Rumble, Young Man, Rumble by Benjamin Cavell is a collection of nine short stories all centered around masculinity, pride, misogyny, homophobia, violence, and desire. These stories are brash at times, with uses of the N-word and the F-slur, which make sense in the context of the characters, but are at times grating and overwhelming. The first story, ‘Balls, Balls, Balls’ is about a man who works at a sporting goods store who competes in a paintball team and thinks himself as an over-the-top macho man. He talks about how large his penis is, about how he is better than everyone else—especially the new guy on his paintball team, and his experiences with violence and sex. Though, what’s particularly revealing about this story, is that the narrator, while not explicitly stated, is unreliable and is even bested by the new guy who used to be in the military. With this story, and many of the other stories in Cavell’s collection, all the men believe themselves to be super masculine and go to great lengths to show that being the case. It however is simply a façade, and deeper down they are all insecure men. In ‘All the Nights of the World’, the speaker’s father talks about these violent tales while the speaker idolizes him. In ‘Killing Time’, a boxer is prepping for a fight against a man he says he can beat, but is intimidated. ‘Evolution’ is about these two friends doing worse and worse things to people in preparation to kill the father of one of their girlfriends. ‘The Art of Possible’ is about the artifice of being a politician. Though, the story I thought was most developed was ‘The Ropes’ about a boxer who nearly died in a fight, so has to pick up the pieces of his life after.
These stories are gruesome, sometimes ridiculously violent, and abrasive. I think I did have trouble with some of the stories, for example in ‘The Death of Cool’, the last paragraph is unneeded, while another story features a black man saying the N-word with the hard R (which seems like a very wrong way to write that type of character). It is a collection that I can see how it got published in the early 2000’s, but feels dated with its language now.
Final Rating: 3/5
Maxwell Suzuki is a writer, poet, and photographer based in Los Angeles.