Home > fiction, highly recommended, I read it all, recommended, short stories > The Principle Of Ultimate Indivisibility: Brent Robison

The Principle Of Ultimate Indivisibility: Brent Robison

April 28, 2011

Fiction/LiteraryTHE PRINCIPLE OF ULTIMATE INDIVISIBILITY is a collection of thirteen linked stories, in which people as recognizable as your neighbors stumble through tiny everyday epiphanies, on their way from confusion and loss toward redemption.

Brent Robison’s fiction has appeared in various literary journals and has won awards that paid actual cash… long since spent. He lives among the same mountains where Rip Van Winkle awoke from his long sleep.

Subtlety ought to be on an endangered literary species list, but Brent Robison brilliantly makes the case for its essentiality in this exquisite collection of webbed stories. These stories argue that everything is a facet of the same jewel and we touch each other’s lives in unfathomable ways. To read them is to heighten one’s bond with strangers.

—Djelloul Marbrook, Far From Algiers (2007 Wick Poetry Prize)

Rich, layered images take us deep inside the lives of Robison’s characters, their stories weaving together a tapestry as textured as it is beautiful. Brent Robison’s stories are reminiscent of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio — stories of ordinary people caught in the crosshairs of circumstance, sometimes of their own making, sometimes not. All of them heroic in their honest struggle to find meaning and ultimately love…. A gorgeous timeless collection about longing.

—Susan Richards, Chosen by a Horse (NY Times bestseller)


The Principle of Ultimate Indivisibility is a collection of linked short stories, and each one of them is a delight: a sparsely-written, surprising delight which illuminates unexpected corners of its characters’ lives and in so doing, reveals their obsessions, loves and longings with ruthless clarity.

Robison is a skilled writer with a remarkable gift for tone and nuance. The only thing I didn’t like about this book is its title, which seems far too pompous for this lovely collection. But that single wrong note is a minor one, and I will forgive Mr. Robison for it. Just so long as he continues to write and publish, so that I can read more of his work.

Highly recommended.

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  1. April 28, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    I’d be interested to see what he did differently in his process that has made his book so much better than the other self-pubbed books you’ve reviewed. Did he have it edited? Who did the cover? Did he do it himself and he’s just that good?

    Just curious.

  2. April 28, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Scooter, Mr Robison is a very good writer, which straight away gives him an edge. He’s also good with punctuation and grammar; and he’s almost certainly revised these stories down to the bone.

    Very few of the authors I review here seem to pay sufficient attention to detail in their writing or revising: Mr Robison clearly has, and it works.

    The cover is perfectly acceptable too, but he could have wrapped it up in soggy carpet for all I cared: the stories are beautiful, and that’s what caught my eye. The writing. The lovely writing.

  3. April 28, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Good to know! Thanks.

  4. Anonymous
    April 30, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    It’s amazing what taking the time to present a professional product does in making a book more attractive and readable, eh?

  5. April 30, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Oops, that last comment went through as anonymous…

  6. April 30, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Good to know a great review is possible here. And after reading opening pages of a few bushels of self-published books, I know that the rarity of a great review is a reflection of reality. Most SP books are awful, which is why I find Jane’s service so remarkable. BTW, I like the title for its originality, but I did wonder if it might be a physics text.

  7. May 3, 2011 at 9:43 am

    I had immense hope for this one, just from reading the blurb and the quote from Susan Richards. I’m so glad it turned out to be well-founded.

    “It’s amazing what taking the time to present a professional product does in making a book more attractive and readable, eh?”

    These things make a difference, of course they do, but I wonder whether you are referring to cover, presentation etc… rather than editing, rewriting, and most of all honing those words to perfection. It seems to me that this is what really makes the difference. The rest is packaging, and will help to attract people’s attention, but from then on the writing has to be good.

    I think maybe sometimes people get fixated on presentation, and other “tricks” – as though most writing is similar in quality, and the only reason some writers are published and others aren’t, is that they are better at mastering the tricks / playing the game, etc. And even if someone has spent years editing, rewriting and honing their words (which sadly a lot of self-pubbed writers haven’t)… they still might not be any good.

  8. May 3, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    @Alice: By professional product I meant the editing, honing, etc… Now that I have a Kindle I almost never look at the cover. I look at the first paragraph or first few “pages” – if it’s good stuff with care taken regarding the professional editing, etc… then I’ll be less apt to put it down. Even a good story poorly written/edited will lose me quickly.

  9. May 3, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Oh ‘eck, I seem to have become an angry pentagon…

  10. May 3, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    …or maybe just perturbed…

  11. May 19, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Jane, I appreciate your review immensely, and your comment later. They mean a lot coming from someone with such high standards.

    Also, thanks to everyone else who commented. Maybe it’s useful to say a little about my process with this book. It’s been a 20-year writing journey, through workshops, peer groups, and many rewrites. Part of my professional life is writing and editing, and another part is visual art, so I did absolutely everything on the book. I did not hire any services. That’s part of what I like about self-publishing, but it’s not a path I recommend to others. Definitely hire an editor and a designer. Who knows, maybe I’ll do that on the next one… 🙂

    About the title, I’ve always enjoyed the irony of attaching “science” to literary work, as in Nat’l Book Award winner Ellen Gilchrist’s collection, Light Can Be Both Wave and Particle. I said more about the title on my blog here: http://brentrobison.blogspot.com/2009/04/why-title.html

    Thanks again!

  12. May 22, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Congratulations on your great review, Brent. Thanks for playing along in my SUCCESS SATURDAY! http://bit.ly/kDPfxH

  13. Jane Smith
    May 24, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Brent, your book is a joy to read and all your hard work shows. Thank you so much for sending it to me: you have restored my faith in self-published books. You might like to take a look at Tania Hershman’s short story collection The White Road: it’s a great read, and Tania took her inspiration from the New Scientist magazine.

  14. May 27, 2011 at 3:39 am

    Thank you, Jane. Tania’s book looks good, and I see from her website that we have common interests.

  15. July 29, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Brent — it’s wonderful to see that your book got a thumbs-up from Susan Richards. I love Chosen by a Horse.

  16. July 29, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Thank you, Leslie. I feel fortunate to have gotten such a nice comment from such a fine writer as Susan.

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