Publication date: 1998
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Small Craft Warnings
The indigo skies and lush vegetation of the contemporary West Coast belie the damaged souls and desperate alienation that lurk behind fading stucco walls and off the endless highways. The lives of women on the edge and beyond the margins have seldom been explored with as much power or insight as in these brilliant stories by award-winning novelist and poet Kate Braverman.
In a world without succor, Braverman’s characters grope for meaning and solutions to their dilemmas. Our Lady of the 43 Sorrows must meet the bizarre needs of her severely brain-damaged mother as her own career as a soap-opera actress declines. The protagonist of "Pagan Night" waits with her unnamed and unwanted infant in a shabby zoo in Idaho while her partner buys dope and makes plans to reconstitute their failed rock band. And the precocious, awkward adolescent narrator of the title story watches as her elegant grandmother confronts the illness that will soon end the colorful life she has so enjoyed.
Abandonment, in these wrenching stories, comes in many forms, and freedom is elusive and sometimes fraught with pain and terror. Braverman’s language is ripe, intense, as vivid as the sun-drenched California landscape, and her characters are contrary, unpredictable, and unforgettable. These haunting stories evoke the glittering expectations and shattering disappointments of the postmodern West.
"Ms. Braverman possesses a magical, incantatory voice and the ability to loft ordinary lives into the heightened world of myth, and in using these gifts . . . she has succeeded in creating a work of hallucinatory, poetic power."—The New York Times
"That Braverman is gifted, even prodigiously so, there is no doubt . . . her fiction is distinguished by the purity of language and boldness of imagery that seem to be the private stock of poets." —The Los Angeles Times
“Kate Braverman has long been among the great American systematizers of obsession and revelation in prose. Small Craft Warnings nods at the tremendous accomplishment of Braverman’s early work but advances forcefully in new directions, too, particularly in its sympathy for young people. If you haven’t tapped this rich vein of language already give yourself a gift.” —Rick Moody
"Jumpy, kinetic, and finally very powerful, a deeply felt piece of work by a very gifted young writer." —Joan Didion
"Beautiful and poetic. . . . The captivating rhythm of Braverman’s writing is hard to resist." —Newsday
"Unforgettable. . . . In a bravura performance, Braverman writes of women who drink, drug, and finally turn to A. A. and she makes their stories grippingly fresh and insistent." —Kirkus