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Calamity and Other Stories Hardcover – January 18, 2005

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kalotay's delicately graceful debut offers what many story collections do not: the chance to discover what becomes of its many characters. While some never resurface, like the heartbreaking Sergei, a Russian immigrant permanently scarred by a past mugging in "Sunshine Cleaners," or Cole Curtin, the down-and-out piano teacher hopelessly in love with his young students' mothers in "Serenade," others reappear throughout Kalotay's 12 interconnected tales. Geoff, a 13-year-old boy struggling with puberty, his parents' divorce and his mother's consequent depression in "All Life's Grandeur," is later found hungover in the backseat of a stranger's car, obsessing over love and bracing himself for his childhood best friend's marriage. Annie, a young and confident divorcée in "A Brand New You," attends the same wedding, now an eccentric, insightful old woman. Capturing her characters at different stages in their lives, Kalotay artfully crafts her book around their metamorphoses, both big and small. Her greatest achievements are "The Man from Allston Electric" and the title story, in which Rhea, the true star of the book, finds fleeting sanctuary with a repairman and divulges her deepest secret to a complete stranger. Contrary to the high-drama intensity suggested by the collection's title, each of Kalotay's stories is unwaveringly sparse and deceptively simple, focusing on the power of the ordinary rather than the energy of action.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In a dozen straightforward, old-fashioned short stories, Kalotay follows a small coterie of suburban residents through key passages in their lives. First we see a 13-year-old boy weathering the stormy dissolution of his parents' marriage; now we see him as a 30-year-old best man, shepherding the roaring-drunk maid of honor to safety. The shifts in age and perspective add both depth and richness to the narratives. In "Serenade," 10-year-old Rhea is initially flummoxed by the grand pronouncements of her disheveled piano teacher, but his impassioned playing gives her a sudden appreciation for the mysteries of adulthood. In "Prom Season," French teacher Madame Lipsky has a special system for grading students that has little to do with learning French and much to do with following her directives, such as making sure every girl has a date for the prom and being nice to an emotionally fragile classmate. Such compassion is at the heart of Kalotay's polished stories, as are a subtle sense of humor and an appreciation for the complexities of human emotion. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (January 18, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385513585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385513586
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,086,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Daphne Kalotay is the author of the critically acclaimed collection Calamity and Other Stories, which was shortlisted for the 2005 Story Prize; the award-winning novel Russian Winter, translated into twenty foreign languages; and the novel Sight Reading, winner of the 2014 New England Society Book Award in Fiction. She received her M.A. from Boston University's Creative Writing Program, where her stories won the Florence Engel Randall Fiction Prize and a Transatlantic Review Award from the Henfield Foundation, before earning her Ph.D. in Modern and Contemporary Literature. Daphne has received fellowships from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, Yaddo, and MacDowell and has taught literature and creative writing at Middlebury College, Boston University, Skidmore College, Harvard University and Grub Street. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A time of pure love seen through the eyes of others, the tragic loss of someone who has yet to experience life, the comprehension of some shameful deceit, promptly forgotten but seared on the soul, spontaneous laughter between strangers who will never become friends. Every life has its small moments, when the world opens wide for a split second and allows us to see inside. From childhood through adulthood, these sudden realizations strike and we save them, adding to a growing stock of understanding. These stories are about those introspective moments, the things that mostly pass unnoticed, until the psyche cracks open and lets in the light.

In Calamity and Other Stories, Kalotay chronicles these insights, capturing the essential good intentions of humanity in the mundane activities we endure each day. These are often times of instant epiphany, registering the larger meanings behind tedium and obligation, the resplendent opportunities to understand others.

The title story, Calamity, perfectly captures the spirit of the collection, an encounter with the quixotic nature of fate that awaits the willing, touching gently on the vagaries of the human condition. The sometimes recurring characters are often disappointed in life, a bit shocked at how wrong things can go, yet inherently hopeful. In fact, the simplicity of the prose and the themes of the short stories speak to this disappointment tempered with a vague optimism for the future. The randomness of everyday actions, the possibilities that lurk just around the corner and the subtle nuances of adaptability offer a sense of stability to these small, precise tales. Luan Gaines/2005.
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Format: Hardcover
It seems to me that the majority of short story collections are either by authors who are established, cashing in on their fame, or unknown authors trying to establish themselves, with hopes of someday cashing in on their fame. The former type of authors tends to have collections that appeal to their fan base. The latter type of author is trying to do two things, create a fan base (buzz) and flex their literary mussels (prepare for their first novel). Premiere writer Daphne Kalotay's first book of short stories, I think, does both.

"Calamity and Other Stories" at first seems like a collection of separate shorts. We are first introduced to Rhea and Callie, two ten year girls who, together, begin to see the subtle confusing complexities of adult life. In the third story, we're introduced to Geoff, a preteen who's forced to face, head on, those complexities. In the forth story we meet Geoff's friend, Mack. By the sixth story I finally caught on, this is not so much a book of short stories as it is a fragmented novel. We follow the lives of Rhea, Mack, Geoff, Callie, plus a few others as we jump from story to story. The final chapter takes us to a wedding where the central characters all congregate in celebration. This last story caps the book nicely and even offers us a tiny sense of closure.

Unto themselves most of these stories seem to lack direction and conclusion, together however they cement each other and offer us a candid look at an extended family over the course of 20+ years.
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Format: Hardcover
I nearly missed a brunch date thanks to Daphne Kalotay's CALAMITY--a book I found impossible to put down. The stories weave together beautifully, and the humor and thoughtful observations in each of the twelve stories brings a sparkle that makes the situations (even ones concerning solitude or breakups) magical. In "Serenade," one of my favorites, we see a kiss through the eyes of ten-year-old Rhea. Rhea appears again as an adult in "The Man from Allston Electric" (another one of my favorites) only this time an electrical outlet demands attention. Though these situations may appear commonplace--at least as I've so briefly described them--the richness of the described moments jumps off the pages. I was completely captivated, and only sorry when the collection came to a close. Even as I write this, I'm thinking about the characters and wishing I knew what they were up to right now. Lovely writing, great all around. I'm looking forward to reading more of Kalotay's work!
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