2013 recipient of the TIL Steven Turner Award for Best Work of First Fiction
by Kevin Grauke
Cover art by Alan Whiteside
Here are long shadows. Cast as inherited notions of what it means to be a man, Kevin Grauke’s Shadows of Men is a defining meditation on maleness, masculinity, and manhood. The fathers, sons, husbands, and lovers of this ambitious first collection occupy a suburban terrain where insecurity, uncertainty, and inadequacy all project a disquieting shade. Their floundering may demarcate the thirteen stories’ humor and poignancy, but a dignified, near-elegiac portrayal of the modern man resonates. The shadows’ reach is long, and these characters may stumble and lose their way, but Grauke’s empathetic clarity sweeps the unsettling land.
Shadows of Men will serve as a Wichita State University English course text.
Joe O’Connell interviews Kevin Grauke in the San Antonio Express-News about Shadows of Men and “The Myth of Texas Men”
This debut collection “details the fecklessness of the modern urban male with humor and insight.”
Read the full Dallas Morning News review here.
“All the males in Shadows of Men . . . have lost something or have something to prove. Grauke gives each a distinct and relatable voice that allows you to sympathize with even the worst of them. We are privileged to inhabit each of their lives for a few pages and it hurts when we have to let them go because we’ve begun to feel protective of them.”
Read the full Philadelphia Inquirer review here.
“Grauke’s gifts lie in his use of American vernacular, his keen insights into his characters, and his ability to combine suspense with wry humor.”
—Andrew Brininstool for BSCENEmagazine
Shadows of Men is featured in the December 2012 issue of Independent Publisher as a highlighted title.
“Kevin Grauke’s elegant portrayals of introspective and fragile men recall John Updike’s best work. This insightful and empathetic collection animates its characters’ hearts so completely that they seem to beat within us. Taken as a whole these stories constitute a finely chiseled work of art.”
—TOM GRIMES, author of Mentor: A Memoir
“Kevin Grauke’s Shadows of Men is a note-perfect, resonant new work. These stories have their fingers on strands of works by masters of the short story like Cheever, Dubus, and Ford, but consistently strike surprising and satisfying chords all their own. At turns hilarious and painful, dark and uplifting, these works speak genuinely to what it means to be a man in the world. It is the kind of work one delights in pushing onto friends to read and to read immediately.”
—DARREN DEFRAIN, author of The Salt Palace and Inside & Out
“Kevin Grauke is our post-Hemingway. Shadows of Men is In Our Time after the swamp has become a subdivision. Grauke writes from deep inside his fraught, clear-eyed protagonists, sons, fathers, and husbands who note that the women they love are more sure-footed in this hyper-domesticated landscape than they are. These men try to ignore the urge to fight, to secure, to pillage, to avenge, an urge made ridiculous, even pathological, by contemporary solutions to crisis. I read, holding my breath, hoping to see these men give in to pure instinct, meanwhile knowing that if they do they end up ruined. This funny, sad, and brave book refuses to simplify its exploration of heroism and its evil twin, savagery.”
—DEBRA MONROE, author of On the Outskirts of Normal, The Source of Trouble, and A Wild, Cold State
“Kevin Grauke’s Shadows of Men is a stunning debut story collection about our need to cling to and escape from the stories told about us. Grauke challenges us in each carefully etched line to question our assumptions about the nature of childhood, maleness, marriage, and fatherhood. Like William Trevor’s or Richard Yates’ wonderfully conflicted characters, Grauke’s people are often caught wondering if they’ve settled into the skins they were meant for. Shadows of Men, like the best short story collections, reveals us to ourselves, surprising us again and again with its characters’ half-forgotten urges, unspoken lines, and untended gardens, which are our own. A terrific, fearless piece of work.”
—SCOTT BLACKWOOD, author of In the Shadow of Our House and We Agreed to Meet Just Here
“Whether they find themselves hacking rattles from the tails of snakes or nesting rattles in the hands of their babies, the men Kevin Grauke has dreamed into life drift in the dim undercurrents of their own unrealized expectations. Page by page, Shadows of Men plumbs in equal measure the cold fathoms of masculine disappointment and the warm eddies of hope. To read these stories each by each is to hear the bruised, beating hearts thumping beneath the hard enamels of machismo. To read them all together is to be reminded that, while darkness lies in the absence of light, shadows are the muted proof that light exists, that the darkness may yet be dispelled.”
—BRUCE MACHART, author of The Wake of Forgiveness and Men in the Making