“Darren DeFrain’s INSIDE & OUT is a wonderfully companionable book. It’s eleven stories are told by a variety of first person narrators who share a keen eye and a caring, critical heart–a combination that makes for the comic center of the author’s voice. As the stories roam from the West to Wisconsin a contemporary America crafted from in its own deceptively colorful, plain–ie. economical–language emerges. It’s the style of storyteller, sure enough of his stories to tell them straight, adorned only by epigrammatically tight insight.”
— Stuart Dybek, winner of the MacArthur Fellowship and author of Childhood and Other Neighborhoods, The Coast of Chicago, and I Sailed with Magellan.
“These stories — dramatic monologues of the highest order — display a wealth of voices, each acting as a single instrument in the creation of an orchestral version of our American life. DeFrain has listened faithfully to his characters, and they have spoken to and through him with honesty and charm.”
— Antonya Nelson, author of five short story collections, including Some Fun (Scribner’s 2006), In The Land Of Men, and the novels Talking in Bed, Nobody’s Girl, and Living to Tell.
“DeFrain, an assistant professor at WSU and director of the university’s writing program, gathers stories of the American male in his latest work. Eleven stories, all told from the first-person perspective of working-class men and teenage boys, allow us a look into the thoughts and fears of his characters.
We see a dad trying to make the best of a father-son camping weekend. We see a teenage boy working up the courage to ask the most popular girl to dance, then finding out that the consequences aren’t as bad as he had feared. We see a preternaturally tall man who knows his life will be short try to reach out to a battered woman.
No one comes into the world knowing how to relate to others, but some people never quite get it: They do their best to figure out how to deal with others, but frequently, it doesn’t work, and then they’re lost, drifting, making it up as they go along. It’s not just wives and girlfriends they have trouble with, but buddies, fathers and sons as well.
DeFrain’s characters aren’t “misfits” — that implies almost willful nonconformity — they’re “not-quite-fits.” They struggle not to get ahead, but to get by. They’re generally good at heart, but don’t always know how to make the right choices. We feel for them, and also with them.”
— Lisa McLendon’s Full Review of Inside & Out from The Wichita Eagle, October 12, 2008.
Inside & Out made “The List” in the February edition of Salt Lake Magazine. This is a tremendously lovely magazine. If you haven’t discovered it and the sharp arts & culture writing within, here’s a link: Salt Lake Magazine.
“Our best current short stories sometimes seem to impress more than they do entertain or reward. The form originated by Poe seems to the public to be more a laboratory than a theater. Don’t be fooled about Inside & Out, though. DeFrain’s vital and provocative stories will amuse you.”
— G.W. Clift review from The Kansas City Star, January 4, 2009. Read the full review here.