Man v. Nature

Man v. Nature Cover

Man v. Nature

By Diane Cook

Harper, Hardcover, 9780062333100, 257pp.

Publication Date: October 7, 2014


A refreshingly imaginative, daring debut collection of stories that illuminates with audacious wit the complexity of human behavior, and the veneer of civilization over our darkest urges.

Told with perfect rhythm and unyielding brutality, these stories expose unsuspecting men and women to the realities of nature, the primal instincts of man, and the dark humor and heartbreak of our struggle to not only thrive, but survive. In "Girl on Girl," a high school freshman goes to disturbing lengths to help an old friend. An insatiable temptress pursues the one man she can't have in "Meteorologist Dave Santana." And in the title story, a long-fraught friendship comes undone when three buddies get impossibly lost on a lake it is impossible to get lost on. Below the quotidian surface of Diane Cook's worlds lurks an unexpected surreality that reveals our most curious, troubling, and bewildering behavior.

Other stories explore situations pulled directly from the wild, imposing on human lives the danger, tension, and precariousness of the natural world: a pack of "not-needed" boys takes refuge in a murky forest where they compete against one another for their next meal; an alpha male is pursued through city streets by murderous rivals and desirous women; helpless newborns are snatched from their suburban yards by a man who stalks them. Through these characters Cook asks: What is at the root of our most heartless, selfish impulses? Why are people drawn together in such messy, needful ways? When the unexpected intrudes upon the routine, what do we discover about ourselves?

As entertaining as it is dangerous, this accomplished collection explores the boundary between the wild and the civilized, where nature acts as a catalyst for human drama and lays bare our vulnerabilities, fears, and desires.