"Barnes sheds light on his characters but does not fully expose them. Readers are left to wonder what becomes of the characters once the stories end. I'm a sucker for stories likes this; that do not jam resolution down the readers' throat. Barnes does an excellent job letting things linger. ... Short fiction such as this has a much stronger after-taste and leaves a deeper impression on readers. ... Breaking it Down is undersized and beautifully typeset. It sits in the hand just so and jives nicely with Barnes's understated short fiction.”
"Rusty Barnes’s Breaking It Down collects nearly twenty flash fictions into an attractive, pocket-size book, a rare instance where the size of the book accurately depicts the size of the stories. Luckily, it is only the page counts of the stories that are small, as the themes and characters contained within each tale loom larger than life, like the low-class tall tales they are. ... As the editor of Night Train, Rusty Barnes has championed flash fiction for over five years now, and his own book is as fine an affirmation of the form’s potential as any other. Breaking It Down is a promising debut, and one that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who considers themselves a fan of flash fiction.”
"For the frequent rough spots encountered, these sleek, fine-tuned works find their mark without resorting to interminable durations of having to drive at a snail’s pace past all the abandoned, ramshackle farmhouses along the way.”
"Breaking it Down is a tiny book. It slips easily into a pocket, which is, I think, the perfect format for a collection of flash fiction. Barnes writes about rural people. His characters are poor and damaged and often larger than the stories they inhabit. Barnes has a way of breaking a scene down into just a few words of well tuned description and a hint of stage direction. He crafts rich, full characters. In this book are stories that are more concerned with people than literary artifice. That’s a bit shocking these days. It’s also very welcome.”
“As I read Rusty Barnes’s collection of flash fictionor more accurately, devoured it, because it’s actually a real page-turnerI couldn’t help thinking of an exquisite Japanese Buddhist meal with its tray of tiny dishes, each serving up a austere, perfectly-crafted tidbit. The fare is not especially sweet, and never rich, but it is ultimately satisfying and enlightening.”
Sex, Food, and Writing
“It is totally impossible when talking about Rusty Barnes' stunning collection of short short stories to avoid some kind of “small is beautiful” or “great things come in small packages” cliché. Because with Breaking it Down, not only are the stories very short, but the actual book is vertically-challenged, reaching only half the height of a standard paperback. ... Each story packs such a punch that it is not possible to read even two in one setting; each requires a pause, a laying down of the diminutive book, and contemplation. While you may only spend a short time with each of Barnes' characters, they stay with you for a long while afterwards, which must be the ultimate test of a great short story collection.”
The Short Review
“Barnes is a master of Flash Fiction, who says more in a paragraph than can usually be found in a page. The characters and imagery quickly grabbed me, and held me in their short embrace. For the past week, I read a few each evening like savoring a delicious bitter-melon dish, a Sichuanese favorite, before falling asleep with a heavy heart.”
“It's an elegant, intense and compelling small gem of a tome that fits in a purse, a coat pocket or a Christmas stocking. Rusty 's voice is authentic and original; his work makes you think or nod or smile or cry.”
“Barnes's writing shows a true understanding of the human condition.”
Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene
“The jolt of this slim, intense collection is bracing. Barnes’s narrative art is as masterful as his vision is profoundly honest and humane. His characters, like Robert Frost’s, are mainly rural, poor, and farm-bound, and yet their agons are those of classical tragedy. Voicing these inarticulate characters with image, gesture, and narrative eloquence, Barnes opens the core of their imagined lives.”
DeWitt Henry, co-founder of Ploughshares and author of The Marriage of Anna Maye Potts
“The stories of Rusty Barnes are short, sharp, and shocking in their humanity. His characters are like sad love songs, sweet and full of hurt.”
Steve Almond, author of (not that you asked) and The Evil BB Chow and Other Stories
“Rusty Barnes is as comfortable writing from a child’s point of view as an adult’s or an old man’s or a woman’s, young or old. Behind all his characters, though, there’s a quietly humane authorial presence interested in exploring our frail humanity in a way that reminds of the early work of Raymond Carver. Rusty Barnes is his own writer, though, and his flash fiction is terrific.”
Edward Falco, author of Wolf Point
Kelly Spitzer's blog Writers in Profile ran a nice interview of Rusty on 9/2/08.
Sex, Food, and Writing interviewed Rusty on March 21, 2008.
Rusty was interviewed by The Short Review.
Doug Holder interviewed Rusty on Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.
Xujun Eberlein interviewed Rusty on her blog Inside-Out China.
Breaking it Down got a brief mention in The Daily News.
Named one of the best books of the decade by Ben Tanzer.