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American Salvage Paperback – 17 Mar 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 170 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (17 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039333919X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393339192
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.3 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 426,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Campbell's an American voice-two parts healthy fear, one part awe, one part irony, one part realism." "In these stories about cold, lonely, meth-drenched, working-class Michigan life, there's a certain beauty reaching something like the sublimity of a D. H. Lawrence story." "Starred Review. These fine-tuned stories are shaped by stealthy wit, stunning turns of events, and breath-taking insights. Campbell's busted-broke, damaged, and discarded people are rich in longing, valor, forgiveness and love, and readers themselves will feel salvaged and transformed by the gutsy book's fierce compassion." "A strong collection. The pieces are rich in original detail, and highly atmospheric, while maintaining a satisfying sense of familiar territory, local voices." -- Laura Kasischke, author of The Life before Her Eyes "American Salvage is not a book for the cowardly. These daring stories, these desperate characters, would just as soon steal your wallet, break your heart or punch you in the gut than openly admit that redemption is possible during these dark times. But it is just this improbable hope that makes her work brilliant. This is Bonnie Jo Campbell at her bravest and best." -- Rachael Perry, author of How to Fly "At their best these stories reflect what Robert Lowell refers to as 'the grace of accuracy,' which might simply be a way of saying that the voice overall convinces at every turn. By voice I mean personality, and these quirky, surprising, sometimes arcane and visceral and big-hearted stories resonate in ways that keep me nodding... I love the risk of each story and how, in the midst of hilarity, a much more serious concern unfolds so that I'd find myself both laughing out loud and squeezing my heart dry simultaneously." -- Jack Driscoll, author of How Like an Angel "The effect of American Salvage is that Campbell's Michigan lingers and cannot be ignored or forgotten." "'Beware ye who enter here,' and yet you should and must because the work is so fine and truthful and deeply human, And you will surely know yourself and your world better for having come."

About the Author

Bonnie Jo Campbell is the author of three previous books of fiction including American Salvage, a National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
with only one or two standing out and being worth the paper the novel is printed in ( why it isn't available in Kindle format for europeans baffles me ).

All in all, a much expected and anticipated collection, and, in the end, nothing to write home about, really.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kept an eye out for a long time for this title as really looking forward to read it but it was never getting a UK release. Maybe I expected too much but ultimately I was disappointed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 0 reviews
47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
American Salvage 5 May 2009
By John P. Beck - Published on
Format: Paperback
I just finished Bonnie Jo Campbell's latest book of short stories, AMERICAN SALVAGE (Wayne State University Press, 2009). This is a fascinating book full of 3-D characters who jump off the page. These are people trying to get by, and many times not succeeding, in a world where other people seem to have it all. There are farm families looking for the next way to break even. There are drunks and drug users who try to balance out their lives through violence or love. There are many who remember their best days which are firmly behind them, sometimes in high school, sometimes much earlier. Many of the characters are workers though some not regularly. For others, their steady jobs in the papermills or other factories are far more regular then their off-duty time. My favorite is the dark "Storm Warning" where an accident leaves a man to play out all his anxieties and fears in the midst of a gathering monster of a thunderstorm. Though the title is taken from one of the stories in the collection, it as well could signify the way these well- developed characters and their lives are tossed about to become a flotsam and jetsam of modern life. Everyone in Michigan may enjoy the tie some stories have to the greater Kalamazoo area that Bonnie Jo Campbell calls home. Add this one to the summer (or late spring) reading pile.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
One Helluva Book 26 May 2009
By Jake Olson - Published on
Format: Paperback
Here's the straight poop, as they say: American Salvage is a really great read. I could just end it there, but that doesn't feel like enough. Okay, Campbell's characters are really intriguing, and she puts them in strange and sometimes bizarre situations that get at some pretty big human truths. The truths . . . no matter who we are we are prone to addiction, wanting safety, and wanting to love and be loved. We are afraid and we are brave. We get ourselves behind hopeless plans, and sometimes find they are the only plans for us . . . and sometimes we make them work. All of these truths are truths we already know, but in the hands of a story teller like Campbell . . . well, she just takes the reader on a really cool trip. I'm just fascinated by the situation in her "Storm Warning" when the main character, nearly crippled from a boating accident, can't believe that his girlfriend of six months saved his life, rescued him from drowning. So pig-headed and afraid is he that when he returns from the hospital, he drives her away. He finds himself alone in a hospital bed in his house, watching as a horrendous storm blows in, knocking out power around the lake. Helpless, unable to even get a glass of water, he swallows his Vicodin with saliva. He's so utterly alone . . . and he's put himself there. I mean, you have to buy the book just to see how that one turns out. You should buy the book, too, because Bonnie Jo is a Michigan writer. Seriously, you won't be disappointed. Campbell is simply a great writer worth reading.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I read it; then I read it again 9 Jun. 2009
By E. Jennings - Published on
Format: Paperback
In the best collections of short stories the setting becomes a character as well-realized as any of the human characters. In "American Salvage," turn of the 20th Century rural Michigan, home to big, beautiful snakes, white ermine, and deer that dance across the lake, is the backdrop for people with lives of often self-inflicted drama they would never recognize as particularly dramatic. For them it is more an ache in the chest, a wistful longing for a little bit more for folks who don't have a lot and don't expect much. These sometimes explosive tales are told in an understated fashion that keep the characters believable. At the same time the revealing details, like platinum at the core of a piece of scrap metal, give the collection a savage beauty.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Somewhere in the Rust Belt---I think 4 April 2011
By M. Feldman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I've always been drawn to stories about people down on their luck, people living in small towns from which the good jobs have long ago fled. I like Dreiser and Sherwood Anderson. I like Steinbeck. I like Carolyn Chute's novels about the Maine that exists far from the coastal rim of lobsters and summer cottages. So why didn't I like "American Salvage," a book set in the bypassed little towns of Michigan, as much as I thought I would?

To be sure, the world of mobile homes, clandestine meth labs, broken families, and low wage jobs that Campbell depicts is convincing. Some of the stories, like "Trespasser" and "The Inventor," are a pleasure to read because they are so tightly constructed, with a little ration of events you don't expect.

What I found disappointing is the lack of detail. There is little in these stories, other than some place names (and perhaps family names, I don't know) that ties them to a particular place. They could be set in rural or small town Northern- Climate-Anywhere. I think this is because much of what happens in these stories is conveyed by interior monologue---that is, characters puzzling things out in their heads. The landscape is just a kind of set: auto body shops, struggling farms, and so on. You can close your eyes and see it before you ever open the book.

Campbell's portrayal of the characters in "American Salvage" is sympathetic. You understand that she want to convey their pain and their dignity. (There is little happiness to convey.) However, in the end, she gives us characters that are more successful in representing a Condition (poverty, lack of opportunity) than they are in making us believe in them as complicated human beings.

M. Feldman
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
We need more books like this 3 Aug. 2009
By Ferdinand Hintze - Published on
Format: Paperback
If you're looking for a collection of short stories that have interesting characters, interesting settings, and plots with beginnings, middles and ends, and you don't want to buy a book that ends up being a showcase for an MFA's broad vocabulary and creative punctuation, this book is for you.

For those of you that just slogged though my effort at an MFA sentence, I apologize. For those giving me another chance to capture your attention, I thank you.

These short stories are tightly connected. All deal with people that today's knowledge based economy has left behind. In order to compete, these characters need the best possible economy, one where workers with no technical or social skills are in high demand. Some of the characters arc into people that might go onto to improve their lots in life. Others give me the keenest of understandings why some people perpetually make bad decisions. All left me trying to classify perpetually bad decision making as either a birth defect of something people work on and can reverse.

What makes these disadvantaged characters unique in contemporary American literature is that they are white and of Western European descent, a category demographers tell us will be a minority by the 2040's.

People often wonder why readership in the USA is so low. The answer is, because there is not enough material like this to read.
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