by Sue Ann Rybak
Texas native Kevin Grauke’s book, “Shadows of Men,” is a collection of short stories in which men in various stages of their life struggle with notions of what it means to be a man.
“I think all people struggle with gender roles to a degree, particularly in the teenage years,” said Grauke, who lives in Germantown. “How are you supposed act as a young man?”
Grauke said the protagonists in the story struggle to deal with issues of virginity and other sexual experiences.
“Those experiences become very powerful forces and dictate how you are perceived by others depending on what you do or don’t do,” he said.
In the “Limits of Adequacy,” a 30-something man, after attempting to conceive a child with his wife, suffers the humiliation of learning that his sperm are, in the words of the doctor, “either misshapen – two-headed, tiny-headed, two-tailed, short-tailed – or simply bad swimmers.”
In “Sub Rosa” an intensely shy young college student is assumed to be gay by his Latin professor, an intrepid husky man who tries to take him under his wing, until Vivian, a woman he secretly admires, informs him that the professor asked if he had “come out to her.”
“Shadows of Men” has gotten rave reviews by authors and other publications.
Tom Grimes, author of “Mentor: A Memoir,” said, “Kevin Grauke’s ‘Shadows of Men’ is a note-perfect, resonant new work.”
“These stories have their fingers on strands of works by masters of short story like Cheever, Dubus, and Ford,” he said, “but consistently strike surprising and satisfying chords all their own. At turns hilarious and painful, dark and uplifting, these works speak genuinely to what it means to be a man in the world. It is the kind of work one delights in pushing onto friends to read and to read immediately.”
Scott Blackwood, author of “In the Shadow of Our House” and “We agreed to Meet Just Here,” said, “Kevin Grauke’s “Shadows of Men” is a stunning debut story collection about our need to cling to and escape from the stories told about us. Grauke challenges us in each carefully etched line to question our assumptions about the nature of childhood, maleness, marriage, and fatherhood. Like William Trevor’s or Richard Yates’ wonderfully conflicted characters, Grauke’s people are often caught wondering if they’ve settled into the skins they were meant for.“
Grauke is an associate professor of English at La Salle University, where he teaches creative writing and American literature. His work has appeared in Fiction, The Southern Review, Blue Mesa Review, FiveChapters, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Story Quarterly, Quarterly West, Upstreet, and Third Coast, as well as in many other literary journals.
Grauke will be reading from “Shadows of Men,” followed by a book signing, on Saturday, March 9 at 5 p.m. at The Big Blue Marble Bookstore, 551 Carpenter Lane. Copies of his book will be available for purchase at the reading.
“Shadows of Men” is also available directly from the publisher, Queen’s Ferry Press, as well as at Powell’s Books, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble in paperback and e-book format.