The characters in these stories have been forced into conditions of life that they find unbearable, and the stories chart their often tragically misguided attempts to relieve their suffering via connections with other people or through the pursuit of addictive attachments (to opiates in one story, to sleep in another).
This collection encompasses diverse genres, from ecologically informed realism to a Kafkaesque fairy tale, from fabulist “weird fiction” to an episode from The Odyssey that becomes a meditation on what distinguishes human beings from animals. These stories invite the reader to reconsider moral and ideological certainties, to take a fresh look at such issues as fracking and drone warfare. In one story, a petroleum engineer discovers that one of his wastewater wells may be causing earthquakes, and in another the pilot of an Air Force drone seeks to reconcile his conflicting roles as protector and executioner, husband and soldier. The scientist and the serviceman are both presented with problems that have no easy or obvious solutions, situations that force them to confront the messy, compromising complexity of being human.
“A story can contain multitudes, and an author too, as Thomas Dodson shows us over and over in this astonishingly varied collection. As at home in a bee yard as a Greek epic, he cannot but dazzle us with the enormity of his range, and yet he does not paint with broad strokes. Quite the contrary, he fills his stories with loving detail and quiet wisdom. No Use Pretending is a joy.”—Gish Jen, judge, Iowa Short Fiction Award
“No Use Pretending is a remarkable debut. I marveled at the range of emotions and voices—from beekeepers to drone pilots, an ancient Greek sailor to a hungry ghost—that Thomas Dodson is able to conjure in this terrific, capacious collection of short stories.”—Jess Walter, author, The Angel of Rome: And Other Stories
“Thomas Dodson is a writer wonderfully aware of the resources of fiction and the necessities of the world. His vividly imagined characters seldom act in their own best interests. They keep bees, fly drones, lose loved ones, and in general suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. But Dodson never loses sight of their complicated humanity—he is too canny a writer for that—and of their desire for something larger. In the midst of darkness there are moments of light, grace, and accidental wisdom. No Use Pretending is an arresting and exhilarating debut.”—Margot Livesey
“Thomas Dodson’s inventive and beautifully crafted stories take us deep into the heart of the human dilemma: We dream—of an ideal world, an ideal way of living—we fall short, and then what? Dynamic, deeply visual, and with an extraordinary array of characters and settings, No Use Pretending immerses the reader in a captivating vision of hope, regret, and resilience. It leaves me meditating on some of its central questions: What principles should we use to organize society? What is the right way to live?”—Tom Drury, author, Pacific