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Scar Vegas

Scar Vegas by Tom Paine
15 reviews (2000) (224p)
ALA Notable Books - Fiction Finalist

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Book Description
Featuring ten stunning stories, Scar Vegas grips the reader with breathtaking, gut-wrenching, and relentlessly entertaining narratives set on a bedrock of piercing political consciousness and clear-eyed reportorial vision. From a teenage anarchist to a Marine Corps general, Tom Paine's passionate characters make the kind of heartbreaking decisions that crackle with moral-and spiritual-consequences. And with each story Paine displays his mastery of language and nuance, flowing effortlessly from drug culture dialect to the clipped English of a Romanian émigré. With stinging wit and unmatched skill, Tom Paine will "startle you with the muscular vigor of his prose and the ability to tell a tale that sucks you in and won't let go from start to finish" (Newsday). Review
An urban legend making the rounds goes something like this: a guy accepts a drink from a good-looking woman in an airport bar and, three hours later, wakes up in a bathtub full of ice, missing a kidney. This apocryphal tale of involuntary black-market organ donors figures in the title story of Tom Paine's debut collection, Scar Vegas. But though a purloined kidney provides a twist, Paine has already delivered the knock-out punch much earlier as he catalogs the black comedy of errors dogging the marriage of Janey "Fruit" Loop to semipro football player Breezy Bonaventure. At the center of the nuptial confusion is Johnny Loop, ex-con brother of the bride and the tale's narrator: "We are the Loops. Someone sure as hell is Fruit if you are the Loops." As he negotiates his sister's beer-guzzling fiancé and the fiancé's belligerent teammates, Johnny maintains his sang-froid: "I ain't never surprised. This world ain't never sprung nothing on me. Some people get themselves hit by lightning and other strange things but that ain't me at all." By the time Johnny discovers, in fact, that that is him, Paine has already led his character and readers on so vividly surreal a tour of the Loser's Las Vegas that the ending seems less a surprise than the only possible conclusion to such an adventure.

But the weirdness and pathos in "Scar Vegas" pales in comparison to what Paine gives us in "General Markman's Last Stand" in which a Marine Corps officer long idolized by his men faces his greatest challenge yet: his retirement party. Suffice it to say there's more to Markman than meets the eye. And in "Will You Say Something, Monsieur Eliot?" the author hits home with an agonizing encounter between a wealthy, shipwrecked American and the boatload of Haitian refugees who rescue him. Each of the 10 stories in this collection is larger than life--not for this writer carefully understated dissections of personal relationships or quiet domestic drama. Instead Paine gives us white slavers, Romanian brothers on a road trip to Reno, Myanmar witch doctors, and delegates to an Anarchist convention. The voices are fresh, the stories unflinchingly true to themselves; Scar Vegas is as compelling as it is edgy. --Sheila Bright

Tom Paine Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 1  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 1  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 0  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award


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