The Pugilist at Rest: Stories
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Thom Jones made his literary debut in The New Yorker in 1991. Within six months his stories appeared in Harper's, Esquire, Mirabella, Story, Buzz, and in The New Yorker twice more. "The Pugilist at Rest" - the title story from this stunning collection - took first place in Prize Stories 1993: The O. Henry Awards and was selected for inclusion in Best American Short Stories 1992. He is a writer of astonishing talent. Jones's stories - whether set in the combat zones of Vietnam or the brittle social and intellectual milieu of an elite New England college, whether recounting the poignant last battles of an alcoholic ex-fighter or the hallucinatory visions of an American wandering lost in Bombay in the aftermath of an epileptic fugue - are fueled by an almost brutal vision of the human condition, in a world without mercy or redemption. Physically battered, soul-sick, and morally exhausted, Jones's characters are yet unable to concede defeat: his stories are infused with the improbable grace of the spirit that ought to collapse, but cannot. For in these extraordinary pieces of fiction, it is not goodness that finally redeems us, but the heart's illogical resilience, and the ennobling tenacity with which we cling to each other and to our lives. The publication of The Pugilist at Rest is a major literary event, heralding the arrival of an electrifying new voice in American fiction, and a writer of magnificent depth and range. With these eleven stories, Thom Jones takes his place among the ranks of this country's most important authors.
top of my bush hat and ran for the chopper, hopped inside last, and sat back hoping the speed would kick in faster than the fear. The slick lifted off, dipped away from the base, and started picking up the lush green vegetation of the country- side — royal palms, banana stalks, and much else botanical. In the cool of the chopper, looking down, if you didn't know better, you would have thought you were in paradise, not hell. Baggit sat next to me and joked with the chopper pilots.
with Ben-Gay and read her prayer book until she fell asleep. Mag had started the store with an eighth-grade German- language education and fifty dollars to her name. She loved the work and she loved her customers. In my turn I helped with the store. I sacked red and white potatoes in ten-pound bags. I colored tubs of margarine and spooned out peanut butter by the pound. I helped Mag butcher chickens in the basement. I swatted the huge jumping spiders that came in banana crates
happened — I was cleaning some stuff out of the attic when I came upon my old dress-blue uniform. It's a beautiful uniform, easily the most handsome worn by any of the U.S. armed forces. The rich color recalled Jorgeson's eyes for me — not that the color matched, but in the sense that the color of each was so star- tling. The tunic does not have lapels, of course, but a high col- lar with red piping and the traditional golden eagle, globe, and anchor insignia on either side of the
alone it was Jorgeson. He was dead meat and he had to know it. It was very strange that he wasn't hit immediately. Jorgeson zigged his way over to the body of a large black Marine who carried an M-60 machine gun. Most of the recon Marines carried grease guns or Swedish Ks; an M-60 was too heavy for traveling light and fast, but this Marine had been big and he had been paranoid. I had known him least of anyone in the squad. In three days he had said nothing to me, I suppose The
got right into the heart of all the important things. The things that really mat- tered.With Schopenhauer she could take long excursions from the grim specter of impending death. In Schopenhauer, partic- ularly in his aphorisms and reflections, she found an absolute satisfaction, for Schopenhauer spoke the truth and the rest of the world was disseminating lies! 182 The Pugilist at Rest Her son-in-law helped her with unfinished business: will, mortgage, insurance, how shall we do