Friday, June 22, 2007

Pg. 69: Ron Carlson's "Five Skies"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Ron Carlson's Five Skies.

About the book, from the publisher:
Award-winning short story writer Ron Carlson delivers a stirring novel about three men confronting their pasts and their purpose

Beloved story writer Ron Carlson’s first novel in thirty years, Five Skies is the story of three men gathered high in the Rocky Mountains for a construction project that is to last the summer. Having participated in a spectacular betrayal in Los Angeles, the giant, silent Arthur Key drifts into work as a carpenter in southern Idaho. Here he is hired, along with the shiftless and charming Ronnie Panelli, to build a stunt ramp beside a cavernous void. The two will be led by Darwin Gallegos, the foreman of the local ranch who is filled with a primeval rage at God, at man, at life. As they endeavor upon this simple, grand project, the three reveal themselves in cautiously resonant, profound ways. And in a voice of striking intimacy and grace, Carlson’s novel reveals itself as a story of biblical, almost spiritual force. A bellwether return from one of our greatest craftsmen, Five Skies is sure to be one of the most praised and cherished novels of the year.
Among the praise for Five Skies:
"Carlson writes with uncommon precision, and this return to long-form fiction after four well-received story collections is stunning."
Publishers Weekly
, starred review

"Carlson's focus is transporting, absorbing. It shakes you from stupor, strips you down. He understands that most of us live in a world of enervating crap, whether in the cliffs of Idaho or the canyons of the city. And Five Skies offers a longed-for blueprint of the antidote.... We agree when Carlson describes civilization as 'a hundred layers of ten thousand decisions, only a few of them even interesting.'"
Allison Glock, Esquire

"Carlson's style -- low-key, deliberate, reminiscent of both early Hemingway and contemporary James Salter -- possesses the kind of serene assurance that disdains the show-offy. Carlson doesn't need it, since he can turn even a shopping list into a poem..."
Michael Dirda, Washington Post

"Carlson, critically acclaimed for his short stories, has written a note-perfect novel that will challenge and reward all who care about literary fiction."
Booklist, starred review

"A beautiful novel, as unique and insular as the quiet and powerful landscape it inhabits, and as braided with hope and despair, and hope again, as are the lives of the three men at its center."
—Rick Bass

In Five Skies Ron Carlson has fashioned such a moving and elemental meditation on every man's struggle toward family, toward the embrace of his individual soul, that, by its end, I found my appreciation for both grief and redemption to be profoundly altered. Here is a fine and gracefully rendered novel."
Mark Spragg, author of An Unfinished Life

"Ron Carlson knows there's a hole in the middle of our lives, a chasm we can hardly imagine looking into. So when he sends three men out west to see what they can do about it, the reader must pay close attention. Five Skies is not only a deeply moving contemporary western masterpiece -- it is also a philosophical query about what it means to be a grown man, a grown person. You must read this book because it's going to make a beautiful blockbuster film, and you're going to want to be able to claim that you read it first."
Antonya Nelson, author of Female Trouble
Ron Carlson has received citations in Best American Short Stories twelve times since 1984. His work has appeared in Harper's, GQ, North American Review, Esquire, and Double Take. He is the author of two previous collections, Plan B for the Middle Class and The News of the World, and two novels, Betrayed by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Truants.

Learn more about Five Skies at the publisher's website and listen to an audio excerpt. Read or listen to an excerpt at the NPR website.

The Page 69 Test: Five Skies.

--Marshal Zeringue