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In this exhilarating collection of stories, Dwight Yates delivers the range of characters suggested in the title, many of them struggling to salvage situations they feel have been thrust upon them. Yet the smoking gun that accounts for the hole in the foot, is, more often than not, in the hand of the protagonist complaining of the pain. Self-delusion courts self-destruction in these stories, but not without relief, since revelation is always possible and redemption just might come tumbling after. Though the stakes are sometimes low and the circumstances more rueful than tragic, Yates illuminates the gulf between expectation and reality with humor and compassion. Seduction does not inevitably lead to abandonment in these tales, although that is certainly one outcome. A disastrous young marriage is another. In one case, a seducer comes to see that a chance encounter with an old flame has not closed an incomplete narrative from the past, but most likely has opened a perilous new chapter. Other stories investigate dormant dread awakened by the hiccup of circumstance. A family man's decision to stop and assist a stalled motorist does not imperil his family as his wife fears. Yet the encounter reveals a burden of faith and guilt that continues to haunt this Samaritan and prompts his irrational, yet perhaps admirable, behavior. In another family tale, a father struggles with the imminent independence of his daughter, a struggle that, like much in his life, is distorted by his curious infatuation with the insomnia afflicting him. The collection's final piece concerns an aging, retired accountant who, stricken with intimations of mortality, hastily attempts to become well loved and eventually handsomely eulogized by undertaking good works, an undertaking he persists in pursuing against mounting odds. Men and women tell many of their own stories here. In other outings, the telling rests with bemused and attentive narrators, crowding in close, better to witness the charm and folly of the memorable characters assembled in this prize-winning collection.
Winner of Ronald Sukenick Prize for Innovative Fiction
The Bruise is a prize-winning novel of imperative voice and raw sensation. In the sterile dormitories and on the quiet winter greens of an American university, a young woman named M— deals with the repercussions of a strange encounter with an angel, one that has left a large bruise on her forehead. Was the event real or imagined? The bruise does not disappear, forcing M— to confront her own existential fears and her wavering desire to tell the story of her imagination. As a writer, M— is breathless, desperate, and obsessive, questioning the mutations and directions of her words while writing with fevered immediacy. Using rhythmic language, suffused with allusions to literature and art, Magdalena Zurawski recasts the bildungsroman as a vibrant and moving form.
After the international success of his collection of World War II newspaper articles, German Autumn—a book that solidified his status as the most promising and exciting writer in Sweden—Stig Dagerman was sent to France with an assignment to produce more in this journalistic style. But he could not write the much-awaited follow-up. Instead, he holed up in a small French village and in the summer of 1948 created what would be his most personal, poignant, and shocking novel: A Burnt Child.
Set in a working-class neighborhood in Stockholm, the story revolves around a young man named Bengt who falls into deep, private turmoil with the unexpected death of his mother. As he struggles to cope with her loss, his despair slowly transforms to rage when he discovers his father had a mistress. But as Bengt swears revenge on behalf of his mother’s memory, he also finds himself drawn into a fevered and conflicted relationship with this woman—a turn that causes him to question his previous faith in morality, virtue, and fidelity.
Written in a taut and beautifully naturalistic tone, Dagerman illuminates the rich atmospheres of Bengt’s life, both internal and eternal: from his heartache and fury to the moody streets of Stockholm and the Hitchcockian shadows of tension and threat in the woods and waters of Sweden’s remote islands. A Burnt Child remains Dagerman’s most widely read novel, both in Sweden and worldwide, and is one of the crowning works of his short but celebrated career.
Never before published, A Business Career is the story of Stella Merwin, a white woman entering the working-class world to discover the truth behind her upper-class father's financial failure. A "New Woman" of the 1890s, Stella joins a stenographer's office and uncovers a life-altering secret that allows her to regain her status and wealth.
When Charles W. Chesnutt died in 1932, he left behind six manuscripts unpublished, A Business Career among them. Along with novels of Paul Laurence Dunbar, it is one of the first written by an African American who crosses the color line to write about the white world. It is also one of only two Chesnutt novels with a female protagonist.
Rejecting the novel for publication, Houghton Mifflin editor Walter Hines Page encouraged Chesnutt to try to get the book in print. "You will doubtless be able to find a publisher, and my advice to you is decidedly to keep trying till you do find one," he wrote. Page clearly saw that in A Business Career Chesnutt had written a successful popular novel grounded in realism but one that exploits elements of romance.
Charles W. Chesnutt (1858-1932) was an innovative and influential African American writer of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His novels include The House Behind the Cedars, The Marrow of Tradition, The Colonel's Dream, as well as the posthumously published novel Paul Marchand, F.M.C. from University Press of Mississippi.
Anita Endrezze has deep memories. Her father was a Yaqui Indian. Her mother traced her heritage to Slovenia, Germany, Romania, and Italy. And her stories seem to bubble up from this ancestral cauldron. Butterfly Moon is a collection of short stories based on folk tales from around the world. But its stories are set in the contemporary, everyday world. Or are they?
Endrezze tells these stories in a distinctive and poetic voice. Fantasy often intrudes into reality. Alternate “realities” and shifting perspectives lead us to question our own perceptions. Endrezze is especially interested in how humans hide feelings or repress thoughts by developing shadow selves. In “Raven’s Moon,” she introduces the shadow concept with a Black Moon, the “unseen reflection of the known.” (Of course the story is about a witch couple who seem very much in love.) The title character in “The Wife Who Lived on Wind” is an ogress who lives in a world somewhat similar to our own, but only somewhat. “The Vampire and the Moth Woman” reveals shape-shifters living among us.
Not surprisingly, Trickster appears in these tales. As in Native American stories, Trickster might be a fox or a coyote or a raven or a human—or something in between. “White Butterflies” and “Where the Bones Are” both deal with devastating diseases that swept through Yaqui country in the 1530s. Underneath their surfaces are old Yaqui folktales that feature the greatest Trickster of all: Death (and his little brother Fate).
Enjoyably disturbing, these stories linger—deep in our memory.
Jane Ransom's Bye-Bye is a darkly comic first novel, both sexy and profoundly philosophical. The protagonist/narrator is a bisexual divorcee in Manhattan who assumes a false identity in an effort to escape the past and to spy on her own life. While exploring issues of gender and self, Bye-Bye deals provocatively with performance art, S&M, personal ads and art in the 90s.
Calendar of Regrets is a wildly inventive and visually rich collage of twelve interconnected narratives, one for each month of the year, all pertaining to notions of travel—through time, space, narrative, and death.
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the secretary of war to prescribe military zones “from which any or all persons may be excluded.” Eventually this order was applied to one-third of the land area in the United States, mostly in the West, clearing the way for the relocation of 120,000 people with “Foreign Enemy Ancestry,” in other words, those of Japanese descent. This time of fear and prejudice (the U.S. government formally apologized for the relocations in 1982 after determining they were not a military necessity) and the Arkansas Delta are the setting for Camp Nine. The novel’s narrator, Chess Morton, lives in Rook, a place that is rural Arkansas in the extreme, a town too tiny to have a bank, a library, a restaurant, or even a church. Chess’s days are quiet and secluded until the appearance of a relocation center built for what was in effect the imprisonment of thousands of Japanese Americans. Chess’s life becomes intertwined with those of two young internees, Henry and David Matsui, and that of an American soldier mysteriously connected to her mother’s past. As Chess watches the struggles and triumphs of these strangers and sees her mother seek justice for these people who came briefly and involuntarily to call the Arkansas Delta their home, she discovers surprising and disturbing truths about her family’s painful past.
In an uncomplicated plot, The Campaign Trail takes its readers through the independence of a state in fiction, the introduction of a multiparty system, to its demise owing to poor governance and power struggle; this novel has a universal appeal to the political scientist, the literary critic, the sociologist, the anthropologist and just anyone who needs entertainment. The author blends the comic and the tragic to good effect.
Set during the Lebanese civil war, this novel chronicles the splintering of the Al-Mukhtars, a Lebanese family whose love and trust for one another is strained by the increasing economic, social, and psychological tensions that surround them. Huda, feeling helpless as a housewife, pursues a career as a university professor and immerses herself in her work and students. Sharif, trapped in a static bureaucratic position, begins to resent his wife’s success and slowly withdraws from his family. When their marriage dissolves, the couple fight over the custody of their adolescent daughter. In a patriarchal society that favors the rights of the father, Huda is powerless as her daughter is taken from her. Through the author’s use of flashbacks, the reader witnesses the stark contrast between the young, idealistic couple and the older husband and wife, who have become increasingly isolated and disillusioned.