University of Georgia Press, Hardcover, 9780820327464, 252pp.
Publication Date: October 1, 2005
Featuring seven stories and a novella, David Crouse's powerful debut collection depicts people staring down the complicated mysteries of their own identities. Who are you? a homeless man asks his would-be benefactor in the title story. On the surface it's a simple question, but one that would stump many of the characters who inhabit these carefully rendered tales.
In the edgy novella Click Jonathan's ongoing photo-documentary of a prostitute exposes how little intensity remains between him and his fiancee, Margaret. While Jonathan is plagued with doubts about his motivations and abilities as an artist, Margaret is worn out by her obligations not just to her needy husband-to-be but to all the men in her life. In The Ugliest Boy, Justin develops an odd friendship with Steven, his girlfriend's brother. Steven was disfigured by fire in a childhood accident. Justin bears wounds more deeply hidden. The two forge a strange bond based on their anger and pain.
Crouse's stories often involve people trapped on the margins of society, confronted by diminishing possibilities and various forms of mental illness. The junior executive in Code worries about his job--and his sanity--amid a sudden and wide-sweeping corporate layoff. A manic-depressive father and his teenage daughter dress as vampires and embark on a strange Halloween journey through their suburban neighborhood in the darkly humorous Morte Infinita. In Swimming in the Dark a family gives up on itself. Shredded slowly over the years since the accidental drowning of the eldest son, the remaining family members seek their own separate peace, however imperfect.
The men and women in Copy Cats are unwilling and often unable to differentiate reality from fantasy. Cursed with what one of them calls a pollution of ideas, these are people at war with their own imaginations.
"Crouse's voice has a cool, measured urgency to it that invites his readers not to miss the most delicate flickers of language as he describes his characters' often confused or detached states of mind. The people in his stories might be out of work or hold jobs at copy shops, but they are alive to the possibility that choice—to act or even to stay still—is always present. Watching them as they make those decisions provides subtle suspense as the collection unfolds. Lucidly written, darkly funny, these stories possess a crystalline acuity. An elegant debut."--Charlotte Bacon, author of There Is Room for You
"Crouse seems to have been charged by his characters to reveal the real stories in the world,' to penetrate the sheen and drive a spike down there and 'poke around to tap into them.' Crouse does so with elegant lucidity. His stories of characters who often struggle to hold to their lives with the most tenuous grips are told in high contrast black-and-white. Every detail is accorded an almost palpable texture from the gray-purple filling in the Danish in an office kitchenette to the obsessively overpolished shine of an automobile hubcap. Every character is granted some moment of sympathetic tenderness whether he deserves it or not. Every story rewards the reader with fresh insights into characters made from the people who surround us every day."--Frank Soos, author of Unified Field Theory: Stories
"The title . . . provides a sly hint at a unifying element in this clever collection. In Copy Cats, author Crouse imbues characters with a penchant for succumbing to the cat's infamous curiosity. . . . While something like curiosity, or a hunch, loosely unite the stories in Copy Cats, as a collection they gather to create a deeper effect—something more like intuition. Crouse's characters possess a common spirit that inspires them to follow, and then to understand, something meaningful in their midst.”--Mid-American Review
"Startlingly realized and undeniably affecting."--Virginia Quarterly Review
"Richly complex and deeply felt."--Kirkus Reviews
"Stark stories in which the bleak and the beautiful are tethered by tender, tenuous strings . . . The collection of seven stories and one novella effectively walks a tightrope between dark and light, the bleak and the bright . . . Crouse is gifted at crafting scenes that resonate in multiple ways. In the worlds he creates, nothing is black and white. Like the sound of metal on bone, Crouse's stories are in many ways 'too close to real.' But it's for that reason, for the chilling truths and the dark revelations, that the reader can recognize the light hidden beneath."—Boston Phoenix
"[It] comprises an impressive extended piece of fiction. Crouse's fluency with the darker sides of the average human life . . . makes this a promising debut"--Publishers Weekly