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Corpus Christi: Stories Paperback – June 14, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (June 14, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812971876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812971873
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #314,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 14 customer reviews
Each story offers a terrific premise, great character insight and deft writing.
J. Luiz
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.
S. Kay Murphy
Bret Johnston's debut collection of fiction signals the arrival of a master storyteller.
Adrift in Suburbia

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By S. Kay Murphy VINE VOICE on 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 By A Customer on June 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
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 By Daniel Olivas on November 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James Brown on February 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Luiz on April 27, 2013
Format: Paperback
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.

3.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. M. Appel on June 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The stories in this collection are careful, poignant and highly convincing portraits of well-intentioned but often hapless souls battling external and internal hurricanes. At first read, one might mistake these stories for the accurate and earnest but "tame" stories that one associates with the short story renaissance of the 1970s and 1980s: Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie, Bobbie Ann Mason, Richard Bausch, etc. And these stories are indeed earnest and sincere; although they have moments of humor, they never feel glib or festive. They certainly are driven by character and not primarily by plot (One exception is the marvellous "Two Liars" in which a father burns his home for the insurance money). But Johnson's gift is that these stories are far less conventional than they appear at first glance--there is always a small but telling surprise, a slight twist that carries us into a world of imaginative genius. To put is bluntly: These stories seem important. They belong alongside the writing of a handful of contemporary short fiction authors (Elizabeth Graver, Kevin Brockmeier) who possess the ability to wade both deep into character *and* far out into the unknown. There's a reason the stories in this collection have been honored by Best New Voices, New Stories from the South, The O. Henry Prize and almost all of the tributes a published story story can obtain today.
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