This winner of the Richard Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction from the University of Notre Dame—the author's fourth short-story collection—portrays the unsung, amusing, brutal, yet hopeful lives of ordinary people from Florida, California, Mexico, Chicago, the Texas Panhandle, and the Ozarks.
In his return to the short form, Vietnam veteran Mort...delivers 13 stories about everyday Americans looking for love, acceptance, and a place to call home ... Mort’s understated, funny, and deeply moving collection illustrates the entangled decisions behind escaping or embracing small-town life in the South—a world of guns, big storms, and living off the land.
The men in John Mort’s collection, Down Along the Piney, are bent on doing, working through it, and putting up with it, with all the hard words and hard ways that characterize hardscrabble life in the Ozarks. These stories, stark and relentless, often center on masculinity and fathers, with men and women searching for father figures, running from them, and becoming them ... Honest and sometimes hopeless, these stories offer haunting perspectives on poverty, post-military life, and American masculinity.
Mort’s characters tend toward unhappiness. That tendency breathes sharp reality into Mort’s prose ... Much of his prose deals with the drudgery of everyday details, polished by Mort into interesting, sometimes fascinating reading ... Since the decline and fall of magazines like the Saturday Evening Post, the audience for short stories seems to have dwindled to high school and college classrooms. The rest of us can pick up a copy of Down Along the Piney to realize what we’re missing.