The Burning Ground (Hardcover)
W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393239553, 224pp.
Publication Date: July 18, 2017
A debut collection of stories by a poet with a “painter’s eye for detail and pianist’s touch for sounding the right notes” (Simon Armitage).
Moving from remote, sun-scorched towns to the charged hum of Venice Beach, The Burning Ground is a collection of eight stories populated by men haunted by their past and by their dreams, set against the canvas of California, where beauty and bleakness go hand in hand. In “A Thunderstorm in Santa Monica,” a man’s unmoored lifestyle is reflected back at him after a long flight. In “Black Bear in the Snow,” a divorced advertising executive tries to rekindle a relationship with his son. And in the title story, “The Burning Ground,” a painter is haunted by memories of his former lover. The stories take familiar roles—the deadbeat dad, the drifting divorcé, the wayward man—and bring them new emotional depth, peeling back the layers to reveal interiors both unexpected and arresting in their complexity.
Written with a poet’s lyricism and an outsider’s keen eye, Adam O’Riordan’s insightful work paints an intimate portrait of diverse male lives contending with the potential of the West Coast.
About the Author
Praise For The Burning Ground: Stories…
[O'Riordan's] poetic talent for simile and image is certainly transferred intact to prose.
Lovers are lost and mourned in these sharp and sometimes violent stories, and characters suffer through turbulence both literal and metaphorical, haunted by questions they never asked. O'Riordan is particularly skilled at finding the perfect image or detail to bring these worlds to life.
These are subtle fictions, a work in which mannerisms and casual gestures count for a lot. . . . [A] work that feels fully lived in.
A quietly excellent collection of short stories. . . . You are never in doubt that you are reading the work of an elegant and greatly accomplished writer.
O'Riordan willfully mines the less glossy side of LA . . . with haunting effect.
Wonderfully lyrical and bittersweet.
An impressive range of stories that run from reflective to highly dramatic, and O’Riordan’s verbal polish as a poet shines.
This is a wonderful, beguiling collection of short stories. Written with a cool, knowing lyricism, they haunt and enthrall.
— William Boyd, author of Any Human Heart and Restless
Adam O’Riordan’s stories have an uncanny ability to draw us into the lives of characters who are at once self-possessed and vulnerable. It means that we read about them in a state of excited anxiety—impressed by their worldly competence, but sensing that failure and even tragedy are never far away. The effect is compelling, and all the more so for being achieved through a range of forms and voices which make the collection as ambitious in its reach as it is concentrated in its vision of human behavior.
— Andrew Motion, former poet laureate of the United Kingdom