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Corpus Christi: Stories [Kindle Edition]

Bret Anthony Johnston
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

From an acclaimed and award-winning young writer comes an intensely moving debut collection set in the eye of life’s storms. In Corpus Christi, Texas—a town often hit by hurricanes— parents, children, and lovers come together and fall apart, bonded and battered by memories of loss that they feel as acutely as physical pain.

A car accident joins strangers linked by an intimate knowledge of madness. A teenage boy remembers his father’s act of sudden and self-righteous violence. A “hurricane party” reunites a couple whom tragedy parted. And, in an unforgettable three-story cycle, an illness sets in profound relief a man’s relationship with his mother and the odd, shifting fidelity of truth to love.

Told in fresh, lyrical voices and taut, inventive styles, these narratives explore the complex volatility of love and intimacy, sorrow and renewal—and expose how often these experiences feel like the opposite of themselves. From the woman whose young son’s uncanny rapport with snakes illuminates her own missed opportunities to the man confronting his wife and her lover in a house full of illegal exotic birds, all the characters here face moments of profound decision and recognition in which no choice is clearly or completely right.

Writing with tough humor, deep humanity, and a keen eye for the natural environment, Bret Anthony Johnston creates a world where where cataclysmic events cut people loose from their “regular lives, floating and spiraling away from where we had been the day before.” Corpus Christi is a extraordinarily ambitious debut. It marks the arrival of an important, exquisitely talented voice to American fiction.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his promising debut collection, Johnston travels through time and across socioeconomic divides to present a series of nuanced portraits of middle-aged, middle-American loneliness in all its permutations. All 10 of these astutely observed stories are set in or near Corpus Christi, Tex., a small Gulf Coast city that, in addition to getting hit hard and often by passing hurricanes, is subject to more than its share of emotional storms. Encompassing dusty old horse corrals, private yacht marinas, a naval air station and a run-down motel, Johnston's Corpus is America in microcosm. But it is the emotional landscape that interests the author, not the physical, and, without lapsing into sentimentality, he evokes a peculiarly American brand of abject loneliness and tentative optimism. When his wind-buffeted and storm-scarred protagonists revisit the past, they do so not in the flattering, fire-lit glow of placid old age but in the caustic light of bitter revisionism. A now-grown son recalls the night his father torched their well-tended family home in order to pay off his debts with the insurance settlement. A young man brags to co-workers about reaching 120 mph in his new Lexus, failing to reveal that he did so on his way to visit his wife in a psychiatric hospital. And an elegantly constructed novella in three stories finds a dying mother grappling with the knowledge that her grown son/caretaker "would survive this, rebuild a life that she would never see.... Shouldn't this please rather than terrify and anger her?" In Corpus, memory summons loneliness rather than banishing it, and "calm [is] born not of hope... but of hope's absence."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

According to this debut collection of stories, Corpus Christi is a very depressing place to live. Children, parents, and spouses all die with alarming frequency. When they don't die or lose their loved ones, people suffer from depression or psychosis. In the title story alone there is a miscarriage, a fatal car crash, a divorce, a mother with Alzheimer's, and two people committed to a mental hospital. The high point of this collection is the three stories spread throughout the book that together form a novella and a complete picture of a touching mother-son relationship. Each individual story overcomes its tragic subject matter to deliver an honest and nonpatronizing view of the mainly lower-middle-class characters. However, trying to read these stories in one sitting may require an antidepressant. Marta Segal
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 384 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0812971876
  • Publisher: Random House; Reprint edition (December 18, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XUBF56
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #329,076 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superior craftsmanship! July 18, 2004
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Years ago I stopped buying short story collections as I found it to be like buying a CD by a favorite band: There would be the one, popular, Top 10 cut, then the rest of the music would be filler. I was encouraged by a writer-friend to read Corpus Christi and I have to say honestly that each and every story is a gem. This book made me laugh and weep and sing and dance--and weep again--sometimes in the sadness of the story, sometimes in joy at the gift of Johnston's writing. Long ago it seemed the literary world lost the vision of a short story with beginning, middle, end. Here the skill in such craftsmanship is reborn. Bret Johnston deftly chisels every sentence out of the substance that is his beloved medium: the written word.
Thank the muses!
If you love the short story as an art form, buy this book! You won't be disappointed.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning June 25, 2004
By A Customer
A wonderful book.
Sumptuously written with dialogue and detail that remind you of the beauty that is life. There are no "heroes" among these characters and stories...just people who bravely face their surroundings, not just physical (the inevitable hurricane) but emotional as well. There is loss. There is regret. There is everything that memory assails us with; but these stories also tell of what memory rewards us with. This may not be a book for the faint-hearted, for these characters are certainly not. They face their shining moments and imperfections with a grace and courage that makes you glad to know their stories.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Exquisite, Powerful Debut November 25, 2005
One of the biggest literary errors made by new (and even some veteran) writers is to trumpet THE BIG, EMOTIONAL EVENT. Not so with Bret Anthony Johnston's exquisite, powerful debut collection, "Corpus Christi." Whether dealing with madness, a father's violence or broken marriages, Johnston uses both restraint and often humor to paint characters who are as real and flawed as any in modern literature. "Corpus Christi" brings us to places plumbed by Annie Proulx and Dagoberto Gilb but with Johnston's own remarkable imprint.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific collection from a gifted storyteller April 27, 2013
By J. Luiz
I first became aware of Brett Anthony Johnston because of a terrific story that he had in the Fall 2011 issue of American Short Fiction titled "Paradeability" about a father coping with the aftermath of his wife's death and his son's obsession with learning how to become a clown, which is the boy's way of coping with his mother's loss. It's a greatly paced and nuanced story, offering wonderful insights into how the father and son cope with tragedy. All the skill at display in that piece made me go searching for more work by Johnston and this collection didn't let me down. Each story offers a terrific premise, great character insight and deft writing.

The 10 stories in the piece, all located in or near Corpus Christi, Texas, are:

1. Waterwalkers - 31 pp - My favorite story in the collection. While a hurricane is bearing down on Corpus Christi, a man runs into his ex-wife in a hardware store. They haven't seen each other in years, since they separated and divorced after the death of their son. The story is filled with evidence of why they had the original connection, and how it got marred by the pain of losing their child.

2. I See Something You Don't See - 29 pp - The first in a trilogy of stories about a son who's had to take time off from his teaching job and post-graduate studies in order to move back to Texas to take care of his mother who is dying from cancer. Here his mother is hopeful that she still has some time to enjoy life, but when the son learns her cancer has actually taken a turn for the worse, he keeps the news from her for a while and is wracked with guilt about keeping a secret he knows will shatter all her newfound hope.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Collection February 9, 2005
Bret Johnston's debut collection of short stories is an excellent, powerful book. Such talent, compassion and insight coming from such a young writer is extraordinary. Johnston knows his craft, and "Corpus Christi: Stories" is beautifully written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for every bookshelf May 21, 2009
Bret Anthony Johnston's "Corpus Christi: Stories" is a lighthouse of literary fiction, beckoning readers to see life in a new way. As the verbal architect interweaving the stories, Bret Anthony Johnston builds a foundation fortified by the power and exuberance of his words. In "Waterwalkers," his first story, the ground shifts beneath the relationship of a couple, threatening to forever fissure what they once shared. Johnston, however, forges a touchstone that allows readers to experience their loss, their love and their abiding connections, with his ability to craft a strong, unforgettable narrative.

Johnston's humor, his research (get ready to be amazed at the Karakawa Indians), his visceral knowledge of Texas, and his astute observations offer readers a welcome to characters and circumstances wholly original. If a hurricane threatened my home, my autographed copy of "Corpus Christi: Stories" would be among my prized possessions to protect and save.

Ironically, another famed architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is credited with observing that "less is more" and "God is in the details." After reading "Corpus Christi: Stories," you may agree that Bret Anthony Johnston is van der Rohe's "writing heir apparent" whose stories illuminate these statements. Just as Mies van der Rohe earned his celebrity energizing space in his Farnsworth House and his Berlin museum by designing walls of glass beneath cantilevered beams, Bret Anthony Johnston (whose celebrity includes being a pro skateboarder and Director of the Creative Writing Program at Harvard) energizes the world of Corpus Christi, Texas from his first sentence to his last.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 3 months ago by Patrick Beck
5.0 out of 5 stars If you haven't read this author, you had better get going.
So far out talented, it's like a gift to readers. Wish there was more in print by this superior author.
Published 7 months ago by WadeH
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong Collection
A nice introduction to this writer's style. I look forward to his novel which will come out in 2014. Thanks1
Published 8 months ago by Kenso
3.0 out of 5 stars Not crazy about this collection
The writing is well executed but the plots seem a bit repetitive and even hum drum at times. I couldn't finish it.
Published 17 months ago by Rocky Mountain Reader
4.0 out of 5 stars Corpus Christi
I liked it--a book of literary stories anchored around the town of Corpus Christi. By the end of the book all the stories fit together and gave it the feel of a novel. Read more
Published on May 13, 2007 by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-Written
The book was well-written and read quickly, but the stories themselves were a bit on the depressing side, and many had the same theme: man and woman meet, fall in love, have kid,... Read more
Published on March 24, 2007 by Michael Dippery
5.0 out of 5 stars Bittersweet Stories of Love and Death in Texas
Bret Johnston's debut collection of fiction signals the arrival of a master storyteller. These are glimpses of lives in a minor key, as his characters struggle to continue in the... Read more
Published on March 9, 2005 by Adrift in Suburbia
5.0 out of 5 stars Corpus Christi Stories Cure Numbness
Every one of these painstakingly birthed short stories

is worth a long discusion and I plan to do

just that with others in my home town who

are... Read more
Published on August 31, 2004 by J. Zwernemann
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