Read Michael Carroll’s Little Reef.

Posted on June 16, 2014
Filed Under Book Review, Strong Recommendation | Comments Off on Read Michael Carroll’s Little Reef.

In the twelve stories comprising Michael Carroll’s Little Reef, the qualities which make him a major new literary talent are on display.  Mr. Carroll is a master at dialogue, his characters are three-dimensional and he clearly knows how to construct a story.  But more than that, Mr. Carroll displays a self-confidence–a literary fearlessness which sets him apart.  Consider this sentence–from the title story:

Faith was one thing, what you whimpered over in the middle of a really dark, terrible night, while the daytime mechanics of the human animal, subject to the decisions it had to make, the hundreds of choices it grappled with and fluttered its fingertips graspingly at in order to bring to fruition some semblance of dignity and independence–the unflinching mode of survival it had to assume merely to eat and move on, in order to wake the next day and start all of itself over–well, real life didn’t have anything to do with ideas.

Little Reef has much to do with ideas.  Many of them un-apologetically queer.  “First Responder” is the story of a gay man who becomes close to his brother after he assumes the role of helpmate.  There is a moment in this story when the narrator realizes–almost accidentally–that he has made peace with his family.

I wasn’t who I wanted to be, but I wasn’t the cowering gay kid back in a redneck ‘ville.  I didn’t want to hate them them anymore.  I didn’t feel like bothering to hate.

Mr. Carroll seems to be following Ernest Hemingway’s direction to “write about what you know.”  Several of these stories seem autobiographical–particularly “Admissions”:  the poignant story of the narrator’s older fiance’s climb back from a stroke.  But my favorite story in this book, “Unsticking”, doesn’t seem autobiographical at all–although it is perhaps the most Hemingwayesque in it’s precision.  In “Unsticking” the narrator sees his own mortality in the mirror of contemporary youth culture.  It’s the last story in the book.  I would, however, advise queer readers not to skip ahead.  All of these stories are superb.

Michael Carroll’s Little Reef is published by Terrace Books.

UPDATE 3/4/15  Today it was announced that Little Reef is a finalist for Lambda Literary’s Award for Gay General Fiction.

UPDATE 3/10/15  Today it was announced that Little Reef is a finalist for The Publishing Triangle’s Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction.

UPDATE 3/12/15  Today it was announced that Little Reef has won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction.  Great news!

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