The word "ordinary" can be used quite frequently to describe certain aspects of Michael Knight's stories in GOODNIGHT, NOBODY --- ordinary people leading ordinary lives, doing ordinary things. The stories in this collection aren't wrought with thick drama that seeps through the pages and there are no wild turns of events here. These stories are quiet and unassuming yet, even so, have a richness permeating through them that makes the entire book somewhat powerful.
The collection is a tapestry, with different topics and different kinds of people. In "Birdland," a subtle romance, an ornithologist tracks the migration habits of African parrots --- and is lured to the town's resident carver. In "Blackout" there are two couples, a downed power line, a dead neighbor, some miscommunication and night vision goggles. In "Killing Stonewall Jackson," Confederate soldiers contemplate the man who sent them to the battle. From India to Alabama, Knight serves up characters that have bad luck from time to time but do their best to roll with the punches, to believe in love and family and to trust that everything will turn out okay (sometimes less than okay) in the end.
At the beginning of one of the better stories in the collection, "Feeling Lucky," Knight writes "Midnight, and Bruce Little was hunched against a pay phone under the awning of the Saint John Divine Hotel, shivering with cold and dialing collect to Mississippi." It's an ordinary scene and an ordinary sentence, but he brings that scene into immediate focus and our burgeoning thoughts of Bruce Little quickly into view. He spins stories out of such scenes and characters like Bruce Little, run-of-the-mill people who lead run-of-the-mill lives yet, nonetheless, have a story to tell.
These toned-down and mellow characters, however, may not captivate readers who want something...