Last October I read the lead story "Hard Times" in Ron Rash's 2010 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Prize winning collection, Burning Bright. I loved the story and promised myself I would read more of his work. (There is background information on Rash in my post below.)
In my Q and A sessions with short story writers I asked everyone to name a few of their favorite contemporary short story writers. Ron Rash was mentioned quite a few times. I was very happy to find a story by Ron Rash in the temporarily open to all archives of The New Yorker. Most of Rash's work centers on residents of the southern and Appalachian mountain regions of the US. Both the stories I have so far read take place in the 1930s, a time of crushing poverty for the region. If you have read Gone With the Wind, then these stories are about people referred to as "poor white trash". The people are laconic, emotionally reserved and struggle just to survive. The stories are very regionalized and may require some knowledge of American history to relate to fully but the truths in them are universal and the prose is exquisite. His work made me think of that of John McGahern.
My purpose in this post is to keep a record of my reading and let others know they can, and should, read "Trusty" online. A "trusty" is an old slang term for a prisoner who, while working on a prison road gang, does not have to wear a chain. The lead character is a confidence man, a petty grifter living by taking advantage of people. He is sent to get water for the other convicts and meets a woman about twenty years old. She lives on a hard tackle farm with her much older husband. Of course the convict, he has done sixteen months of a five year term, is interested in her. The greatness of this story is in the perfect dialogue, the descriptions of the people and environment. We see the trusty scheme to escape and take the woman with him. I loved this story. It depicts the people perfectly.
You can read this story here - from The New Yorker, May 23, 2011.