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Venus in the Afternoon

Tehila Lieberman

Publication Year: 2012

The short stories in this rich debut collection embody in their complexity Alice Munro’s description of the short story as “a world seen in a quick, glancing light.” In chiseled and elegant prose, Lieberman conjures wildly disparate worlds. A middle aged window washer, mourning his wife and an estranged daughter, begins to grow attached to a young woman he sees through the glass; a writer, against his better judgment, pursues a new relationship with a femme fatale who years ago broke his heart; and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor struggles with the delicate decision of whether to finally ask her aging mother how it was that she survived. It is all here—the exigencies of love, of lust, the raw, unlit terrain of grief. Whether plumbing the darker depths or casting a humorous eye on a doomed relationship, these stories never force a choice between tragedy and redemption, but rather invite us into the private moments and crucibles of lives as hungry and flawed as our own. “Quiet, moving, masterfully crafted. Such are the nine stories in Venus in the Afternoon. Tehila Lieberman writes with precision, restraint, with a compassionate heart. She inhabits her characters, young or old, men or women, honestly, but without judgment, until they rise off the page and stand before us breathing and alive. New York, the Atacama desert, Amsterdam or Cuzco in Peru, the settings in Venus in the Afternoon are just as varied as the lives which they contain. A wonderful collection, one that will stay in your mind long after you have bid it goodbye.” —Miroslav Penkov, author of East of the West and judge

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Series: Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. ix-x

Much thanks to all of the members of my past and current writing groups—the original group: Dan Boyne, George Harrar and Joan Leegant; my Thursday night group: Pagan Kennedy, Susan Mahler, Karen Propp, Lauren Slater, Priscilla Sneff; the Thursday night offshoot group: Susan Dworkin, Karen Propp...

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The Way I See It

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pp. 1-16

It’s too bad you can’t confess another man’s sins or I would do it, get on my knees in front of Father O’Conner and spill the litany of sins my eyes been forced to see. His hair would go white on me right then and there. I don’t tell him because he might tell me to change jobs, tell me this is how the...

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Reinventing Olivia

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pp. 17-42

As soon as I woke up, I could tell that Olivia was already gone. The smell of freshly ground Sumatra was only barely discernible. There was none of the tight rustle of the Wall Street Journal that reached me most mornings from the kitchen. There was only the rising hum of my own anxiety...

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Cul de Sac

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pp. 43-62

It is cruel, she knows. Where have her maternal instincts gone? The instinct that once made her leap between Samantha, wondrous, beautiful toddler and the bully in the sandbox about to run his truck’s wheels through her hair. Now what she really wants to say is...

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Venus in the Afternoon

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pp. 63-87

It began like this: Megan woke up and pulled me toward her in that proprietary, non-sexual way I saw stretching ahead of us for years and years, and into the unsuspecting canyon of her neck I whispered, “Megi, this isn’t going to work.” Last night she’d done it—gotten me drunk...

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Waltz on East 6th Street

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pp. 88-97

In the picture, my mother is thin but she is wearing a pale belted dress with a flared skirt and she is smiling. That is, her mouth is smiling. Her eyes are unreadable, her cheeks taut. There is a tree just behind her and the smallest hint of a fence. I have studied the picture a thousand times trying to figure out...

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Flammable Vacations

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pp. 98-116

To understand how and why I left the sanity of my husband to go on vacation with my mother, you would have to understand that nothing else could have ended my ambivalence and helped me make the decision I needed to make, and that I was sure that a few days with my mother would. You...

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Fault Lines

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pp. 117-131

The door to the orphanage is large and red, like a gash in the thick, gray stone wall. On a Sunday, four times a year, one of the nuns firmly takes her hand and walks her to the front door to greet her mother. These visits, she knows, are not for her. Even at six she knows this...

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Anya’s Angel

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pp. 132-157

My mother once told me that the way she understood it, we were living in the only existing physical universe, which was but the palest reflection of the many non-physical universes that existed. That there was, however, a throughflow between the worlds, and just as some spirits and acts of the divine...

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Into the Atacama

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pp. 158-177

My husband stares ahead. I have receded for him as he drinks in the long and rough torso of this part of his country. Takes in purple, then orange peaks, a terrain he used to travel through when he was young, his guitar resting beside him, a small bag of clothes in the back of the old, rattling car as he...

E-ISBN-13: 9781574414776
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574414660

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction

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Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Fiction.
  • City dwellers -- Fiction.
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