If I Don't Six

Front Cover
Anchor Books, 1999 - Fiction - 259 pages
8 Reviews
Elwood Reid first appeared on the literary stage with a powerful and bruising story called "What Salmon Know," which appeared in the March 1997 issue of GQ.  Here was a writer not afraid to examine the soulful underside of the American male, or the violence that accompanies disappointed dreams.  Now, in his first, extraordinary novel, Reid tells the story of Elwood Riley, a six-foot-six, 275-pound blue-collar kid whose ticket out of Cleveland is a "full ride" football scholarship to the University of Michigan.

But Riley is cursed with intelligence and an awareness of the vicious inhumanity of the college football system.  If Riley doesn't want to "six"--lose his scholarship or get maimed--he has to become a "fella," a pain-loving freak too nihilistic to care what he does to himself or others.  And after Riley encounters the alluring, mysteriously damaged Kate, his dilemma becomes ever more painful.

Elwood Reid's portrait of this world is at once blackly humorous, starkly tragic, and perfectly detailed.  With deft strokes, he portrays emotionally stunted coaches who have mastered the art of humiliating and manipulating young men, groupies attracted to the fame but undone by the shocking cruelty of the players, and the athletes themselves, who grow addicted to violence, alcohol, and steroids, too caught up in the glory of playing for Big Blue to notice they are mere meat to the coaches and the university.

In tough, spare, beautiful prose that should invite comparisons to the works of Thom Jones and Denis Johnson, Reid describes a place where young men damage their souls and their bodies in pursuit of a worthless glamor.  This is a profound, unsettling book about a familiar yet hidden world--a Greek tragedy in cleats.

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Review: If I Don't Six

User Review  - Mike Bleed - Goodreads

The novel had some interesting aspects about major college football in it. The author was a player himself so it does have some veracity to it. The prose was ok, and the story bogged down a bit, but worth it if you like college football. Read full review

Review: If I Don't Six

User Review  - Malcolm Van Atta - Goodreads

I read this book over 10 years ago and I remember more about how how tragic it seemed rather than the story line. I would recomment it though. Read full review


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About the author (1999)

Elwood Reid, a former college football player, has been a carpenter, a bouncer, a cook, a bartender, and a writing instructor.  His acclaimed short story "What Salmon Know" will be part of a collection to be published by Doubleday in 1999.  He lives in upstate New York.

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