Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Fellow.

American Book Award, Finalist.

John Simon Guggenheim Jr Memorial Foundation, Fellow.

Small has one of the finest styles of any contemporary writer. He writes with intelligence, clarity and honesty. It is a hard style, in the manner of Cormac McCarty, but without the excesses of violence. Small’s heroes are human, not epic, and their courage is the quiet, day to day grit that it takes to deal with impossible people, often family members. His writing is highly economical; not as minimalist as Raymond Carver, but spare. And always polished. Open any of his books, even the middle of one of his longer books, and pick a sentence at random. Try to think of how it could be improved and you will probably come up dry.
Small’s great theme is the difficulty of making sense of our circumstances. From the failed baseball player of Almost Famous to the slightly bewildered older protagonist of Alone, his characters struggle with the half-glimpsed recognition that the people around them are not as they seem, that communication is elusive, and that mutual understanding is the exception rather than the rule.
His dryness should not be confused with a lack of passion. His books are full of incident and depictions of strong emotion, sometimes of violence, but his subjects never cause him to lose control of his prose. His style creates a distance that makes his occasional reflections especially memorable, as in the last lines of Alone:
“So it is. We bend to our oars, till the current sweeps us out to sea.”
— Neil Albert, author of the Dave Garrett Mystery Series