"Had A Good Time: Stories from American Postcards"
Robert Olen Butler
In his Pulitzer Prize winning book A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, Robert Olen Butler examined America through the unusual perspective of the eyes of Vietnamese post-war immigrants. Now in his dazzling new book of stories, Had a Good Time, he again explores America by finding artistic inspiration in an unlikely and fascinating place- the backs of post cards from a bygone era.
For many years Butler has collected picture postcards from the early twentieth century- not so much for the pictures on the front but for the messages written on the backs, little bits of the captured souls of people long since passed away. Only Robert Olen Butler, who has been called a “master of enveloping his reader in the consciousness of a character” (Boston Book Review) could use these brief messages of real people from another age to create fully imagined stories that speak to the universal human condition. From the hilarious “The Ironworkers’ Hayride,” where a young man named Milton dates a girl with a wooden leg, to the deeply moving “Carl and I,” where a young wife writes a postcard in reply to a card from her husband who is dying of tuberculosis, to the eerily familiar “The One in White,” where a newspaper reporter covers an incident of American military adventurism in a foreign land, these fifteen stories convey a complex and true vision of America and Americans that resonates profoundly into our own time.
Charged with sincerity, wit, and an eye into the stuff of human relationships, Had a Good Time gives us further proof that “[Robert Olen Butler’s] literary genius is perhaps unequaled in scope” (Jeff Guinn, Fort Worth Star-Telegram).
Praise for Robert Olen Butler:
“Robert Olen Butler may be our pre-eminent practitioner of first-person narrative. . . . Butler . . . [gives] eloquent voice to characters scarcely heard from otherwise. . . . The result [is] original, funny, bizarrely haunting.”An excerpt from Had A Good Time:
"So this fellow at the new iron works in Sunnyvale where I am a cost-sheet man and he is a furnace man, he comes over to me at the Ironman Saloon. I’m still in my blue serge suit and collar, though the fellows in their overalls know me as an okay guy, even if they mostly treat me like a hapless little brother. But this one fellow, Zack, spots me as soon as he sets foot in the place. I’m sitting on a stool at the bar counting the smoked almonds I’m eating and sort of working the numbers out, how many I need to eat to cover the cost of the beer in front of me and wishing I could dare pull out a scrap of paper and do some downright figuring. But that would undercut my standing among these fellows around me, who I’m here trying to be part of, the sorts of fellows that used to daily snap my suspenders and tweak my nose when we were all boys. So this fellow Zack presses past his friends and makes straight for me and he claps me on the back, causing me to revise my almond count from twenty back to nineteen, most of the twentieth one attaching itself to the mirror behind the bar. “Milton, old man,” he says, and he proceeds for the fourth time in four days to urge me to take his sister-in-law on the Ironworkers hayride, which is now a mere two days off, even though he has confessed about her having a cork leg.