Reading: “Let the Dead Bury Their Dead”

Let the Dead Bury Their Dead by Randall Kenan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As short story collections go, this is a strong one. I read about this collection from the 1990s in a more recent critical work called Apocalypse South, and was prompted to get a copy and read it. The voice is definite, the stories are compelling, and the sense of place is strong. Another good thing about this collection is that the stories aren’t so similar style that it feels repetitive. (In my experience, some short-story writers have their literary cake-mould and aren’t afraid to use it.) “Clarence and the Dead” is not like “Mabel Pearsall,” which is not like “Ragnarok.” There is solid infusion of the supernatural but not so overpowering as to put the stories into the fantasy genre. In fact, in the intro to the title story at the end, there is a brief discussion of the role of the fantastic in good storytelling. And it’s that last story that’s the kicker, employing faux-oral history and epistolary that wind around each other. There’s just not a weak story here. This is a damn good book of stories, especially if somebody likes Southern fiction.


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