T.C. Boyle, "Stones in My Passway, Hellhound on My Trail"

Scenes from the brief, mostly unhappy life of Delta bluesman Robert Johnson.

(another one from Ann Charters’ The Story and the Writer: An introduction to short fiction — on loan from the Lori HIll Library)

Using chronological leaps and evocative sensual details, this story lets you piece together what made this mysterious guitar legend tick (and what made him stop ticking). Some of it reads like a history lesson, other parts come off like bar-room storytelling. Seems appropriate, given the unique clash of unreliable anecdotes and academic scrutiny Johnson’s life has inspired over the years.

The story is actually listed under the name “T. Coraghessan Boyle,” but the author, it seems, saw fit to shorten it somewhere along the way. Me too. I did it for brevity, given the impressive length of the story’s title. I wonder what Mr. Boyle‘s reasons were.

It’s a fact: This Short Story Project got restarted almost exclusively because I tried and failed, for the third time, to read Alan Lomax’s The Land Where the Blues Began. It’s a great book — smartly, earnestly written and, obviously, historically invaluable — but I just don’t know how to read books anymore.

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