Nebraska Center for Writers

Chimney Rock What the Critics Say
About David Philip Mullins


Copyright © 2011
by David Philip Mullins
Sarabande Books

What would have become of Nick Adams if he'd been born along the ragged edges of a new American city, one with more churches per capita than any other, and twice the suicide rate? Meet Nick Danze, the main character of David Philip Mullins's vital debut collection, Greetings from Below. The opening story finds fourteen-year-old Nick and his pal Kilburg sitting in the Las Vegas desert, drinking whiskey from Kilburg's fake leg. It's the first of many shocks in Nick's sexual education, which begins with a kiss from Kilburg he calls "practice." In later stories, Nick hires a call girl, visits a swingers' club on Christmas Eve, obsesses over obese middle-aged women, and meets the love of his life, Annie, only he's not sure he loves her and he's compulsively unfaithful. Ashamed of his behavior, he stubbornly repeats it. And lurking behind it all is Vegas, with its gilded casinos, neon-tinted suburbs, and dingy, outer-ring strip clubs. In Nick's wounded honesty and queasy self-consciousness, Mullins awakens us to the perverse power of alienation and shame. — from the publisher

Mullins writes about these journeys, and about sex and the desert, with a wonderful, edgy lucidity. Greetings from Below is a remarkable debut. — Margot Livesey

Mullins's rawly confessional debut, set mostly in Las Vegas and San Francisco, follows the plight of self-described coward Nick, from his early sexual awakening and betrayal of a friend in "Arboretum," through the witnessing of his wife's adulterous encounter, in "First Sight." The death of Nick's father permeates the stories, rendering the boy at age 14 acutely sensitive and eager to be loved, even if it's by the gruff, one-legged bully Travis Kilburg or, later, in "Longing to Love You," by Annie, a San Francisco waitress he doesn't love but marries, anyway, because she gets pregnant. Meanwhile, after the death of his father, Nick's mother slips into a morass of addictions that force a grown Nick to return home in "Glitter Gulch"; he ends up stealing her casino winnings and spending them on a stripper. Nick is plagued with moral-ethical shortcomings, and though it's hard to believe him when he tells his mother, "I'm trying to save your life," his fallibility grates because it feels real, and by the last story, the reader is left with an uncomfortable feeling of collusion. — Publishers Weekly

Mullinís impressive debut traces the pivotal moments of Nick Danzeís burgeoning adult life, from his teenage sexual awakenings and his subsequent search for love to his role as helpless witness to his motherís decline. ... His moral center is moored, then unmoored, in Las Vegas, in a home made unfamiliar by his fatherís absence. — ForeWord Reviews

By turns touching, humorous and sad, the stories ... offer glimmers of hope for Nick's redemption. ... impressive debut. — Minneapolis Star Tribune

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