There’s an art to exclusion, to what a writer decides to leave out of sentences and story lines. Ron Rash is a careful master of that art, withholding key facts and actions so that the reader must fill them in. While reading his fiction, we have to become Rash’s characters, figure out what they might do in a situation, consider what we might do, bring ourselves into the room.
That process is required a number of times in Rash’s lovely, essential new collection of stories set in the South called “Nothing Gold Can Stay” after the Robert Frost poem. Rash isn’t delivering puzzles, by any means; his prose is elegant, suggestive, and Hardyesque, particularly as he attends to the visuals of a drowning girl’s final prismatic thought-images, for example, or a great-grandmother with “a body shrunken to a child’s stature.”