Sep 2008. 256 pp. Paperback. Graywolf Press, 1st edition.
ABOUT THE BOOK (courtesy Graywolf Press)
The first short story collection by an award-winning African-American novelist.
Some fabled creature waited near the checkpoint to Gate 12. Human, beast and fowl. Feathery white mink hat and coat, red amphibian jumpsuit (leather? plastic?) and knee-length alligator boots. She was tall and wide like a man and carried a white suitcase in one hand, a black guitar case in the other.
Mamma swallowed. That’s Blunt, she said...
The world of Jeffery Allen’s stunning short-story collection is a place like no other. A recognizable city, certainly, but one in which a man might sprout wings or copper pennies might fall from the skies on to your head. Yet these are no fairy tales. The hostility, the hurt, is all too human...
The protagonists circle each other with steely determination: a grandson taunts his grandmother, determined to expose her secret past; for years, a sister tries to keep a menacing neighbor away from her brother; and in the local police station, an officer and prisoner try to break each other’s reserve.
In all the stories, Allen calibrates the mounting tension with exquisite timing, in his mesmerizing prose that has won him comparisons with Joyce and Faulkner. Holding Pattern is a captivating collection by a prodigiously talented writer.
Los Angeles Times review by George Ducker:
"The final story in Jeffery Renard Allen's new collection, "Holding Pattern," begins with a shower of pennies falling from the sky. The image is arresting; the penny rain "ringing against parked cars, breaking windshields and windows, bouncing off concrete, rolling into sewers, spinning like plates." Like any good dream, explanations are not forthcoming as amazed onlookers begin filling their pockets with coins, clawing them from the air, even opening their mouths until they can't stomach any more weight. Disbelief, clearly, is for amateurs."
Stop Smiling online review by Fred Koschmann:
"The stories in Jeffery Renard Allen’s new collection, Holding Pattern, a followup to his acclaimed debut novel, Rails Under My Back, are self-contained units, proceeding in accordance with their own inimitable logic. Some establish captivating worlds haunted by the specters of poverty and delinquency, while others tailspin and end abruptly, without explanation or resolution. As with the world he describes, Renard Allen’s characters and plotlines frequently implode and fall apart. In “Bread and the Land,” the tension between two characters comes to a head only when they literally run into each other. In “Dog Tags,” the story ends with a deus ex machina in the form of a monkey. Holding Pattern is an amorphous series of experiments with form, voice, and allegory, that veer from excitingly inventive to frustratingly portentous. Renard Allen’s seriousness is Holding Pattern’s greatest asset and its greatest failing."
Publishers Weekly online review:
"Allen melds gritty urban life and magical realism in his first collection (after the novel Rails Under My Back ). At times, the combination works—in the title story, full of contemporary slang, a character grows wings, but instead of ethereal white feathers, they are 'dried up and brown and crusty, like some fried chicken wings'."