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The Conference on Beautiful Moments

Stories by Richard Burgin

Publication Year: 2007

The Chicago Tribune has called Richard Burgin “among our finest artists of love at its most desperate,” a critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer dubbed him “one of America’s most distinctive storytellers . . . I can think of no one else of his generation who reports the contemporary war between the sexes with more devastating wit and accuracy.” Through an extraordinarily vivid and variegated set of characters, The Conference on Beautiful Moments, Burgin’s sixth collection of stories, continues his daringly dark yet often humorous exploration of these themes, as well as our mysterious quest for truth, success, and identity. In the gently satiric “Jonathan and Lillian,” a movie star throws a dinner party with very different meanings for her biographer, her butler and ex-lover, and herself. In “Cruise,” an aging straight man befriends a young gay man. Together they meet on their cruise ship’s deck to confess to each other “the worst thing they have ever done.” In the title story, a journalist sent to investigate a conference formerly devoted to discussing beauty in the arts discovers it has turned into something considerably more sinister. In The Conference on Beautiful Moments, Burgin writes with equal compassion and insight about the homeless and the wealthy, prostitutes and businessmen, an autistic child and an art forger. His characters are masterfully illuminated by their interior narratives, which burst sharply into conversations at once intimate and calculated.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

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JONATHAN AND LILLIAN

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pp. 1-23

One couldn’t really say that Lillian’s dinner parties had attained legendary status primarily because her guests (rarely more than nine and, on this evening, seven) were generally discreet, talking about them mainly to each other. There were several reasons for their unusual discretion. First, at any given party half the guests were as famous, or ...

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THE SECOND FLOOR

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pp. 25-40

“The Snowman,” he said, to say something. “Give me ten snowmen.” He had always been jealous of Cary Grant anyway and hardly needed the reminder. While he was waiting for his change the rotund, red-faced woman in the line beside him was presented with the same choice by her postal clerk. She hesitated a second, blushed, then said “Cary Grant” in an ...

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VIVIAN AND SID BREAK UP

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pp. 41-61

The last three weeks Sid had called Vivian every day, sometimes more than once and never at the same time, making her worry that eventually he would call at such a bad time she’d have to tell him to try back later, which she’s sure he’d take in the worst possible ...

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ROBERT AND HIS WIFE

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pp. 63-79

I’d been coming to the meetings for some time. I would sit and listen and occasionally talk from the couch or straight-back chair in a poorly lit living room. We had rotating hosts but all the living rooms looked more or less alike, with paintings and posters and plants and cats and Satie or Miles Davis in the background when we first walked ...

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MAYOR BAT

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pp. 81-95

They were in the bedroom, where there wasn’t much light either, smoking a joint. The room didn’t seem to have any secrets or even any personality, she thought. There weren’t any pictures anywhere, or even a TV. Just a generic kind of bureau and bed table, where the ashtray was, and a mirror on the wall. It looked more like a nondescript motel room than ...

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UNCLE SIMON AND GENE

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pp. 97-108

They were just where they weren’t supposed to be. It was clearly roped off, so how could the man not know it, Simon thought, digging his nails into the palms of his hands as he watched the two of them staring at the train layout. And what an example to set for his little boy, that was the worst part. It was just as if the man had stared into his ...

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CRUISE

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pp. 109-124

I’ll go first then, Captain, that’s what you want, isn’t it?” Rider said yes, though he’d never said he’d wanted him to go first, hadn’t even been asked the question, and here was Anderson already seizing it from him. Wasn’t that the way things always were, someone seizing something then pretending they weren’t interested in what they’d just ...

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DATES IN HELL

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pp. 125-134

When I was a child I carried a park inside me. It must have been in my mind but it felt like it was in my body. There were different parts to the park and at a given moment I might visit any one of them. One part was a field where it was usually autumn. There were gold and red leaves blowing over the grass. In one section of the field, which ...

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DUCK PILLS

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pp. 135-151

Then the glass wall returned and we walked closer to the rail, but I kept my hand in his anyway. I saw birds lit up in gold, the giant Christmas tree outside with the star on top, and lights draped over the tree like a long necklace it was ...

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THE CONFERENCE ON BEAUTIFUL MOMENTS

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pp. 153-175

From both his reading and the interviews he’d conducted with former members, Dansforth was convinced that in recent years the conference had undergone a major change. What had begun twenty years ago as a celebration of beautiful, transformative moments in the arts had in essence become a celebration of ...


E-ISBN-13: 9780801889646
E-ISBN-10: 0801889642
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801885198
Print-ISBN-10: 0801885191

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction
Series Editor Byline: John T. Irwin, General Editor

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