Pictures of the Shark: Stories

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Texas Review Press, 2022 - Fiction - 205 pages
1 Review
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"An emotionally taut and often haunting collection."
--Kirkus Reviews(starred review)

"[An] always compelling novel in short stories."
--Foreword Reviews

"[A] powerful family portrait ... heartbreaking authenticity."
--Booklist Online Exclusive

"A tightly written and often emotionally gripping collection."
--Lone Star Literary Life

A sudden snowfall in Houston reveals family secrets. A trip to Universal Studios to snap a picture of the shark from Jaws becomes a battle of wills between father and son. A midnight sťance and the ghost of Janis Joplin conjure the mysteries of sex. A young boy's pilgrimage to see Elvis Presley becomes a moment of transformation. A young woman discovers the responsibilities of talent and freedom.

Pictures of the Shark, by award-winning Houston writer Thomas H. McNeely, moves from its protagonist Buddy Turner's surreal world of childhood into the wider arenas of sex, addiction, art, and ambition. Appearing in the country's finest literary journals, including Ploughshares, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Epoch, and Crazyhorse, shortlisted for the O. Henry Award, Best American Short Stories, and Pushcart Prize collections, the stories in Pictures of the Shark are gems that refract their characters' complex relationships.

from Pictures of the Shark

If he said yes, Buddy knew, he would have to keep his father's secret. "Yes, sir," he said. "I'd like that." When they walked up the broken cement path to their house, his mother watched them, her face blurred and ghostly behind a porch screen. As always when his father appeared, she stood very still, as if afraid to startle him. His father stopped, one foot on the bottom step. His mother asked if he could come in. Just for a minute.

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Stories that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
With so many great books yet to read, I’m not usually one to re-read many. But “Pictures of the Shark: Stories” may prove to be
an exception. Frankly, I sat down and read this book in one sitting, and I was captivated from the start. But as I raced through, page after page, I am certain I missed things. I really feel the need to go back and do it again, slowly.
Buddy Turner’s life is presented to the reader in a unique fashion in this collection of stories. We see him first as a young boy, but then he appears as a teen, only to reappear later on as a child again. Each story is self-contained, so I didn’t feel confused by the back and forth even as I watched the breakdown of a marriage and the impact this wreaked on the young Buddy and its manifestation in his older self as he displayed more and more of his father’s characteristics. The non-linear storytelling may not be to everyone's taste.
The stories reveal personal dramas of the kinds happening around (or to) each of us. I’m reminded that you never know what’s going on at the house next door and don’t have any idea what other people may have endured to get to the moment you encounter them. I was emotional reading about Buddy’s life; those feelings continue to surface. These stories hit me surprisingly hard, and their memory seems to want to linger. As a mother of sons, I hope my impact on them was positive, strengthening, and affirming, but I can’t help but wonder if I couldn’t have done better myself.
I highly recommend PICTURES OF THE SHARK: STORIES to readers of literary fiction.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through "Lone Star Book Blog Tours."

About the author (2022)

An East Side Houston native, THOMAS H. McNEELY has published short stories and non-fiction in The Atlantic, Texas Monthly, Ploughshares, and many other magazines and anthologies, including Best American Mystery Stories and Algonquin Books' Best of the South. His stories have been short-listed for the Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories and O. Henry Award anthologies. He has received National Endowment for the Arts, Wallace Stegner, and MacDowell Colony fellowships for his fiction. His first book, Ghost Horse, won the Gival Press Novel Award and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize in Writing. He currently teaches in the Stanford Online Writing Studio and at Emerson College, Boston.

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