Critiques

Review Excerpts:

Kirkus Reviews:
"Heynen's stories are, rather, fables: extremely curt, sometimes a mere page long--many of them dealing with a band of brothers: farmboys who are in close touch with grisly realities but who are also unusually sensitive to beautiful, secret moments in nature . . . a poet's impressive economy, an awareness of the relative values of every word employed."

The Georgia Review:
"Jim Heynen's best stories . . . realign the short-short so that its realism settles with us first, its resonant undertones later. (His) primary means of rebalancing is his central cast, a group of boys growing up in rural America. Because they are so dominated by sensory input unburdened with symbols and morals, we are driven to reacquire their innocent (but never simple) visions; because their consciences are being formed--inevitably--by their physical confrontations with the world, we lean with the boys toward the other (adult, mental, confounding) life . . . In these stories, we are offered the rarity of felt thought--the only kind of which the boys are capable, and the key to the marvelous realism Heynen creates."

Booklist:
"Heynen writes latter-day marchen that recall the briefest, least self-conscious of the Grimms' stories. Like those folktales, Heynen's work evokes an aura of a people and their community. But Heynen is an artist, not a folklorist, and he orders his little gems into a deeply textured fabric of exempla on two cardinal issues: how we are to accept and live with the animal-spiritual amalgam that is human nature, and how we ought to behave toward each other. Hence, the title of this frequently hilarious, always richly ponderable set of anecdotes and parables."

St. Petersburg Times:
"Heynen has almost invented--perhaps the right word is 'distinguished'--a new art form. The best of these stories--and there are many--have the peculiarly piercing quality of fine metaphor. They are perhaps what James Joyce called 'epiphanies.' What is revealed in these epiphanies cannot be trapped in words other than those of the story itself. And the stories themselves are not so much traps, as openings.
This a book one feels urged to press on friends, saying, 'Here, read this one. Isn't it remarkable?' It is a book filled with humility, joy, wonder and even love--not love of something, but the love that accepts and allows and celebrates all things. If it has a moral, it is perhaps that knowing what is right demands not judgment, but the youngest child's ability to see and a gentle discretion. It's a book that can leave the reader more innocent and open than when he or she began it."

Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
"Heynen's style is quiet and understated, seemingly simple but as double-edged as Winnie the Pooh . . . He works with solid assurance in a difficult literary form, always adding a humane and humorous flavor to his folk tales."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"a fine sampler of the not-young art of blending poetry and prose to create mini-sketches of whimsy, charm, and sometimes brutal honesty . . . you don't need a fancy education to enjoy the simplicity, lyricism, and rural humor that abounds in Heynen's book. It's worth buying."

Northwest Review of Books:
"The appearance this spring of Jim Heynen's YOU KNOW WHAT IS RIGHT was one of the very most welcome sights in what is an extraordinary full, rich year for newly published fiction. The work is sounusual. Its density can easily confound someone trying to read it straight through."

Manas:
"We've been thinking about why these stories are so good--why we don't want to stop reading and start writing them; besides, what is there to say?"

Pacific Northwest:
"Heynen's fiction burns quick and clean. You can see poetry's skeleton glowing through the prose, illuminating the story, supporting the thing. He's a less garrulous Garrison Keillor, or the voice of Faulkner's Snopes tales: a provincial who's cultivated his mind instead of the back forty."

Deseret News:
"the sketches fuse the compression of poetry with the delight of narrative, giving the writing a sturdy lightness, like a sheet of glass . . . A fine display case for a young American writer whose name deserves to be listed in our country's writing credentials for years to come."

North Country Anvil:
"In his most moving work, Heynen starts in the shallow pond of local anecdote and then descends until he hits the aquifer of myth. That is why these tiny tales evoke such powerful emotions. Here, in its own language, Heynen has preserved the genius of a period, place, and way of life that is disappearing at this very moment. Here, in literature at least, if nowhere else, future generations will discover what was lost."



Individual Comments:
"miraculous pieces! Heynen is the Hans Christian Anderson of early adolescence, that magical borderland so few can evoke convincingly, without condescension or reduction--a Hans Christian Anderson who has read his Zen Flesh/Zen Bones and his Dubliners well and re-invented the possibilities of each." William Pitt Root
-- jh