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Bigness of the World

Lori Ostlund

Publication Year: 2009

In Lori Ostlund's debut collection people seeking escape from situations at home venture out into a world that they find is just as complicated and troubled as the one they left behind.

In prose highlighted by both satire and poignant observation, Ostlund offers characters that represent a different sort of everyman—men and women who poke fun at ideological rigidity while holding fast to good grammar and manners, people seeking connections in a world that seems increasingly foreign. In “Upon Completion of Baldness” a young woman shaves her head for a part in a movie in Hong Kong that will help her escape life with her lover in Albuquerque. The precocious narrator of “All Boy” finds comfort when he is locked in a closet by a babysitter. In “Dr. Deneau's Punishment” a math teacher leaving New York for Minnesota as a means of punishing himself engages in an unsettling method of discipline. A lesbian couple whose relationship is disintegrating flees to the Moroccan desert in “The Children beneath the Seat.” And in “Idyllic Little Bali” a group of Americans gathers around a pool in Java to discuss their brushes with fame and ends up witnessing a man's fatal flight from his wife.

In the eleven stories in The Bigness of the World we see that wherever you are in the world, where you came from is never far away.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

I am grateful for this award and the publication of this collection. I would like to thank Nancy Zafris, the Flannery O’Connor Award series editor and a wonderful writer, who was generous with both her knowledge and her enthusiasm as she guided me through the process of publishing my first book. I am also deeply...

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The Bigness of the World

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pp. 1-21

The year that Ilsa Maria Lumpkin took care of us, Martin was ten going on eleven and I, eleven going on twelve. We considered ourselves almost adults, on the cusp of no longer requiring supervision, but because our days were far more interesting with Ilsa in them, we did not force the issue. Her job was to be there...

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Bed Death

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pp. 22-44

We met Mr. Mani because we paused on the footbridge that spanned Jalan Munshi Abdullah, a busy street near our hotel, for it was only from up there that the sign for his school, the unobtrusively named English Institute, could be seen. The school, which occupied the second floor of the decrepit building...

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Talking Fowl with My Father

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pp. 45-60

My father wants to know what I had for lunch today. I haven’t called in months, but this is what interests him. “I had a turkey sandwich,” I say. “Turkey,” he says with clear disgust. Last year, my father’s doctor gave him a list of safe foods, foods recommended for someone in my father’s condition. Turkey was high on the list. My father has...

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The Day You Were Born

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pp. 61-73

When Annabel comes home from school on Tuesday, her father is back, standing at the corner of Indian School and University, across the street from where the bus drops her and the other children from her apartment complex. When the light finally changes, the two of them cross hurriedly toward each other, and...

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Nobody Walks to the Mennonites

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pp. 74-90

The two American women read in their guidebook that there were Mennonites not far from town, so on the second morning they set out to find them. The women were staying perhaps a quarter of a mile outside of town in a bungalow, a round structure with cinder block walls, one of several grouped together along...

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Upon Completion of Baldness

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pp. 91-109

My girlfriend returned from Hong Kong bald, thoroughly bald, the bumps and veins of her skull rising up in relief, as neat and stark as the stitching on a baseball. When we embraced, I noted that her scalp had a sickly yellowish cast to it, the influence of the airport’s fluorescent lights apparently, for once we were home,...

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And Down We Went

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pp. 110-132

I have been defecated on three times in my life, literally crapped on that is, for I am not the sort to go around characterizing any victimization I might feel in such vulgar metaphorical terms. In each case, the offending party was a bird, the incidents occurring on three different continents over the course of thirty-five years, the third and...

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Idyllic Little Bali

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pp. 133-152

Calvin goes first, telling them about the time he was in Florida and decided to attend a Beach Boys concert, not really knowing anything about the Beach Boys except that they played music for basking in the sun to, which, Calvin being from Michigan, might explain why he knew so little about them. He hitched a...

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Dr. Deneau’s Punishment

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pp. 153-173

Dr. Dunno. that is what the boys call me, what they write on desks and in bathroom stalls, a play on my name — which is Deneau — and on the fact that, day after day, that is how they respond to my questions. “Dunno,” they say with an elaborate shrug and the limp, unarticulated drawl that has become ubiquitous among...

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The Children Beneath the Seat

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pp. 174-196

They had not expected the desert to be like this — just like the stereotypical images of it that they brought to Morocco with them — but, ironically (and disappointingly), it was. There were camels, one of which had chased them up the side of a gorge in a fit of misplaced anger, and the occasional oasis in the midst...

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All Boy

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pp. 197-214

Later, when Harold finally learned that his parents had not fired Mrs. Norman, the babysitter, for locking him in the closet while she watched her favorite television shows, he could not imagine why he had ever attributed her firing to this in the first place, especially since his parents had not seemed particularly upset...

E-ISBN-13: 9780820337456
E-ISBN-10: 0820337455
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820334097
Print-ISBN-10: 082033409X

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction
Series Editor Byline: Nancy Zafris, Series Editor See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 835420911
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Bigness of the World

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  • Short stories. -- gsafd.
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