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The Time the Waters Rose
And Stories of the Gulf Coast

Paul Ruffin

A collection of short stories about the rough and sometimes mysterious waters

Writer Paul Ruffin celebrates the mysteries of the sea in the short story collection The Time the Waters Rose. From shrimp boat captains to shipyard workers, Ruffin's characters are men who drink, swear, fight, and sometimes kill, but what unifies them is that all-embracing magic of the Gulf Coast and the barrier islands. While some are drawn to the Gulf for its mystery, others are there simply to earn a living, and all are unforgettable, from the bawdy, snuff-dipping rednecks to the land-locked shipbuilder who erects a ship in his suburban backyard to the salty old freethinker aboard The Drag Queen who gives his evangelical shipmate hell for suggesting they say grace before lunch.

The title story, which Ruffin started writing as a ten-year-old bored with traditional biblical tales, is an irreverent, satirical retelling of the epic Noah story. All the other tales are set in and around the Mississippi coast, but they are not your typical sea and fishing yarns. While some of the stories may seem far-fetched, they are all drawn from Ruffin's experiences and are rich with tactile descriptions of the Pascagoula River and its surrounding marshlands, from the sun and shadow play of the open waters to the powerful thunderheads and squalls that arise at a moment's notice over the islands of the Gulf.

Paul Ruffin is a Texas State University System Regents' Professor and Distinguished Professor of English at Sam Houston State University, where he also holds the title of writer in residence. The 2009 Texas poet laureate, he is the author of two novels, six collections of short stories, five books of nonfiction prose, and seven collections of poetry and the editor or coeditor of fifteen other books. His work has appeared widely in journals and magazines in the United States and abroad and has been featured on National Public Radio.

"Having long ago succumbed to the mysteries of the ocean, Paul Ruffin adroitly traces the people and cultures along the most ravaged American coastline of the twenty-first century. This is a timely—if not overdue—collection of place, grace, and human experience."—Casey Clabough, author of Confederado: A Novel of the Americas

"In these stories words break bright across pages roiling with laughter and tears. As they roll back from their high narrative marks, they deposit thoughts and feelings, the awareness that real living is hard and mysterious. Ruffin knows the hearts of place and people. At times both are shined honeyed like the surface of a quiet sea just before evening. At other times both are dark as a shadowed lagoon, hiding water-soaked logs and home to alligators and water moccasins. Wonderful stories, tales that transform days and nights!"—Sam Pickering,
author of Happy Vagrancy and All My Days Are Saturdays

"Paul Ruffin's Gulf Coast recalls Melville's observation: 'Meditation and water are wedded for ever.' Factory workers, fishermen, free-thinkers, and ark-builders live hard, love hard, and die hard in this salty place of contradictions where refinery burn-off torches are dark candles casting light on 'God's spiny creatures of the briny deep.'"—Allen Wier, author of Tehano

"In Ruffin's new collection, men, boats, and bodies of water collide unexpectedly, with results that are often humorous, violent, or both. Most of the eight stories contained in this collection—really, seven, along with an excerpt from Ruffin's novel Pompeii Man—are largely set, as the title indicates, around the Gulf Coast. The title story is an exception: it's a loose and irreverent retelling of the story of Noah building the ark, from the perspective of one of his neighbors, who isn't terribly thrilled with the idea of dying in a flood. Given the casual tone in which the story is narrated, there's more than a little rural America here—Scripture reimagined as a kind of barroom tall tale. Fishing, whether for sport or for one's livelihood, plays a large part in several other stories, and in some, stories nestle within stories. "Mystery in the Surf at Petit Bois" and "The Hands of John Merchant" convey the details of friendship between men with unpleasant glimmerings beneath the surface, and in "The Drag Queen and the Southern Cross," Ruffin moves from a comedy of manners to an account of fanaticism and violence aboard a shrimp boat. (That's the Drag Queen of the title, its name a reference to the work it does rather than the more well-known meaning of the phrase.) In it, a trio working on a boat takes on a temporary employee whose religious devotion ultimately gives way to something more sinister. It's memorably unpredictable. These stories exploring how life on the water affects everyday people make for amiable reading, but they become most compelling when Ruffin taps into the bleaker impulses found below a more cordial façade."—Kirkus Reviews

 
 

 


 

SHORT STORIES | LITERATURE
(2016)
5 ½ x 8 ½
200 pages
ISBN 978-1-61117-614-8
paperback, $19.99t
ISBN 978-1-61117-615-5
ebook, $17.99t
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