Hero worship: A review of Let the Birds Drink in Peace

  • Christine Myaskovsky, cc via Flickr
 

Let the Birds Drink In Peace
Robert Garner McBrearty
152 pages, softcover: $14.99.
Conundrum Press, 2011.

In Colorado writer Robert Garner McBrearty's fresh and funny new story collection, Let the Birds Drink In Peace, a boy tells his mother he plans to do something great when he grows up. "Everybody feels like that when they're young," she replies. And yet, in several stories in this collection –– McBrearty's third –– regular guys do experience an instant of greatness as they save other people from danger –– and then struggle with the consequences.

In "The Acting Class," for example, a young man working at an Austin mental hospital rescues a patient from a bathroom assault, inspiring a coworker to fall in love with him. He invents a war-hero past to match his new girlfriend's romantic ideas, but as his lies unravel, so does their relationship.

In "The Helmeted Man," 43-year-old college student Alex tries to write about the time he rescued a woman from an armed mugger at an ATM, and ends up finally questioning how heroic he actually was. "For ten years, Alex had coasted on the big moment," McBrearty writes.

Fortunately for readers, McBrearty has not coasted on his own big moment, when he won the prestigious Sherwood Anderson Award in 2007. His stories remain as sharp and hilarious as ever, such as the "The Dishwasher," with its deadpan approach –– "I'm a dishwasher in a restaurant. I'm not trying to impress anybody. I'm not bragging. It's just what I do."

Other stories playfully eviscerate the myths of the Old West. In "Back in Town," a reformed rapscallion of the Deadwood sort promises his wife he won't go into town and carouse. "It has been a year now since I've given up drinking and whoring and looting and stealing horses and robbing banks and shooting up the town and using foul language," he explains. And in "Alamo Dreams" and "Colonel Travis's Lament," McBrearty tackles the legend of the Alamo, finding comedy amid the chaotic bloodshed.

McBrearty's ability to transform tragic or scary events like this demonstrates his generous perspective. Let the Birds Drink In Peace proves that anything can be funny if you consider it from the right angle.

High Country News Classifieds
  • COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
    Friends of Inyo - the Communications Director is a full-time permanent position that reports to the Executive Director and utilizes communication strategies and production skills...
  • INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS EDITOR
    High Country News seeks an editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk. This individual will lead a team of passionate journalists...
  • HIKING TO THE EDGE:
    Confronting Cancer in Rocky Mountain National Park. Poetry and photos on survival thinking. E-book and paperback available at Amazon.com.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has grown into America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more than...
  • IPLC RIGHTS AND EQUITY PROGRAM ASSOCIATE
    A LITTLE ABOUT US Founded in 1951, the Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FUTURE WEST
    Future West seeks an executive director to lead this dynamic organization into the future. Based in Bozeman, MT this well-respected nonprofit provides communities in the...
  • PART-TIME EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Mitchell Museum of the American Indian Location: Evanston, IL Salary Range: $45,000 @ 24 hours per week. send resume: [email protected] www.mitchellmuseum.org
  • COMMUNICATIONS LEAD
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR
    Since 1989, The Nature Conservancy in Alaska has been doing work you can believe in protecting the lands and waters that all life depends on....
  • OUTDOOR PROGRAM - ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
    St. Lawrence University seeks to fill the position of Assistant Director in the Outdoor Program. To view the complete position description, including minimum qualifications required,...
  • PUBLIC LANDS DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement Conserve Southwest Utah is seeking a dedicated advocate for conservation and public lands Public Lands Director a "make a difference" position Conserve Southwest...
  • FOR SALE
    Yellowstone Llamas Successful Yellowstone NP concession Flexible packages
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT & MARKETING
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners is seeking a full-time Director of Development & Marketing. This is a senior position responsible for the development of all marketing...
  • LEGAL DIRECTOR
    The Legal Director will work closely with the Executive Director in cultivating a renewed vision at NMELC that integrates diversity, equity, and justice. Black, Indigenous,...
  • VICE PRESIDENT, LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION
    The Vice President for Landscape Conservation leads Defenders' work to promote landscape-scale wildlife conservation, focusing on four program areas: federal public lands management; private lands...
  • NOVA SCOTIA OCEAN FRONT
    Camp or Build on 2+ acres in Guysborough. FSBO. $36,000 US firm. Laurie's phone: 585-226-2993 EST.
  • COMMUNITY FORESTER
    The Clearwater Resource Council located in Seeley Lake, Montana is seeking a full-time community forester with experience in both fuels mitigation and landscape restoration. Resumes...
  • GUNNISON BASIN ROUNDTABLE
    The Gunnison Basin Roundtable is currently accepting letters of interest for ten elected seats. Five of the elected members must have relevant experience in the...
  • PCTA TRAIL CREW TECHNICAL ADVISORS IN WASHINGTON'S NORTH CASCADES
    Seasonal Positions: June 17th to September 16th (14 weeks) - 3 positions to be filled The mission of the Pacific Crest Trail Association is to...
  • WE'RE LOOKING FOR LEADERS!
    As we celebrate 50 years of great Western journalism, High Country News is looking for a few new board members to help set a course...