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A Guide to Being Born: Stories Hardcover – May 2, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (May 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594487952
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594487958
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #388,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In 11 short stories put seemingly arbitrarily into the categories birth, gestation, conception, and love, Ausubel probes major events and turning points in life and beyond. Ausubel’s world tends toward the fantastic, as when she posits the human body responding bizarrely to emotion. In “Chest of Drawers,” a husband’s upper body reacts physically to the emptiness he feels during his wife’s pregnancy, and in “Tributaries,” love causes people to grow arms or at least hands; one woman’s upper torso is covered with such appendages, which undulate beneath her clothing. The shortest story, “The Ages,” is also among the most moving; a young couple take time from sex to watch the older people in their ­community, where “power walking still waited ahead in a future that the unretired hoped would also include polished golf clubs and visits to only the most comfortable of foreign nations.” Author of the acclaimed No One Is Here Except All of Us (2012), Ausubel is a master stylist of vibrant, concise prose, and these stories, with love most often at their cores, can be appreciated for that alone. --Michele Leber

Review

"Each story in this collection finds a way to record the tensions between the corporeal and the invisible, the forces that animate us but ultimately can’t be dissected, our anti-anatomies. The dismay of coming to the final page is easily combated by following the example of Ausubel’s characters and beginning all over again."—The New York Times Book Review

“Aggressively imaginative.”—The New York Times

"Lyrical stories arranged around themes of birth, gestation, conception and love. . . . Ausubel has a gift of language so rich that even the most mundane events are invested with poetry, and many of her characters are in need of all the poetry they can muster."—Kirkus

"Ausubel is a master stylist of vibrant, concise prose, and these stories, with love most often at their cores, can be appreciated for that alone."—Booklist

"These stories reminded me of branches full of cherry blossoms: fresh, delicate, beautiful, expressive, otherworldly.  I eagerly read from one story to the next."—Aimee Bender

More About the Author

Ramona Ausubel is the author of the novel No One is Here Except All of Us, which was a New York Times Editor's Choice and a San Francisco Chronicle and Huffington Post Best Book of the Year. Her new book A Guide to Being Born is a collection of short stories, which will be out in May 2013. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review Daily, One Story, The Best American Fantasy and shortlisted in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Non-Required Reading.

Find out more at www.ramonaausubel.com

Customer Reviews

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My favorite collection of short stories this year.
Paul
I love that they are always called the grandmothers, and I love Alice, the one who submerges herself in the experience.
Amelia Gremelspacher
This book of short stories is interesting, well-written, and is very imaginative.
getrus

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is about both the phenomena that the eye draws out of need, and the reality that the eye does not register. It seems in most short story collections, there are ones that speak to me more clearly than others, and this is the case here. However the enchantment of the book conitnues throughout the entire work. This book requires a suspension of that horizon of reality and the ephermal - that which may be too gossamer to be seen in the usual sense. Having given the bossy, rational self over to the experience of the non-physical taking form that can be sensed, these stories are quite transportive.

One of my favorites is the first story, the one I often see cited by reviews. Several grandmothers find themselves on a ship with no memory or knowledge of how they came to be there. Some of them make small talk and some take assertive steps to find a solution. I love that they are always called the grandmothers, and I love Alice, the one who submerges herself in the experience. Early one she suspects she has died.

Another deep favorite is the last story in which people grow love arms. When they love someone, an arm grows. It cannot be willed. It will not respond to lust. Young girls dream of their love arms. The iterations and combinations of a love being on clear display are stunning.

And then I find I really liked the story where a consortium of well known academics gather to hear from a Nobel Laureate who does not come. So the evening starts with each one speaking to their own obsessions and evolves to the point that people add their personal obsessions. Our hero, who has lost his wife ponders the most difficult questions of grief, but not out loud.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Fussy on June 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
What a wonderful group of stories! This is a voice we will welcome for years to come. These stories provoke the reader into private memory while eagerly devouring each new phrase. The emotions are age old, the phrasing is new. Miss Ausebel does for literature what Sinatra did for crooning.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Laura Taylor on May 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The interior matches the luscious cover. I was equally repelled, fascinated, enthralled, saddened, elated, and overall, hooked, by this fantastic collection. Ausubel finds the macabre a very real part of being human, and her characters' honesty forces us into an introspective examination of just what we are and may be capable of.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Darragh Murphy on June 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Ausubel's stories are heartbreakingly real. The grandmothers in the first story will stay with you long after you put the book down. Highly recommend.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I picked up Ramona Ausubel's collection of short stories after seeing the book appear on the NY Times 2013 Notable Books list. I had heard that this collection of short stories was different than most but WOW it certainly is. There are stories here that don't just border on but really are beyond reality. "Chest of Drawers" was probably the craziest as a husband whose wife is expecting starts to grow a chest of drawers in his own chest. In a similar story "Tributaries" people begin growing extra arms and hands which come in useful day to day albeit being a bit awkward. One story that I enjoyed a lot talks about a man with two children who rigs up a contraption to drop "snow" on people as they walk by in California thereby making it feel like Christmas. The stories are all written in a very tight manner. None of them feel as if you are having to wade through the mud while reading them although in a few the cringe factor is quite high. I highly recommend the book and think you will enjoy it a great deal. A definite departure from the standard collection of stories.

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By Carol A. DeForest on November 30, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
These stories indicate a very unusual take on life, but somehow quite familiar. Ideas that many of us ponder but seldom verbalize or mention at all are expressed in the stories, as though the characters are perfectly average people. Category O is a designation that the Canadian border Mounties give to odd or unusual people wanting to enter Canada. If one is considered Category O, the Mounties detain and question you.
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