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Black Tickets: Stories Paperback – September 11, 2001

3.1 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Brilliant... Phillips is a virtuoso."
--Chicago Tribune Book World

"Extraordinary... Phillips shines brightly... This is a sweetheart of a book."
--John Irving, The New York Times Book Review

"[Phillips] knows how to write about the way dreams live with us... Genius is the word for her."
--The Boston Globe

From the Inside Flap

Jayne Anne Phillips's reputation-making debut collection paved the way for a new generation of writers. Raved about by reviewers and embraced by the likes of Raymond Carver, Frank Conroy, Annie Dillard, and Nadine Gordimer, Black Tickets" now stands as a classic.
With an uncanny ability to depict the lives of men and women who rarely register in our literature, Phillips writes stories that lay bare their suffering and joy. Here are the abused and the abandoned, the violent and the passive, the impoverished and the disenfranchised who populate the small towns and rural byways of the country. A patron of the arts reserves his fondest feeling for the one man who wants it least. A stripper, the daughter of a witch, escapes from poverty into another kind of violence. A young girl during the Depression is caught between the love of her crazy father and the no less powerful love of her sorrowful mother. These are great American stories that have earned a privileged place in our literature.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (September 11, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375727353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375727351
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #609,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I read this book the first time in 1979 when it was published. I had never read anything like it. The young characters were all from my generation, did the things I did, and took the risks I took. I was very moved by this book. The prose evoked the rather disoriented late 1970s perfectly.
I went back and read "Black Tickets" again last summer and was pleasantly surprised to discover how evocative the book still is and how moving the language is. This book is a masterpiece.
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By A Customer on June 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
These are staggeringly assured pieces and, as wonderful as her subsequent work has been, in some ways I don't think she's been able to top them. Marred only by an occasional tendency to use shocking subject matter for its own sake, these stories are punch-drunk on the precision and lush beauty of their own language. I don't think there is anyone currently writing in English whose prose is this gorgeous, or this gorgeously controlled. For me, she's like a female equivalent of Michael Ondaatje. Language to get lost in, but that never loses sight of the very human characters who use it, or whom it concerns.
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Format: Paperback
I first read Black Tickets nearly 20 years ago and for me, as a young writer, stories such as "Gemcrack" bordered on revelatory. I don't think I'd ever before encountered a style quite like the one I saw there--heightened prose but with considerably more polish than other practitioners of heightened prose--say Jack Kerouac or Henry Miller--had managed to pull off. I was not surprised to discover that Jayne Anne began as a poet since it was the language of Black Tickets that attracted me first and foremost
In addition to the exquisitely crafted sentences, Phillips performs a rare feat: She not only writes in several distinct styles, she has mastered them all. Most stylists--authors known for their lyrical power--have a single signature way of writing. Phillips, however, displays an impressive command of vernacular, heightened prose, naturalism, and maybe one or two varieties of writing that fall somewhere in between.
While I have new admiration for stories such as "Gemcrack," I was nearly flattened by "El Paso." The imagery, the lyricism tempered by vernacular, the rhythm--as palpable as handholds in a rock face--the dialogue, and the vortical ending (forgive the neologism, but I can't think of anything else that fits) fuse seamlessly. Here's an exemplary sentence: "The light rolling now, leaked into the dark, ripples the skin of the dark and flies fly up in loose knots; low slow buzz in corners yellowed and pulled out by the light that rolls across the surfaces of things in yellow blocks." The reader sees the light as almost solid, the dark filling corners, sees the knotty flight patterns of flies, hears their lethargic buzz, and consequently feels the dusty melancholy and intimated squalor of this room.
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Format: Paperback
It was one of the most amazing books I have ever read. Jayne Anne Phillips introduced me to a new, fresh style of writing in little snippets of stories that talk about real life in purple prose. She made the everyday, mundane feel like it was incredibly overflowing with the essence of life. What life means and it is to live, love, and experience life. She brought an incredible voice to the table. This book really helped inspire me in so many ways and pushed me to become something more. She is such a tour-Du-force writer, I often feel like I am in the situations she describes. If you want something different, that is emotionally driven this is the book to read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Maybe this just isn't my style, but I hated the bad grammar and the flow felt choppy to me. I think the author was going for an alternative style that pushed boundaries. I couldn't finish it. It was negative and disturbing and confusing. I can picture someone who likes abstact poetry or art being deeply moved by it and totally "getting it". I bought it because it was in an article talking about books that have changed lives of various authors. I thought I'd give the list a try, but honestly, I thought this book was awful and that forcing myself to finish it would be a complete waste of my time. I HATE to not finish things. I am borderline OCD, so for me to not finish it was a big deal. I love to give things a chance. Sorry. This was too bad.

Feel free to disregard my review because I didn't give it a chance and finish it--I certainly would want that courtesy. Personally, though, I'm a writer and I think this says a lot about the book.
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By A Reader on December 31, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
These stories encompass a range that is undeniable. Voices shift from young girls to young women mostly and occasionally to young men as in "El Paso." The narrative scope is tight and very intimately entwined. The landscape, family, and dynamics of character change constantly from story to story. These are gritty situations and people: displaced young women, strippers, a homeless madwoman, an orphaned child turned prostitute.

These are bottom-feeder stories-- youth without the rosy glow of hope, lackluster in faith. But despite the harrowing void in Phillips' writing, truth can be found here. These stories are full of the monsters that tear us down and that we give ourselves to as well.

The flash fiction in this collection is perhaps the most spectacular part of the book. They are quick portraits of girls and sometimes their families as in "Wedding Picture." Others take a more perilous turn as in "Under the Boardwalk," "Accidents," and "Slave." An overwhelming number of the stories are pocked with sexual deviation and marked with terror. There is something forceful about this exhumation of human depravity as if the author were excising skin and tissue and veins and clots just to show the reader the glimmer of a wet organ.

Phillips' details are mostly spot-on and daring. In one passage she compares the texture of a woman's skin to a "seeded strawberry." Phillips also has tight control of her pacing. She often writes as if cutting into the last sentence, as if the slideshow quickens and the pictures begin to move like a small home movie. However, this is not an easy collection. At times, reading her feels as if a pleasurable spot on the body is being stroked too hard, rubbed too long perhaps by even the wrong person.
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