Tupelo Press, Cloth & Paper, 2011, 229 pp
Cream of Kohlrabi is Floyd Skloot's first collection of short stories. It gathers sixteen stories from among the forty he has published since 1976.
Winner of the Bronze Medal for the 2011 ForeWord Book of the Year Award in Short Fiction.
Named one of the Top 10 Northwest Books of 2011 by The Oregonian.
From the Publisher:
Floyd Skloot's new book gathers sixteen stories that combine unsentimental comedy and forceful emotion. As in his award-winning poetry and memoirs, Skloot's fiction shows how individual people, families, and communities face the starkest of challenges, including bodily maladies, the most harrowing of which often come with aging. Yet alienating experience can lead to moments of powerful intimacy, as dark times are lit by sudden incursions of love and hope, and a yearning for community summons poignant expression.
Quotes from reviews of the book:
"Skloot knows suffering, real suffering, first hand, and it's evident in his graceful and understated writing. These stories are poignant, ingeniously witty; they're inspiring without dripping literary sap. As you read them, you get the feeling that Skloot has suffered the anguish of his characters, that he and they face terror with compassion, humor, and a poetic sort of bravery." —Boston Globe
"A powerful and emotionally challenging literary experience . . . . In each story, within the space of a few pages, Skloot masterfully evokes the flavor of a whole lifetime - the lives and memories are mostly small, mundane, personal and specific. Also masterful, in every one of these stories, is the author's portrait of a deteriorating mind. . . . (An) incredible literary performance." —The Oregonian
"Skloot has been called 'one of fifty of the most inspiring authors in the world' and deservedly so: these sixteen stories, whose characters jump off the page, achingly capture longing, illness, aging, and the various heart-strung conundrums of family. Human frailty and the omnipresent warp of the past's languishing conclusions are palpably, expertly rendered. This is fiction written with great clarity, humor, nimble grace and truth." —Cerise Press Journal (Paris, France)
"Fine writing rendered by a fine mind." —Notre Dame Review
"Skloot is so good that you could just buy this for the first seven stories and their wonderful take on old age, dementia, being stuck away from the family." —The Folio
"The standouts, which are immersive and emotionally gripping, are that way because Skloot writes such terribly honest characters. It's striking how warmly and humanely Skloot writes about loss. . . . Skloot is a great memoirist, but his warmth and thought are alive in accounts of invented lives, too." —The Portland Mercury
*Starred Review* "In this breathtaking collection of sixteen intimate stories by award-winning poet, novelist, and memoirist Skloot, characters struggle with their failing bodies and minds - and the ensuing loss of dignity - while demonstrating their will to live. Skloot's humane approach reveals the truth of each character's condition as well as the challenges of everyday life for the sick and aging--all to haunting and powerful effect. In 'Plans,' a dying man tries to make future plans with his family, especially attending an opening night Mariners vs. Red Sox game in Seattle. In 'The Tour', a mother in a nursing home looks forward to a trip to Fire Island with her daughter and leaves herself small notes in order to jog her memory: 'Had she greeted him? It was too awful, this failure to know what was happening in her life. If you can't remember, Esther thought, you can't think. And if you can't think, you aren't living.' Skloot's subtle, vividly descriptive stories allow his characters glimmers of hope and strength amidst the pain. Readers can't help but be moved." —Publishers Weekly
"Poet, essayist, storyteller, and human-insight zen master Skloot assembles 16 stories that portray families as seen through the eyes of people experiencing a variety of life challenges. Whether it is conveyed through the dimming eyes of a dying man, or via a father whose son's promising athletic career is suddenly truncated, or by the reflections of a man recalling his first love, Skloot's message is the same. Family can be a blessing or a curse, or a blessing and a curse, sequentially or simultaneously. It's hard to imagine that there isn't a story here in which anyone might see his or her own family—so vivid is Skloot's intuitiveness, so rich his depiction of the hold the blood bond exerts, and so tenderly does he treat fragile human relationships. Despite the occasional rocky paths his families must take, Skloot's collection offers smart and cozy reading at its best." —Donna Chavez, Booklist
"In Cream of Kohlrabi, veteran author Floyd Skloot brings together stories that tread the unknowable fringes of life. Featuring characters who in the twilight of their lives face tremendous mental and physical challenges, the stories explore those mystifying moments—sometimes minutes, sometimes years— before death that carry a heavy burden of meaning. In the spirit of Hamlet's agonizing question—to be or not to be—Cream of Kohlrabi ponders what it means to slowly fade into the unknown . . . . From the earnest, slow burning desire to reconnect with loved ones after being diagnosed with a terminal illness (“Plans”) to the search for a wife through the haze of dementia and Alzheimer's (“Alzheimer's Noir”) to the portrait of a terrifyingly dysfunctional father-son relationship (“The Royal Family”) or the secret yearnings of a downtrodden housewife (“Let Us Rejoice!”), every story presses firmly on the pulse of relationships and what it means to struggle for a connection through impossible situations that afford individuals little control . . . . The voices of each character are unique and the stories told are always offbeat and refreshing." —ForeWord Magazine
"Cream of Kohlrabi makes clear that Skloot has used prose fiction to produce a necessary and different vocal register while treating many of his typical subjects. If the essays and poems are spoken by an individual in exile from his former self and the demanding pace of modernity, the stories reinstate that same mentality among others going through a variety of similar trials. Skloot is our most accomplished chronicler of disorientation. . . . Affectionate in tone, the stories nonetheless refuse to sweeten their circumstances. But they can be hilarious. . . . The grief and rue are pervasive, but so are the very modest opportunities for perspective. . . . His empathy is unabashed. But the soup remains authentically grotesque to the very last spoonful." —Ron Slate, On the Seawall blog
"This is a brave, luminous, searingly unswerving vision of the life that exists so powerfully in those persistent dreams we have for ourselves, good and bad—those secret passions that seem strong enough to survive us, and that endure all the way out to the end of our lives. The people in these stories are palpable, so much so that somehow the language on the page disappears, and you feel as if the character you are reading about might walk into the room and interrupt you. And so each story takes you by storm—you read because you can't stop. Floyd Skloot has a great poet's eye for detail, and a gifted story-teller's skill at delivering the contexts that make those details shimmer. These stories are not only brilliant, they are necessary." —Richard Bausch, author of Peace, and winner of the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story
"Floyd Skloot's unerringly vivid writing makes this collection of sixteen marvelously distinct stories a pleasurable read from first page to last. He is a writer to cherish, and his worlds within worlds are exemplars of why we read fiction. Cream of Kohlrabi is not only a lovely aesthetic experience, sentence to sentence, but is also a series of genuinely moving sojourns into the minds, hearts and lives of others." —Katharine Weber, author of The Memory Of All That, True Confections, and Triangle