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Cozzens, "Light of the New Day and Other Stories" (reviewed by Dallas Robbins) Options · View
Posted: Sunday, May 01, 2011 10:57:24 PM

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Title: Light of the New Day and Other Stories
Author: Darin Cozzens
Publisher: Zarahemla Books
Genre: Short Stories
Year: 2011
Pages: 209
ISBN13: 9780984360321
Binding: Trade paper
Price: $15.95

Reviewed by Dallas Robbins for the Association for Mormon Letters

Darin Cozzens’ new collection, “Light of the New Day and Other Stories,” brings together a career in fiction spanning from 1987 to 2009, for a total of 12 pieces that originally appeared in Irreantum, Cimmaron Review, Weber Studies, and Greensboro Review, among others.

In starting to read this collection, I was uncertain what to expect. I’d heard of Cozzens before but haven’t paid much attention to Mormon short fiction except for a handful of favorites. At first, I was too easily tempted to believe I was going to find the similar rural characters that inhabit the world of Levi Peterson, who in my mind seems to tower over the contemporary Mormon short story. But as I read, I was pleasantly dispelled of the notion quickly, finding a different but no less interesting voice that recounts life in the West, attuned to capturing an unembellished authenticity, whether tragic, triumphant, or just treading along.

Most the stories radiate out from the family life of farmers, ranchers, and other people from smaller communities, dealing with conflicts, both personal and social. From the misguided enthusiasm of a father in “The Darlington Girls,” or the unexpected circumstances that may affect the future of Myron Haymore in “Elk on Chimborazo,” these stories illustrate a conscious realism on behalf of the writer, that whether stories end happy or sad, they always have a sense of dignity.

The narrative style can be at times very compact and elliptical. This seemed especially true of “Say No in the Matter,” which slowly reveals a mystery of small town politics and the necessary compromises some make. I had to re-read certain paragraphs to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, which I’m sure I did. The narrative style signals the reader to take their time and read slowly, like how a piece of poetry should be read, thus making the personal moments in life as epic as any classical adventure.

One thing some of the narrators do is describe how certain things work, primarily farm related, which can sometimes be confusing if one is not familiar with the life. To me, these moments are almost like an anthropologist documenting the rhythms of life, which are deeply connected to the rhythms of nature, both human and environmental. If one is used to reading at a thrillerish pace, these stories will challenge the reader to engage with the story on its own terms, and find another kind of thrilling moment with characters engaged with the complexity of life lived.

By the time I was halfway through the collection, it occurred to me that Cozzens is carving out a fictional universe, but on a different scale that is analogous to Williams Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County. Main characters in one story will show up later as side characters in another tale, providing the reader the sense of a community developed over time. It is a fictional document of a time and place which is slowly disappearing from memory, and if not captured in the characters of fiction, would eventually disappear in time. I look forward to more from Cozzens in the future.

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