Elwood Reid first appeared on the literary stage with a powerful and bruising story called "What Salmon Know," which appeared in the March 1997 issue of GQ. Here was a writer not afraid to examine the soulful underside of the American male, or the violence that accompanies disappointed dreams. Now, in his first, extraordinary novel, Reid tells the story of Elwood Riley, a six-foot-six, 275-pound blue-collar kid whose ticket out of Cleveland is a "full ride" football scholarship to the University of Michigan.
But Riley is cursed with intelligence and an awareness of the vicious inhumanity of the college football system. If Riley doesn’t want to "six"–lose his scholarship or get maimed–he has to become a "fella," a pain-loving freak too nihilistic to care what he does to himself or others. And after Riley encounters the alluring, mysteriously damaged Kate, his dilemma becomes ever more painful.
Elwood Reid’s portrait of this world is at once blackly humorous, starkly tragic, and perfectly detailed. With deft strokes, he portrays emotionally stunted coaches who have mastered the art of humiliating and manipulating young men, groupies attracted to the fame but undone by the shocking cruelty of the players, and the athletes themselves, who grow addicted to violence, alcohol, and steroids, too caught up in the glory of playing for Big Blue to notice they are mere meat to the coaches and the university.
In tough, spare, beautiful prose that should invite comparisons to the works of Thom Jones and Denis Johnson, Reid describes a place where young men damage their souls and their bodies in pursuit of a worthless glamor. This is a profound, unsettling book about a familiar yet hidden world–a Greek tragedy in cleats.
A ferocious and brilliant debut novel about young men in love with violence.
Advance praise for If I Don’t Six:
"A fresh new voice, compelling and possessing a fierce honesty." –Rick Bass, author of The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness
"Don’t say you weren’t warned. This book kept me up half the night." –Charles Baxter, author of Believers
"I have a feeling that some people are going to be real upset with Elwood Reid….If you’re intoxicated with college football, this book ought to sober you up. " –John Dufresne, author of Love Warps the Mind a Little