This collection brings together a wide variety of Duncan’s short fiction from a 20-plus-year career. Stories include evocations of folklore such as Big Rock Candy Mountain in which a rail-riding hobo and a determined young woman journey out from the fabled paradise. Other stories revisit classic works of literature ... Highly recommended for fans of Kelly Link or other slipstream writers, and for any reader looking to lose themselves in an engaging and fun reading experience.
Like [Howard] Waldrop, Duncan recognizes the beauty of vernacular speech; like Waldrop, his writing calls mind the best porch-front jawing and tale-telling you’ve ever heard ... And [Duncan's] wryly funny ... An Agent of Utopia must rank as one of this year’s best collections. It’s on bookstore shelves now and deserves to be on your shelves soon. As for me, I’m off to hunt for Andy Duncan’s previous collections.
Duncan reasserts his down-home voice in this new collection of Southern fabulist tales. Often told in the first person, the stories tease the reader with echoes of historical fact and biography that slowly unfold into sociopolitical commentary. In some tales, this cultural consciousness is overt ... As lofty as Duncan’s goals can sometimes be, the tenderness, humor, and sheer gumption of his voices make the collection both winsome and engaging. Of note, however, is the fact that the author uses racially insensitive language which, while historically accurate and appropriate to the voices of his characters, is not his to speak. Readers will have to decide for themselves whether Duncan's use of African-American folk forms and the stories' firm championing of the oppressed justify the employment of language that lands so harshly on the ear. Occasionally, the author loses his way in the maze of his references, and the stories suffer from a tendency to ramble, but even the most gabby of these tales has the power to startle the reader into realizations about their own time and place that are only possible when seen through the lens of make-believe ... A rare book that blends fun with fury and tomfoolery with social consciousness.