Blues and Trouble
Now back in print, the debut story collection from a celebrated American writer
Exploring the diverse landscape of American life, the stories in Blues and Trouble: Twelve Stories capture the lives of people caught between circumstance and their own natures or on the run from fate, from a Jewish couple encountering a dealer in Nazi memorabilia to the troubled family of a Gulf Coast fisherman awaiting a hurricane.
Tom Piazza’s debut short story collection, originally published in 1996, heralded the arrival of a startlingly original and vital presence in American fiction and letters. Set in Memphis, New Orleans, Florida, Texas, New York City, and elsewhere, the stories echo voices from Ernest Hemingway to Robert Johnson in their sharp eye for detail and their emotional impact. New to this volume is an introduction written by the author. Drawing themes, forms, and stylistic approaches from blues and country music, these stories present a tough, haunting vision of a landscape where the social and spiritual ground shifts constantly underfoot.
"Piazza has found the common American experience in the attachment-detachment struggle. Ranging from New York City to coastal Texas to Santa Monica and crisscrossing through Memphis, he draws into his edgy cosmology characters from disparate segments of our population. . . . Told in a clear tenor voice, Piazza’s first collection is as wonderfully dislocating as an all-night drive."- Publishers Weekly
"A sense of displacement pervades the stories in this first collection. Although many of the stories are set in the South, they are not specifically southern. Most often, they take place between here and there, both geographically and figuratively. Specific locales or epiphanous moments might be the road to Daytona Beach, as in ‘Born Yesterday’; a high school gym where evacuees take shelter during a storm in ‘Port Isabel Hurricane’; or, in ‘Bum Me Up,’ a middle-aged man's encounter with a Jerry Lee Lewis-type singer whom he knew as a child and has held as an icon over the years. Characters tend to be outsiders, often on the run, sometimes from failed relationships. Sometimes, too, the most enduring relationships are also the most unlikely, as in ‘CSA,’ in which a white antique-store owner, a dealer in Confederate memorabilia, and his black assistant have a perfect understanding. The stories are strengthened by a specificity of detail only occasionally lapsing into over explanation."- Mary Ellen Quinn, Booklist
"Tom Piazza plays variations on both the form and the traditional content of the blues. In a few notes he can summon up a character's voice or create a locale: a New Orleans cafe, a New York music company, a Gulf Coast fishing port."- Michael Harris, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"In these stories, Tom Piazza is touching the grain of actual, as opposed to imaginary, human life. He sees both the pain and the humor, the tragic as well as the comic."- James Alan McPherson, Ploughshares
"Tom’s stories are like the silence in a queer room—they pulsate with nervous electrical tension, reveal the emotions that we can’t define."- Bob Dylan
"Tom Piazza’s writing is filled with energy and tender, insightful words for the brilliant and irascible, from Jimmy Martin to Norman Mailer. He identifies the unlikely, precious connections between recent events, art, letters, and music; through his words, these byways of popular culture provide an unexpected measure of the times."- Elvis Costello
"Piazza is throwing his hat in the ring where In Our Time did its timeless tricks, or where Go Down, Moses went for broke. A signal achievement."- Stanley Crouch
"Kin to everyone from Huck Finn to Jack Kerouac and blues guitarist Robert Johnson . . . Piazza’s book revives the essence of the short story."- David A. Berona, Library Journal
"The lonely, restless pursuit of a liberating future is a staple of American fiction. Every so often, through clarity of vision, keenness of ear, and sheer élan, a writer shakes it to life again, which is exactly what Tom Piazza has done."- Peter Franck, Washington Post Book World
"An underrecognized masterpiece."- Robert Olen Butler