I’m on tour today for Eric Barnes’ Something Pretty, Something Beautiful. I really enjoyed Shimmer, and so I had to be part of this tour!
About Eric Barnes:
Eric Barnes is the writer of the novels Something Pretty, Something Beautiful, from Outpost19, called “the most harrowing portrait of American boys careening into manhood that I’ve ever read, by the writer Benjamin Whitmer. He is also the writer of the novel Shimmer, an IndieNext pick from Unbridled Books that reviewers likened to the work of Don Delillo, David Foster-Wallace, and William Gibson. Eric has published numerous short stories in Prairie Schooner, The Literary Review, Best American Mystery Stories, and other publications.
About Something Pretty, Something Beautiful:
In Tacoma, a circle of friends finds their leader in Will Wilson. Together, they drink, they get high, they take girls to the woods — but Will Wilson keeps pushing toward darker extremes.
As the descent gets steeper, there is a way out: Another friend’s fishing boat off the coast of Alaska. There is life after Tacoma.
But the choice has to be made. And some friendships feel more than inevitable.
Something Pretty, Something Beautiful is a novel about bare and common violence. About the simple horrors taking place in the house that’s down the street. The house along the road you drive past every day.
It’s about cars moving fast along streets lit white and gray. It’s about the crashing screams of a rollercoaster echoing out from the county fair.
Yet Something Pretty, Something Beautiful is also about quiet days in a small boat out on Puget Sound. Quiet days working hard in a fish plant in Alaska.
And it’s about the sadness of how to make those lives finally connect.
Eric Barnes’ latest effort is hard to read. Not because of the writing – which is spare and to the point, but because the story itself is one of a group of boys growing up to become young men, taking so many wrong turns along the way looking for the next adrenaline rush.
Every chapter has the same titles, if you will. “Now” is Brian’s current-day thoughts. “With Kyle” are his conversations with Kyle, one of his friends who wasn’t part of the destructive foursome Brian ran around with. “Tacoma” is a look at the city Brian and the boys live in, and the wrong turns they take. “Driving Away” has Brian leaving, with Kyle, heading towards (hopefully) better things. And “Returning” has Brian returning to Tacoma for one reason and one reason only, knowing that so much of himself still lingers there – the history that he isn’t necessarily proud of, but still brings a rush when he thinks about it.
I’m frankly a little horrified by everything Will, Teddy, Coe, and Porter (Brian) get up to. It’s not a harmless list, and we’re talking stuff they start at thirteen, fourteen, escalating in scope and danger until we get to the end of Something Pretty, Something Beautiful. It’s sad, too, how these boys have to go hunting for that rush, how they’re dependent on each other and on Will – the undisputed leader of the group, how they don’t think they can break away even if they wanted to. And it’s wonderful how Brian has Kyle for a friend, one who sees that Brian needs to get away and offers that opportunity…
As I’ve said, Something Pretty, Something Beautiful isn’t an easy book to read. But it’s a startlingly frank story that most likely has its real-life counterparts in so many cities and towns around this country, and I’m saddened by the realities that aren’t my own. This will touch you, and all the cringing while you’re reading is offset by an ending that’s sad yet hopeful. I’ll be keeping an eye on Eric Barnes to see what he’ll come out with next.
drey’s rating: Excellent!
Have you read Something Pretty, Something Beautiful? What did you think?