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The Law of Miracles

Gregory Blake Smith

Publication Year: 2011

These stories take place in the space where the rational and irrational intersect—the space governed by The Law of Miracles. Writing with a remarkable range of invention, Gregory Blake Smith has created a world in which his characters navigate between the everyday and the extraordinary: an aged Russian woman who lives simultaneously in the St. Petersburg of iPods and BMWs and in the starving Leningrad of the Siege; a Venetian art conservator who loves the women of the Renaissance paintings he restores but cannot bear the touch of the woman at his side; a down-and-out slot-machine technician who calculates the probability of his wife’s dying. Yet for all their variety of setting and subject, there runs through each of these stories a thread of the miraculous, a suspicion that the transcendent lies just at the edge of perception. We watch the characters of The Law of Miracles struggle toward that transcendence, whether it be through love or art or violence, until we as readers feel—like the main character of the Pushcart Prize–winning “Presently in Ruins”—that if we could only parse the seemingly random details of our existence some new pattern of meaning would emerge, some new magic that would transform our lives.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Series: Juniper Prize for Fiction

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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Moral Problem #1: The Librarian In The Mud

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pp. 1-3

In this era of the insulted and the reeducated, you have the correct family background to be a model student. Your father was a peasant and your second elder sister was sold as a servant before Liberation. Chairman Mao is your sun and you are his sunflower. When he selects you to go to university, you denounce to your girlish heart the pride you feel....

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Presently In Ruins

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pp. 4-23

The names had the sound of the History Channel: Pearl Harbor, Eniwetok Atoll, Guam. His father had been to each during the Second World War and he, the son, had never known about it. Fifty-one years he’d been alive and to find out who his father had been he had to get like this: drunk, lost, estranged from a minimum of two wives, and a murderer in the eyes of his sister, and maybe the State of Indiana...

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Moral Problem #2: The Ballad Of Little Homo

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pp. 24-27

Okay, this is the scene: You’re wearing your murder-ones and the world’s got that dark, smoked look you love. You’re hanging with your vatos at the corner of Euclid and Whittier and there’s a serious philosophical discussion underway. You’ve got to strike the right pose when serious philosophical discussions are underway...

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Being And Nothingness (Not a Real Title)

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pp. 28-43

In the next room Incunabula de la Luz (not her real name) is auditioning people to be her mother. Her real mother—at least she claims to be her real mother—wanted to come to the auditions, but Luz—Lucita—said no. So this is how come I’m on the phone doing the play-by-play.

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Moral Problem #3: At The Schiller-Oberschule

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pp. 44 -

It is 1934 and you are the principal of the Schiller-Oberschule. You have received a directive from the Reichsministerium f

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The Madonna of The Relics

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pp. 45-61

He felt it most in the evenings. After a day of cleaning an archangel’s silk or the Virgin’s brocade he would let himself get lost in the fabulous city, walking beside the canals and over the arched footbridges, torturing himself with beauty. He would do his best to stay away from the...

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Moral Problem #4: Hannan of The Suqal-Barra

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pp. 62-63

You were born in the village of the streams. Your father and your grandfather were charcoal-makers in the Jbalan highlands. Even today, though you have lived all of your young life in Tangier, they call you a Jibli, a person from the mountains. There are two girls...

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pp. 64-73

Here in New England we sit in chairs. It’s from my porch rocker that I watch the raccoon. He usually comes at dusk, that time of day half dog and half wolf, when the downturned leaves seem to glow with the sunset and the upturned ones...

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Moral Problem #5: Honi Soit Qui Malypense

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pp. 74-77

You’ve just had the Big Argument and now she’s gone. There have been many other arguments (you remember particularly the one about whether millionaire NBA players had the right to strike, a subject neither of you cared about in the least but somehow roused...

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Missing, Believed Wiped

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pp. 78-97

It was as if he had been there, with his parents and Speedy Alka-Seltzer and his nonexistent kid brother: in the den of their Levittown house, in front of the black-and-white Philco, with Ernie Kovacs and the dancing Lucky Strikes and outside the Fifties happening like a mushroom cloud...

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Moral Problem #6: Paraconsistent Logic

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pp. 98-99

You have just finished the chapter in which you disprove the existence of mermaids. Or, as you would prefer to phrase it, the chapter in which you prove the nonexistence of mermaids. This follows chapters in which...

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pp. 100-118

She told the police she couldn’t remember anything. From out of the pain and the dim apprehension that she was alive, shook her head “no.” Even after she’d been stabilized and the swelling had gone down so that she could see—though her vision was blurred and the IV -drip...

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Moral Problem #7: The Pigeons At Kazan Cathedral

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pp. 119-121

No one asks anymore except the ghosts, but if they did, this is one else. That you yourself posted it to Leningradskaya Pravda. that one poem about her Leningrad and the war suffering and the pigeons in front of kazan Cathedral and that is what you attacked her for. Because there had been no pigeons in front ...

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Destroying Herman Yoder

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pp. 122-147

Slug (one of which i have just discharged into a pumpkin to the rated at P velocity, a design that causes the slug to expend its abutting cornfield on three sides. There’s a little windmill in the ...

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Moral Problem #8: The Island of The Fifth Wheels

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pp. 148-150

For the purposes of this next moral problem you may choose your identity from among the population of the Island of the Fifth Wheels. Particular favorites include: • Gummo Marx, the funniest of the Marx Brothers, who left the act during its vaudeville days to become a haberdasher...

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The Law of Miracles

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pp. 151-162

When the tree fell on my house, I was already on my way down. Wife gone, son gone, middle age just around the corner. There had been no hurricane, no stiff in-line winds: the tree just fell over—plunk! The rafters snapped,..

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Moral Problem #9: Acosmic Divertissement

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pp. 163-164

You are the Creator. It is 1.82 seconds after the Big Bang and everything is going swimmingly. The other universe that could have happened at 10.1 seconds didn’t, in fact, happen (as You knew it wouldn’t) and You are in the first microseconds of being distributed through...

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pp. 165-

“Hands” and “The Madonna of the Relics” originally appeared in The Kenyon Review ; the individual “Problem” pieces originally appeared consecutively as “A Few Moral Problems You Might Like to Ponder, of a Winter’s Evening, in Front of the Fire, with a...

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613761823
E-ISBN-10: 1613761821
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558499003
Print-ISBN-10: 1558499008

Page Count: 178
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Juniper Prize for Fiction