An unflinching and masterful collection of award-winning stories, Willem de Kooning’s Paintbrush is a career-making debut.
Ranging from an island holiday gone wrong to a dive bar on the upswing to yuppie mother in a pricey subdivision seeing her worst fears come true, these deftly-written stories are populated by barkeeps, grifters, good men down on their luck, rebellious teens, long suffering women, lonely immigrants, dreamers and realists, fools and quiet heroes. In author Kerry-Lee Powell’s skillful hands, each character, no matter what their choices, is deeply human in their search for some sort of connection. Powell holds us in her grasp, revealing with each story something essential about belonging and about the way we see the world.
A selection of these stories have won significant awards including the Boston Review fiction contest and the Malahat Review’s Far Horizons award for short fiction.
“Powerful…full of dark nostalgia.”
” An energetic and disturbing collection of stories. I loved the rush of reading it.”
-Christos Tsiolkas author The Slap
“What the reader will find in Kerri Lee Powell’s stories is a deep and abiding care — for language, in the zinging comic exchange that never misses a beat; for imagery, in the clarity that emerges out of a grey background, tough and fragile, but impossible to ignore; for all her lost, ragged characters, in their struggle to get back to some misplaced sense of home. These are beautiful stories. They will make you think and they will make you feel and they will always, always, reward your attention.”
–Alexander MacLeod, author of the Scotiabank Giller Prize-shortlisted Light Lifting
“Kerry-Lee Powell writes with the voice of a prophet crying from the wilderness. She writes of liars and losers, frauds and impostors who dream of escape into extremity, escape from life’s artificiality. With a poet’s control over imagery, her painted tableaux explode into sudden shimmering violence. Grotesque power structures stand exposed, yet perpetual. Nothing but ignorance will save us—not even that. The closer we get, the less we know; how the world dissolves into splashes of colour.”
– Carrie Snyder, author of The Girl Runner
“Harrowing, whip-smart, both lyrical and tough-as-nails, these stories pack a wallop. With her keen eye and wide-open heart, Kerry Lee Powell has managed to capture the strange, malevolent undertow that burbles just beneath the surface of contemporary life. And lucky for us, it makes for a breathtaking read.”
–Michael Christie, author of If I Fall, If I Die
“Reading Willem de Kooning’s Paintbrush is like listening to the din of voices in your favourite bar. Like the bars in these stories, the book provides a temple for its characters, often saints and mystics in the clothes of down-and-outs. As they strive for connection with one another, the characters expose the subtle wisdom underlying the kinetic prose. Powell’s stories are mythic, yet full of warmth.”
– Eliza Robertson author of Wallflowers
“There are certain, rare story collections that sit on the shelf as a kind of gem box rather than a book: Salinger’s Nine Stories, Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Raymond Carver’s Short Cuts, Lorrie Moore’s Like Life, to name a few. Willem de Kooning’s Paintbrush is of a piece with the work of these old guard masters – authors of ten-page epics that call you back again and again with their ringing lines and luminous images. Within Powell’s 15 stories, it is impossible to pick a crown jewel. Each one feels like the favourite until the next.” – Naomi Skwarna, Special to the National Post
HarperCollins Canada, April 2016