Review of HOUSE OF THE ANCIENTS: The Missteps of Contemporary Man

It’s rare when a book that has been out for over two years gets a serious review, but I was pleased to see a piece about House of the Ancients and Other Stories (Press 53, May 2020) in the American Book Review’s latest issue (Vol. 43 No 2, Summer 2022). (You can see the full review if you have access through Project Muse.)

“Tethered to one another via male character iniquities, Clifford Garstang’s collection of short stories in House of the ancients and Other Stories . . . traces the steps and missteps of the contemporary man for better or worse. Whether in a dreary former bloc of the Soviet Union, where murder is nonchalantly dismissed as nothing more than ‘an accident, unavoidable, completely forgivable,’ or charging down the mountainous side of a dormant volcano in Hawaii, where physical pain pales in comparison to psychic pain, the collective voice is constant.”

I’d say that this reviewer gets it mostly right when he goes on to draw attention to the setting for the stories. As one of the early reviewers of the book said, “[N]o matter how far they go—Denmark, Mexico, Vietnam—they can’t escape themselves. It is the collection’s flawed and fascinating characters as much as Garstang’s exquisite evocations of international settings that make House of the Ancients a wonderful reading experience.” Another early reviewer noted that the stories are about a “Crayola box full of modern American males” and that “A variety of different shades await inside—troubled, thoughtful, arrogant, and broken men, each trying to find his place in a changing society.

There are lots of ways to get your own copy of the book:

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