Winner of the 2001 Drue Heinz Literature Prize
Selected by C. Michael Curtis
The characters in Brett Ellen Block’s debut collection of short stories may know their destinations, but they don’t always rush to them. From a runaway on an ice cream truck to a down-and-out retiree in a porn shop, they struggle to face both their pasts and their futures.
In a series of tightly focused and deftly drawn vignettes, Block explores the detours, potholes, and speed bumps along the road of life. These are stories about people at loose ends in their lives, coming to the realization that they can’t always sit back and enjoy the ride. Whether they’re committing petty larceny, moping their way through the winding streets and canals of Venice, or seeking to escape North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Block’s characters are learning to get behind the wheel and take control.
Block's characters are often in that interestingly desperate condition halfway between comedy and total despair. Her stories have a headlong momentum, and a clear, fierce intelligence.
Winner of this year's Drue Heinz Prize for short fiction, Block's strong debut collection of a dozen stories offers a world on wheels, full of random encounters and uncertain outcomes, all filtered through working-class sensibilities. . . . With much of the gloom but a shade less doom than the hard-bitten noir fiction these stories resemble, the moodiness, and pervasive sense of a generation at odds with its future, make Block a writer worth watching.
...readers interested in exploring life's dark, dangerous corners will find an intriguing array of ideas and situations here.
The stories in Brett Ellen Block's new collection are motion-blurred as snapshots taken from a moving car. . . . Block catches the transients, drifters and runaways that populate her best stories in mid-flight, when a moment's hesitation or a step in a different direction makes all the difference in the world.
Brett Ellen Block pulls off a feat akin to a magician's sleight-of-hand in Destination Known. There's nary a trace of her life, her background, or anything else remotely connected to Block. . . .Block seems to prefer being hidden, as if she's a literary Wizard of Oz.
Reading her stories is like being on a quirky odyssey.
What's most satisfying about the stories in the pace. These stories move. We don't have to linger in long, drawn-out sagas, but are immersed in the stories the same way we experience dreams that we can't really place, can't really say if they were true life experiences or just nocturnal visions." ... hopefully, Block is at work on another book, because unlike her characters, she's a writer who displays promise.
Brett Ellen Block is a New Jersey native whose stories have appeared in The Sonora Review, The Mid-American Review, The Red Cedar Review, and various anthologies. Past winner of the Hopwood Prize and the Haugh Prize, she lives in Los Angeles where she is at work on her first novel.learn more