Praying Drunk, Kyle Minor
The characters in Praying Drunk speak in tongues, torture their classmates, fall in love, hunt for immortality, abandon their children, keep machetes beneath passenger seats, and collect porcelain figurines. A man crushes pills on the bathroom counter while his son watches from the hallway; missionaries clumsily navigate an uprising with barbed wire and broken glass; a boy disparages memorized scripture, facedown on the asphalt, as he fails to fend off his bully. From Kentucky to Florida to Haiti, these seemingly disparate lives are woven together within a series of nested repetitions, enacting the struggle to remain physically and spiritually alive throughout the untamable turbulence of their worlds. In a masterful blend of fiction, autobiography, and surrealism, Kyle Minor shows us that the space between fearlessness and terror is often very small. Long before Praying Drunk reaches its plaintive, pitch-perfect end, Minor establishes himself again and again as one of the most talented younger writers in America.
Kyle Minor is a columnist at Salon, The Nation, and HTMLGiant. His work has appeared in Esquire, Best American Mystery Stories, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers, and Forty Stories: New Voices from Harper Perennial, among many other publications. He is the recipient of the 2012 Iowa Review Prize, the Tara M. Kroger Prize for Short Fiction, and in 2006 was named a Best New Voice by Random House. His previous story collection, In the Devil’s Territory (Dzanc Books), appeared in 2008.
Praise for Praying Drunk:
“Kyle Minor wants you to know that Praying Drunk is not actually, or only, a collection. In the epigraph, he warns: “These stories are meant to be read in order. This is a book, not just a collection. DON’T SKIP AROUND.’ Minor is right to insist. The stories may span decades as they move from Kentucky to Haiti and points between, but they work in concert to slowly reveal the landscape of an emotionally desolate quasi-America sinking under the weight of its own faith. . . . Minor writes beautifully about these ruined lives.”
—New York Times Book Review
“An award-winning short fiction author offers twelve stories so ripe with realism as to suggest a roman à clef. . . . This brilliant collection unfolds around a fractured narrative of faith and friends and family, loved and lost.”
—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“To read Praying Drunk is to open yourself up to the type of rumination that some might be afraid of: namely, how can anyone have faith when humans do so much to distort godliness?. . . . The collection acts as a crisis of faith in a part of America that is steeped in faith. How does it feel for a former preacher to wander a landscape of the devout? Melancholy, to be sure. The beauty of Praying Drunk, though, is that it transcends suffering to evoke the sublime.”
“The collection’s masterpiece, the novella “In a Distant Country,” works in epistolary style through a wide array of correspondents. All are connected somehow to a troubled Baptist mission in Haiti, and their community portrait, thanks to Minor’s ventriloquism, achieves tragic stature. . . . [a] grim yet terrific collection.”
“Praying Drunk is ostensibly a collection of stories—but a disclaimer on the first page warns against reading out of order, or sampling your way through. That’s because nothing here is contained, the way a hit single on a record stands alone—characters recur, themes and forms are deepened and visited again, moments glimpsed earlier come back with haunting force. These stories refuse to stay inside themselves.”
“Fittingly, some of the most marvelous moments in this collection are shaped more like sharp memories than full-on stories, like “First, The Teeth,” in which the narrator visits his dying grandfather in the hospital and struggles to paste in his false teeth. . . . The lesson is clear: the habits the mind takes up long outlive memories of the experiences that built those habits in the first place. Better pray.”
—The Daily Beast
“[T]his is not just a collection of stories. It is a performance — a reckoning, really — taking the facts of a life through the permutations of narrative in one form and then another until they make a sort of sense or at least a good story. “
“Before the clock strikes midnight to close the book on 2013, we’re going to make the prediction that 2014 will be the year when literary folk won’t be able to stop talking about Kyle Minor’s masterfully written collection of stories.”
"Praying Drunk gets the whole thing down: the cosmic muck and the local glory, the big questions and the tiny lives, the bullies and the saviors, the screaming at the sky and the lights by the side of the road late at night on a long drive. I finished this book with my heart pounding and grateful, my coffee cold and my smile wide and crying like a baby."
"Watch Praying Drunk's lovely, lonely people wrestle with Minor's dark God and remember when you too tried to reason with Him and unravel His mysterious commands. These passionate tales, full of longing and daring and honesty, will disturb and inspire you."
—Deb Olin Unferth
"When the characters residing in Kyle Minor’s engrossing and lively Praying Drunk find a toehold on the good life, I hope that it’s autobiographical. When the characters find themselves enveloped in desperate situations, irreversible circumstances, and despair, I pray that it’s solely out of the writer’s imagination. These fine stories–up there with the best works of Padgett Powell, Donald Barthelme, and Robert Coover–never straddle a milquetoast fence: they’re extreme in humor, extreme in sorrowfulness, and 100% individually-wrapped masterpieces. I am haunted and mesmerized by this collection."
–George Singleton, author of Stray Decorum