Taking the Wall

Stories by Jonis Agee

October 1, 1999 • 5.5 x 8.5 • 184 pages • 978-1-56689-088-5

A behind-the-scenes look at the fans and heroes of auto racing—their dreams and obsessions.

As the engines roar and the green flag waves, these stories tear across their rural landscape with the energy of a Winston Cup race. Like W.P. Kinsella’s minor league ballplayers, Jonis Agee’s drivers, pit crews, mechanics, and their families live in small towns, eat at truck stops, and have a hard time keeping their dreams from destroying their lives. From the garage to the kitchen table, from Demolition derby to NASCAR, Agee’s hapless heroes open our eyes as they take the wall. The wildly popular sport of auto racing is a backdrop in these stories for exploration of the creative and destructive aspects of obsession. In farmhouses, mobile homes, and roadside trailer courts, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters all try to figure out how to keep their families running as smoothly as their cars. Taking the Wall is rich with details about racing and rural life, and richer yet in insight into that part of the human spirit that just doesn’t know how to quit. Agee takes a personal and compassionate look at a grab bag of individuals linked by obsession.

About the Author

Jonis Agee was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. She is Adele Hall Professor of English at The University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where she teaches creative writing and twentieth-century fiction.

She is the author of several books, including the widely praised Sweet Eyes, Strange Angels, and Bend This Heart, which were named Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review. Her first story collection from Coffee House Press, Bend This Heart, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Agee’s awards include ForeWord Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award for Taking the Wall and the Gold Medal in Fiction for Acts of Love on Indigo Road; a National Endowment for the Arts grant in fiction; a Loft-McKnight Award; a Loft-McKnight Award of Distinction; and two Nebraska Book Awards.


“Agee’s absorbing new collection of short stories, Taking the Wall, is set in the world of auto racing, but it’s really about those times in life when we have to switch gears.” —New York Times Book Review

“Agee’s parsimonious language is stamped with stark, forceful clarity. This is a stellar collection about blue-collar folk, their plucky and despairing relationships and their dreams of speed and glamour.” —Publishers Weekly

“Jonis Agee’s stories unfold with headlong energy. . . . Demolition derbies, stock cars, swamp buggies, Winston Cup challenges—Agee goes deep into the language of this world, and her paragraphs dive and turn abruptly from one tone to another, inside and out the drivers’ minds.” —Hungry Mind Review

Taking the Wall is a beautifully written book, filled with grace and wit, a book that will leave you with the comforting feeling that the author not only knows but cares about the characters she has created.” —Jim Heynen