilson family, a Scottsdale, Arizona, clan of adult siblings who have failed to thrive. Peter, the narrator, is a 28-year-old artist who has returned from San Francisco after he suffered an eye injury. His younger brother, Matthew, is an alcoholic poet given to spouting Shakespeare at opportune moments; his older sister, Mary, is a stripper; and Joseph, the eldest, has come home for Thanksgiving after being kicked out of the priesthood. The family reunion is full of unspoken tensions, especially between Mary and Joseph over a murky incident in high school that no one wants to talk about, one that’s bound up in his possible gay sexuality and her exhibitionism. Rec Park: A Small-Town Romance takes place in the idyllic coastal town of El Camino, California, where college professor and swim coach Dick Starling becomes infatuated with 17-year-old S.K., a Filipina immigrant. Dick, who has a Filipina wife and stepdaughter, becomes a nervous swain, awkwardly seeking encounters with S.K. at church or her sister M.K.’s swim practice. He’s buoyed whenever S.K. throws a stray “Hello” his way but very aware of how ruinous a relationship with her could be. She seems friendly but aloof—until a crisis erupts when she discovers that she doesn’t have legal immigrant status and starts mulling a plan to protect herself from deportation by getting pregnant with an American citizen’s baby. Young’s luminous stories probe deep issues of how families work, who belongs to them, and what boundaries define them. He embeds them in atmospheric settings, with Arizona’s golden-hued Pima reservation and El Camino’s quaint but claustrophobic townscape becoming influential characters. The author’s limpid, evocative prose reveals his players’ hearts by perceiving the world through their eyes: “Even after all those months of coaching,” Dick loved “to watch the girls—his daughter, M.K., the bunch—move through the pale blue water, at different lengths, intervals, their sleek, small power on display. It looked like an electric grid.”
Two richly textured, captivating tales of inappropriate romance.
Pub Date: June 1, 2020
Page count: 228pp
Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021
BLUE AND OTHER STORIES : Kirkus Star
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