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Contemporary Wisconsin Fiction

Edited by Raphael Kadushin

Publication Year: 2005

Though the best American writers live everywhere now, a popular fiction persists: our strongest literary voices are strictly bi-coastal ones. Barnstorm sets out to disprove that cliché and to undermine another one as well: the sense of regional fiction as something quaint, slightly regressive, and full of local color. The stories in this collection capture our global reality with a ruthless, unaffected voice. Lorrie Moore's "The Jewish Hunter" is a dark romance that's by turns cynical and guileless. Mack Friedman catches the smoking feel of first love in his "Setting the Lawn on Fire," and Jesse Lee Kercheval's "Brazil" is a raucous, ultimately mournful road trip. For Jane Hamilton, Wisconsin is a gorgeous but bittersweet homecoming, and for Kelly Cherry, in her achingly elegiac "As It Is in Heaven," it's the hopeful new world, juxtaposed with a bleak, tweedy England. Dwight Allen's "The Green Suit" evokes the young man edging toward adulthood, in a New York that's as flamboyant as an opera, and Tenaya Darlington, in her "A Patch of Skin," constructs a pure horror story, because the horror of loneliness is something we all know. Together Barnstorm's eclectic voices suggest that every coast now, even the Great Lakes' shores, are at the very center of our best, and truest, national literature.

Not for sale in the United Kingdom.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

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p. vii-vii

I’d like to thank all of the contributors, for giving their stories soreadily and freely (literally). And I’d like to acknowledge the work ofevery step of the way—from its inception to its editing. This book...

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pp. 3-8

Why Wisconsin? That’s what most people outside the state (and maybe some inside its borders) will wonder and probably for good reason. Certainly Wisconsin doesn’t spring to mind when people contemplate America’s literary centers or even outposts. But then probably...

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pp. 9-18

I forget what moron it was who said we should fear no solitude, because there are angels in our midst. Death changes everything. For example, Sam’s and my big bed was no longer the conjugal couch but had become an ancient Egyptian cooling board, which I occupied alone. Night after...

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pp. 19-48

It is my birthday, my twentieth birthday, and I’m in the bar of one of the Art Deco hotels on the beach when I meet her. They are always using this hotel on Miami Vice, although they are careful to take tight shots of the pink front and not show the bums and junkies down the street, not until later in the...

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pp. 49-56

It wasn’t his fault. When they pulled into the campground, conditions were as bad as they could possibly be. The weather report called for high winds and hail. Four inches of rain had fallen in thirty minutes just sixty miles to the west of them, and the sky was an ominous shade of greenish-black. Mosquitoes...

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Touching Bottom

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pp. 57-64

The woman I’ve been seeing won’t eat wild meat. Her exhusband had been a hunter, and perhaps he’d been brutal in other ways or simply a bad cook, but his memory has tainted all wild game for her. This seemed a shame the first time I invited her for a duck dinner and she pushed aside...

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Setting the Lawn on Fire

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pp. 65-88

It’s the first day of school, third grade. Where are you? Are you there? Do you remember the leaves starting to change, the breeze cooling hips under shorts? Were you looking down at your new shoes? I looked up on my way to the bus stop, saw a boy. And that’s really my story. A nine-year-old stranger...

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As It Is in Heaven

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pp. 89-130

After my father had been dead for about nine months, he began to appear in the kitchen. I’m referring to the kitchen in England, where my parents had chosen to live in their retirement. They were musicians, and what they wanted to do with their retirement was listen to music...

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Mission Work

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pp. 131-138

When our priest has a stroke, the nuns lament what God has done. “Jezu, Maryo, Józefie!” they say as they clasp their hands together and look to heaven for guidance. In the bakery and butcher shops, people order sausage, poppy-seed cake, and extra bread to help...

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The Jewish Hunter

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pp. 139-162

This was in a faraway land. There were gyms but no irony or coffee shops. People took things literally, without drugs. Laird, who wanted to fix her up with this guy, warned her beforehand in exercise class. “Look, Odette, you’re a poet. You’ve been in po biz for what—twenty years...

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It’s Freezing Here in Milwaukee

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pp. 163-170

Sometimes I am in excruciating pain, so excruciating that I can barely walk across the room. I prop my feet up on pillows to keep the pain away. It’s very simple, really: The arches—the metatarsal arches of both my feet—are falling, and when I try to walk in any direction, or stand up...

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A Patch of Skin

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pp. 171-180

Several years ago, on the night of the first snow, our neighbor was apprehended for indecent exposure—a young mother, with a baby just a few weeks old. Someone caught her in the park across the road nursing a homeless man with no teeth. The rumor that went around was that someone jogging...

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Unknown Donor

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pp. 181-204

Here lies Lois Mello spread on an examining table, shivering in a backless johnny, wishing she’d kept her socks on. This wing of the clinic is cold; if the nurse was still here Lois would ask her to adjust the thermostat. Though no doubt the nurse would laugh at that request. No doubt...

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Dropping the Baby

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pp. 205-230

Clarissa’s first labor was a quick, businesslike affair, lasting only three hours. She endured it with as much good humor as possible, the way her mother had taught her to endure all life’s difficulties, refusing to cry out for painkillers. Jason, her husband at the time and father of the child...

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The Short History of a Prince

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pp. 231-260

At the end of the summer Walter spent several days at Lake Margaret trying to envision his future. It was an embarrassment, to be in his late thirties and straining, still, to see what came next. He hoped that no one was spying on him as he sat on the pier watching for a light to shine from...

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The Green Suit

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pp. 261-286

Once upon a time—September of 1974, to be exact—I went to New York. I was twenty-three. I’d been out of college for a year. I could read, I could conjugate Latin verbs, I could discuss the contributions of the Venerable Bede to Western civilization, and I could handle a mop...

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pp. 287-318

When he was twenty-nine years old, Charlie Pappas left Vermont and moved back to Detroit after suffering from what—in a more innocent, big-bandplaying, hat-wearing era—would have been called a crack-up. The many factors...


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pp. 319-321

E-ISBN-13: 9780299208530
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299208547

Publication Year: 2005