From the foreword to Loners:

In our world of abundance, there is an ongoing struggle for meaning and purpose. This struggle affects men in unique ways. When survival was predicated on difficult daily effort, and the threats to survival were real and easily identified, men had no trouble finding their purpose. They struggled with meaning then as well, as documented in the literature of antiquity, but for the overwhelming majority, a man’s daily tasks kept him occupied and supplied a sort of daily measuring stick of progress. The fields were brought in, the animal husbandry tasks were accomplished, and the women and children were defended.

Only at night when he was accompanied by the stars, or perhaps when he was participating in a formal religious practice, did he think of the larger purpose of his toil.

With the arrival of industrialization and modernity, a man transferred his destiny from nature to society. In exchange for material abundance, all of humanity turned their fate over to each other, and the abstract forces of law and economics. This exchange displaced the moral order that preceded it. Men were cast into a world of far more complex roles and identities. Relationships that were stable for centuries suddenly had different rules and outcomes. The late 19th century and early 20th century saw an unprecedented wave of invention and industrialization that is recorded in the art and music of the world. The classical period gave way to the modernist period in a way recorded by every form of human creativity, including literature. The displaced purpose of a man’s life is captured repeatedly in the works of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway was a masterful novelist and he was also an accomplished short story writer. His short stories feature a recurring character named Nick Adams that is a thinly veiled young Hemingway. Like Hemingway, Nick is injured in World War 1, and also like Hemingway, Nick struggles to stabilize and find satisfying relationships.

I’ve come back to the Hemingway character of Nick Adams at various times in my life and continually found him to be relevant. Our 21st-century world is no less displacing than that of the early 20th-century world inhabited by Hemingway’s Nick Adams. In many critical ways, the displacement of men has become far more acute. Our culture allocates even less relevance to traditional manhood. The Nick character contained in many of the stories presented here is an early 21st century contemporary of Hemingway’s 20th-century version. Nick and the other men within this collection are struggling to find order in a world with plenty of everything except meaning. In the void, each searches for ‘a separate peace.’


The Stories:

Check Point – A young white boy makes friends with a shy black boy and arranges to meet in the neutral ground between their largely segregated neighborhoods.

Play Misty – Several high school boys travel to New Orleans to play music on the street corners, but the dynamic between the boys is changed when one brings his girlfriend.

Over The Edge – A young man is caught between his desires to have sex with his girlfriend and his religious upbringing.

Shit Bucket – Two friends go to work offshore where they see how the real men live.

Leaving It All Behind – A newly mature twentysomething moves from the Deep South to Hollywood and experiences a whole other life.

The Hottest Summer Ever – A road trip across the country turns into a metaphor for a relationship in decline.

I-10 – A used car dealer discovers his past when he travels to New Mexico to dig up his father and grandfather’s buried money.

Scenes From a French Post Office – Two American lovers travel across Europe.

A Hike – When a young man’s girlfriend breaks up with him at his favorite hiking spot, he hopes the location isn’t ruined forever.

Safety Switch – A troubled married couple finds out about their new baby.

Out of Body Experience – A man must come to terns with how violent and angry his wife has become.

Brother From Another Mother – When a recent high school graduate goes to work at the port, he comes to know more about his half-brother, and how the world really works.

The New Barbarians – Weary from two divorces and a life that has had many bumps in the road, a man reflects on life with women in the workplace but not in the home.

Loners cover
A short reading and commentary about Check Point, one of the stories in Loners
A short reading and discussion about Play Misty
A reading from Over The Edge from the book Loners
Reading from Shit Bucket
Reading from Leaving It All Behind, the 5th story in Loners

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