March 2005

Gena Anderson

fiction

Deliver Me from Nowhere by Tennessee Jones

Deliver Me From Nowhere, a lyric used twice in Bruce Springsteen’s album, Nebraska, is also the title of a collection of Tennessee Jones's short stories inspired by the album. This unique set of stories are each titled after individual songs on Nebraska, and follow the general tone of the album as well. They effectively serve as a new look at Springsteen’s songs but also stand on their own as excellent writing.

Nebraska is known for its stark and haunting quality, and its tone of desperation is matched perfectly in Jones’ writing. His expansion on the feelings invoked by the album is flawless, and the characters he envisions are heartbreaking in their fallibility:

Some men will love a woman only so much as he sees that she’s a part of him. As long as there’s that one little part, he’ll drag her around by it until she’s half dead. But it takes a special kind of woman to let this happen. As she got older, Christine liked to think her mother had made herself hard and hollow inside, that she’d put out of her mind all the things she couldn’t change, and had found a certain kind of peace in that.

Jones’s choice in viewpoints differ from the album, often taking a bystander’s view of events, as in the excerpt from the story "Used Cars" above. "Nebraska" (the story) takes on the viewpoint of the girl who goes on a killing spree with her boyfriend, and in the story "My Father’s House," the narrator is imagined as a man who used to be a girl and tries to visit his father after the transformation. The stories don’t necessarily follow the songs very closely, except for the atmosphere they invoke in the reader.

There is a heightened awareness of gender in almost all of the stories -- the men are dark with an edge of brutality and the women must hide their vulnerability. Each person lives in their own world, commenting on outside events they were part of but pretty much helpless to stop. What stands out most about each of the stories is their shared vision of destiny -- they each examine the urgency of a moment, the choices we make that in retrospect don’t seem like they were choices at all, but inevitability.

Deliver Me From Nowhere by Tennessee Jones
Soft Skull Press
ISBN: 193236059X
97 Pages