Dog Run Moon by Callan Wink

DogI unabashedly love short stories. For many reasons, they fit the style in which I read and my current season of life*. Some of my favorites can be found here, here, here, and here (and an entire list can be found here).

So while I doubt that anyone will be surprised that I am recommending yet another set of short stories, I would like to stress that this collection is excellent. It’s beautiful, brutal, and, on occasion, haunting. For fans of short stories, this is a must read. For fans of the American West, I would encourage you to give this collection a try, even if brevity isn’t your preference.

Most, if not all, the stories are set in Montana. Most feature men that are downtrodden. And while the stories are superficially similar – rural, impoverished men doing exactly what you’d expect – they are also unique, often with bursts of understated humor.

Charlie Chaplin rode it like an evil old mare with cracked hoofs and faded brand. It was the gun itself in pursuit, half horse, half instrument of percussion and death. A spavined nag whose blued flanks were singed and smoking.

My favorite, “Runoff” features a directionless young man that’s given up on college, but finds both his calling as a paramedic and new love with an older woman at the same time. It will break your heart. “Breatharians” speaks to the relationships between families, particularly between father and son. This is the story that will haunt you. The story in the collection that is most thoroughly explored, and likely the best, is “In Hindsight”, where, at the end of her long life, Lauren looks back on her journey.

{Traditional review ends here.}

Can I admit to something that may (or may not be) odd? While I am writing a review, I typically search for other reviews – mostly out of curiosity and sometimes to link to. Is this bad? Does this cloud my judgment? My answer is, in my opinion (of course), no to both.

I really liked this collection and quite often found it both enthralling and entertaining, but in my search for other reviews, I found one with a few rather scathing criticisms. It did make me pause and reconsider. Ultimately I decided it didn’t matter, I like what I like, but still… It makes you wonder. What? I can’t quite articulate. Maybe the fear of being really and truly wrong and thus recommending something everyone will hate? Losing the trust of the few who listen to my opinion? Do you see the rabbit hole I fell into here?!

So rather than wrapping this up properly, I will leave you with two vastly different opinions, neither of which are my own.

From Open Letters Monthly: “Dog Run Moon is promising. Its author has no sense of rhetorical style, no voice, not much willingness to differentiate one character from another, and no feel of storytelling timing on the page, but his prose has an appealingly whittled directness. His people do things for no reasons when he clearly thinks they’re just doing things for bad reasons, but he has a good eye for the little details of his people’s lives. His stories vividly evoke their natural settings.”

From The Irish Times: “It’s a sharp note in a gracefully written, moving debut – a fine-spun illustration of what the American dream has amounted to.”

What about you? Do you ever second guess yourself when someone’s opinion vastly differs from your own? Do you ever pause and think “did I miss something?” To be honest, this happens more often with books I dislike that everyone else seems to love, than the other way around?

*I hate this phrase, which seems to abound among mommy bloggers at the moment, but it fits here.
*I received a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

25 thoughts on “Dog Run Moon by Callan Wink

  1. I am picky when it comes to my short stories, and so I tend not to gravitate toward them. I’m not sure if this collection sounds like it’s for me, but I’m excited to check out your list of most-loved ones. 🙂

    As for the second half of the post, I actually wrote about this last year! I think, to some extent, we all feel a bit like impostors when we review. Why should anyone listen to us, right? It’s normal, but definitely nothing to worry about. People read you because they like YOU, not just because they’re looking for an authoritative voice. Shout from the rooftops about what you like! Not everyone will agree, but maybe you’ll point someone toward a new favorite. Just my two cents. 🙂


    1. I’m with you – if my opinion is out there compared to others’, I do wonder why someone would listen to me. But, less and less as time goes on and I realize people can follow my view if they trust my taste (and that some people really do trust my taste, which I had a hard time internalizing for awhile) and not if they don’t. And that everyone’s taste is a little different.


    2. I live in the arid west and seek out short stories (LOVE them), so this is exactly the short of thing I love (as influenced by where I live and such), but I can see this one flying under the radar. I hope you are able to find one you may like on your list!

      Sometimes I feel that sort of insecurity about that! I gravitate towards the bloggers I like, but what if I miss the mark on one too many books, you know?! It’s just an anxiety ridden trap that I fall into from time to time. I do try to stay on my own weird little path though…


  2. Have you read Annie Proulx’s Close Range? Is this collection at all similar?

    I don’t read other reviews until I’m done writing mine, usually, because I have this paranoid fear that I’ll unintentionally plagiarize wording. This fear is probably unfounded, but the PhD dropout in me is strong.


    1. I worry about that too, ocassionally, especially if it’s a turn of phrase I really love. I worry that down the line, I’ll only remember this great phrase/description/etc, but not where I read it.


  3. I agree with what Shaina says – I think it’s pretty normal. I find that it happens most to me when I really love a book. I worry that I’ll spread the love around and everyone else will wonder why I loved it so much. But, (as far as I know, but maybe bloggers are just too nice) this hasn’t been the case yet, so I’m guessing that it’s all just in my head.
    If you like something, you like something, and chances are someone else will like it too for the same reasons you did.


    1. I do wonder if bloggers are too nice sometimes! Because while there have been books I’ve recommended that haven’t worked super well for other, most people still say they like them!


  4. YES – that happens to me all the time! But, more often in the reverse. I end up not liking something that others loved. That happened to me recently with Flight of Dreams. I generally try to write a draft of my review before reading others’, but sometimes that doesn’t happen (if I’m reading something post publication that I picked up because of someone else’s review or if I’m really conflicted about something, I’ll sometimes look at other reviews).


    1. It happened to me with A Little Life. I didn’t hate it, but I can’t say I’d rave about it either. Often, if I pick up a book because of a review, I don’t post about it, but in that case I feel like there would be a definite influence, because when I read, I’m looking for what others pointed out in their reviews (great characters/great sense of place/whatever).


  5. All. The. Time. That’s why I usually try not to read reviews before I’ve finished mine, even those of people I know. But sometimes I do, and often they make me think and reconsider things I thought before reading them. Ultimately, like you, I have to go with my own impressions. No one is going to like the same things for exactly the same reasons, or dislike it for exactly the same reasons. This is one of many reasons the world, and people, are not boring. I keep telling myself “normal is boring” as I’m writing. I don’t always like the same things you like, though often I do, but I always appreciate your take on them. That’s what counts.


    1. It is what counts. And it’s not something I worry about so much in the blogging realm, as when I read a tear down in a “respected” publication. I still stick with what I like, I just feel a bit meeker when I hit publish…


  6. Question for you: I had this one on my list, and then something gave me the impression there were bad animal storylines in it. I like dark and gritty and can take some negative animal issues, but not a whole lot (Redeployment started off poorly for me for just this reason, not sure I ever recovered to enjoy it fully). Is my assessment right or is it ok to keep this one on the TBR list?


    1. You would be fine with most of the stories. There’s only one, Breatharians, that I’d really advise skipping if you do decide to pick this one up. I am a cat lover and the story line really turned my stomach. I wish I could unread it, but it did make quite the impact. So…


      1. Hoo boy. Thanks for the heads up. I think I’ll give it a try and try to remember to skip that one. Thank you!


  7. I don’t read a lot of short story collections – I think I have this idea in my head that they’re more like to come across like academic exercises or something, the author’s warm-up before their novel-writing. Definitely unfair, and I know it’s largely not true, but still somehow influences me.

    Re: your second part. This most often happens to me with memoirs/personal accounts that I loved – like Wild, The Glass Castle, and Orange is the New Black. When these books get slammed, it’s often on some kind of moral ground – usually accusations about the author’s self-centeredness / whininess / omissions. And it weirdly puts a tarnish on things.


    1. It can be like that, when it’s not, it is the sign of a good short story writer. I like reading them now, because with two small children, my time to sit and read can be pretty limited and/or interrupted, so I love the idea of getting the beginning, middle, and end done in a span of 15 minutes. I think I feel more accomplished that way.


  8. I try not to read any other reviews until I have finished mine own, when I actually review, but I have looked at some in the past to gain inspiration when I am staring at a blank screen not knowing what to say… I still like the book the same in my review, but sometimes I don’t know where to start.


    1. I try to have the bulk of mine down before I look, but certainly not before it’s published. And I do the same, I go to a few trusted sites and read some of their reviews if I’m feeling particularly uninspired.


  9. YES, I definitely question myself and my opinions from time to time. Especially, as you said, if I feel like the odd one out in liking or not liking. I think it’s only human nature. I think it’s especially noticeable in this blogging crowd, because it’s just a casual conversation with a dissenting point, but typing up a manifesto (of sorts) and publishing it for all to read. I think it comes down to gathering readers who value your specific opinion, not just an opinion in general… not sure if that made sense…


    1. It does. We do publish our opinion for everyone to see, and while we aren’t graded on correct interpretations, we are still subjected to the opinions of others. Luckily, most people are kind.


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