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Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It Hardcover – July 9, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (July 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159448869X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594488696
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,004,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, July 2009: There is one line in Maile Meloy's newest story collection that completely slayed me. (It's on page 97.) And in fact, there are many moments before and after that line that left me awestruck as I wondered how she was able to capture a feeling--typically one that's very familiar, like the flushing embarrassment of an unexpected advance, or the sudden fury found in a bout of sibling rivalry--and create it anew. The effect is both masterful and ephemeral: all of a sudden, it's as if your own life is reflected back to you. This is what great story writers do, and in the stories that follow--whose characters revel or unravel in their relationships to love and family--Maile Meloy pinpoints the ambivalence running through our most powerful emotions, be it love, jealousy, grief, or loneliness. That she writes with so much truth and wisdom and restraint makes Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It an unexpected pleasure and a worthy outside-the-box pick for your summer reading. --Anne Bartholomew



Amazon Exclusive: Maile Meloy on Arranging Stories

Maile MeloyMy most recent book, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, is a story collection, as was my first. Lately people have been asking me about how you decide which stories to include in a collection, and what order they go in, which was (and still is) a big question of mine.

When I was writing the stories that became my first book, Half in Love, I read great collections to see how it was done: Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus; J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories; Merce Rodereda's My Christina; D.H. Lawrence's England, My England; Hemingway's In Our Time. I wanted to know how the arrangement of eight or ten or twelve stories could create a complete experience that the reader could move through, when the stories weren't linked in any way except for the fact that one writer wrote them, but it was hard to see how I could transfer that information to my own book.

I was taking a class from Ann Patchett then, and she said, about the number of stories in a collection, that Salinger's Nine was like eight hours sleep—a little more was okay, a little less was fine, but it was a good general guideline. About variety, she said that a collection was like a mall: it needed a few big stories with broad horizons, like the big anchor stores, to make a space in which the smaller, quirkier stories could survive.

That made sense, so in putting Half in Love together I took some stories out, and left others in, and set aside two linked ones to start a novel with. I made lists of the titles, and annotated them with codes about what was in each story, some of which were so obscure I can't decipher them now. (One was "adbhj." I have no idea what that means.) The easily breakable codes indicated that the story was in 1st person, or 3rd, or 2nd, and whether the protagonist was male or female, and where the story was set. Then I cut the lists apart and moved the titles around on the kitchen table. I spent a long time trying to keep the first-person stories away from each other, before realizing that I didn't need to, that it wasn't difficult to move from one first-person narrator to another. We're used to hearing different voices telling us things about their lives, and I ended up having four in a row.

I did the same thing for Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, with the annotated titles on cut-up pieces of sticky notes, so they would stay in place—an improvement on the method. Otherwise, the arranging hadn't gotten any easier. I knew which title went first, and had a sense about which one might go last, but I moved the middle around for days, trying different sequences.

I got out Salinger's Nine again, because it struck me as the Platonic ideal of a story collection, and I thought about it as a template, wondering which story was my "DeDaumier Smith's Blue Period," and which was my "Teddy." But that came to seem futile and silly, and I went back to thinking about my own stories.

I put a story set in Connecticut third, after two Montana stories, so it was clear that the collection was going to go to other places. And there were two stories that made sense near each other, but needed to be separated, like quarreling siblings. The story about a man whose daughter has been murdered couldn't go early. It had to go somewhere in the middle, at a point when the reader was already in the book. And it seemed good to have a lighter story after it, about a grandmother who comes back from the dead.

Sometimes the arranging felt like lining up the batting order for a baseball game: which story leads off? And sometimes it felt like seating people at a dinner party: boy-girl-boy-girl if possible, and certain stories shouldn't go next to each other, and try to encourage interesting conversation. And sometimes it felt like making a mix tape for someone you love. But mostly it felt like a puzzle with a discoverable solution, and moving the pieces around was part of the pleasure.


From Publishers Weekly

Meloy (Liars and Saints) hits some high notes in these stories of people juggling conflicting emotions with varying shades of success. In "The Children," a man's resolve to leave his wife for his now-grown children's former swimming instructor is unexpectedly "doomed to ambivalence and desire" when he's confronted by the comforting "habit of his marriage." Marital tensions are also at the heart of "O Tannenbaum," in which a couple, while hunting for a Christmas tree with their daughter, pick up a stranded couple whose bickering casts into relief the cracks in their own relationship. Other pieces focus on loneliness, as in the opening story about a young ranch hand's efforts to connect with a lawyer moonlighting as a night-school teacher, or as in "Agustín," where an elderly widower yearns for a lost, illicit lover. Meloy's characters frequently leave each other or let each other down, and it is precisely that-their vulnerabilities, failures and flaws-that make them so wonderful to follow as they vacillate between isolation and connection. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Maile Meloy is the author of the story collection Half in Love and the novel Liars and Saints, which was shortlisted for the 2005 Orange Prize. Meloy's stories have been published in The New Yorker, and she has received The Paris Review's Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in California.

Customer Reviews

The characters and scenarios she creates for each story are varied and well fleshed out.
Samantha Barbaro
Overall, "Both Ways . . . "was an enjoyable quick read that left me wanting more of each story; the way a good collection of shorts should.
Maurice Williams
Yet the stories are well written with telling details and some achingly poignant characters.
S. Murray

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 103 people found the following review helpful By K. Anderson on July 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is my first exposure to the work of Maile Meloy, but if my enjoyment of this collection of short stories is any indication, I think I have just found a new favorite author! Speaking literarily, Meloy must be a Hydra or something. How else to explain 11 stories of acutely observed characters, graceful prose and achingly naked insights, each distinctly different in tone and approach?
Each story is a complete reality explored in the most poetic, economic language I've encountered since Truman Capote, plus she possesses a way with regional detail that rivals Carson McCullers. Some stories, like "Spy vs. Spy" will make you laugh out loud, while others, like "Travis B." will blindside you and won't be aware of your eyes tearing up until the words have become too blurry to read. The chilling "The Girlfriend" is like Stephen King if Stephen King could write.
I can't remember when I've enjoyed a book more or been as unhappy to come to the end.
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49 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Belmar on July 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This one's as solidly stunning as her first collection, Half in Love. Few flashy plot points, zero flashy sentences, but a confidence in the telling so acute that the characters' lives stay with you for a long time. Meloy GETS people, and she gets the West the way few writers do--the comfort and anxiety of slow open spaces, the barreling toward progress and development and peopled places not inconsistent with the ache for untouched land. This is by far the best collection of shorts this year.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia on July 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
These stories will make you think as well as tug at your heartstrings. There is something in all of them that goes far beneath the surface of universal human truths. It's funny because the ages of the people range from just out of their teens to their 50's or so, though most are 30 or 40 something's, all of them are relatable however. You can feel for the 20 something farm hand falling for a slightly older woman just as much as you do for the middle aged couple contemplating the state of their marriage and where to go with it. I can't help comparing Meloy's story collection to Elizabeth Strout's short stories "Olive Kittridge". (Strout won the 2009 Pulitzer for fiction). Strout's characters are many different ages but mostly the perspective is looking back through Olive's eyes from somewhere in her 60's. Meloy's folks are looking ahead to what might be, possibilities, Strout's look back and try and make sense of how their past is shaping their present and how it's impacted their current array of choices. Both Meloy and Strout have immense insights and lovely moments of interaction that comes after tension, as if the sun broke through clouds and suddenly there's a realization that life doesn't have to be so complicated. Both authors write beautifully and with few words they create an evocative atmosphere that is their's alone. Last week I finished Meloy's debut story collection `Half in Love' and even in 2003 Meloy had a distinct voice and lots to say. Her work has a sweetness whereas Strout can cast a slightly menacing milieu that makes you dread a little to keep reading. They both have a delicious sense of humor as well though, even through the sadness, Meloy's is a lighter touch.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Stephen T. Hopkins VINE VOICE on September 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
There are eleven finely written short stories in Maile Meloy's new collection titled, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It. One theme through these stories is the desire of an individual for more than he or she seems to have now or is experiencing. Sometimes those desires are realized, often they are not. Meloy presents real people in relationships that most readers will recognize. Her writing presents just the right amount of conflict among her characters to allow her to use the short story form effectively and not waste a single word.

Rating: Three-star (Recommended)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By xiolablue on December 21, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Almost all her characters are maladjusted, but in no way nefarious: lawyers, Montana residents, adulterous spouses, affluent and idiosyncratic older women, women in their youth who are close to their fathers in nice as opposed to creepy ways, and various mixtures thereof. They are people who act illogically, against their own best interests by taking advantage of those that care about them the most, later they submit themselves in a blind pursuit for those they desire. Exaggerated overtures of romance and knowingly setting in motion situations they'd rather avoid. Meloy's prose is so clear, calm and intelligent that the characters behavior becomes strikingly easy relatable.

I admire the author's cautious reigning in of the plot because it manifests itself surprisingly not in the way she plots stories, which is boldly, but in how she chooses to reveal her plots, delivering shocking twists in as low-key manner as possible. I found myself delightfully saddened at each of the stories endings. So much unfinished business, but I did not find myself resentful due to the absence of a neatly packaged ending,. I instead found myself admiring her bravery for allowing her stories to mirror the quotidian of unfinished business experienced by all those who suffer through the basics of human interaction and including the most intimate relationships. I highly recommend this book for those who are interested in deep character analysis without the distraction of a superfluous plot.
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