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The Old Priest

by Anthony Wallace

Publication Year: 2013

The Old Priest is a book of transformations. From the seamy underbelly of casino life and its get-rich-quick schemes, to the title character morphing into a goat before his protégé’s eyes, to a family upended by a miniature dinosaur in their back yard, Anthony Wallace writes about life-changing events and their consequences. The characters, cut from the well-worn cloth of hardscrabble lives, confront circumstances and memories that will alter their personal trajectories. Through wry and ironic prose, and what feels like firsthand experience, Wallace details a comic and often deluded search for self-gratification in the most unlikely locations—such as the Emerald City Bar, where a waitress dressed as an x-rated Dorothy offers clientele more than just a highball; or the Bastille Casino, where dealers in French Revolutionary garb fleece patrons, among them a Holocaust survivor. We soon learn that the victims or anyone else in these tales are not above reproach; they too have personal demons. Far from redemptive, the stories in The Old Priest instead offer hard lessons that are both revealing and knowing.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: Drue Heinz Literature Prize

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-11

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The Old Priest

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pp. 1-43

The old priest is a Jesuit, brainy and fey. He smokes Pall Malls fixed bayonet-style in an onyx and silver cigarette holder and crosses his legs at the knee. He tells stories as if he is being interviewed for a public television special on old priests. A small, guttural chuckle...

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Snow behind the Door

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pp. 44-60

We live at the seashore now, far away from the narrow Philadelphia street where I spent my childhood and where my grandmother lived her married life. Not long after my grandfather died she came here, to the Jersey coastal town of Limit. “Too many memories,” she told me when I came back from...

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The City of Gold

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pp. 61-83

Couples do different things when they’re about to break up. Charlie and I fly to New Mexico. We spend the afternoon in the lounge of the Albuquerque Hilton, drinking margaritas and listening to a flamenco guitarist. They don’t proof me. I look older, I’ve always...

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Jack Frost

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pp. 84-94

He calls me Bobby like he really knows me, but I’ve never laid eyes on this guy before twenty minutes ago. But anybody can walk up to the blackjack table where I slap the cards five days a week and look at the plastic badge on my uniform and call me Bobby, and no introduction...

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Upstairs Room

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pp. 95-106

I’d been gone three days, shacked in West Atlantic City with a bad-tempered cocktail waitress named Irene Smith, but Irene Smith was not entirely the point of it, as Irene herself eventually learned. I called and said I was coming back to pick up my things....

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Have You Seen This Girl?

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pp. 107-122

Darcy put in some bad time with a guy in Absecon, New Jersey. Darcy is always putting in bad time with some guy in a place like Absecon, New Jersey. She’s always calling Howard up and Howard is always telling me about it, poor Darcy, the tough time she’s always having. My best friend Martha met her one...

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The Unexamined Life

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pp. 123-154

Jack had the furniture pulled into the center of his bedroom and covered with a canvas tarp. He put the roller dripping with black paint into the tray when he realized that Miles and Claire were standing just outside the open doorway....

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The Burnie-Can

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pp. 155-170

In the early summer of 1966 my grandmother captured a baby dinosaur, or maybe it was a fully grown dinosaur, just a small one. She trapped it under a clothes basket. It was early in the afternoon, just after lunch, and she and my mother were the only two people at home. It...

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pp. 171-183

For all their encouragement and support, many thanks to my mother and brother, Collene and Jim Moxford, Brian and Linda Cruse, Chris Walsh, Bill Marx, Sharon Portnoff, Michael Degener, Michael Prince, Maria Zlateva, Kim Shuckra-Gomez, James Pasto, Mary McGowan, Salvatore Sciabona, Keith Botsford...

Back Cover

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p. 184-184

E-ISBN-13: 9780822979203
E-ISBN-10: 0822979209
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822944294
Print-ISBN-10: 0822944294

Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Drue Heinz Literature Prize

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Subject Headings

  • Life change events -- Fiction.
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