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Creatures of Habit (Shannon Ravenel Books) [Kindle Edition]

Jill McCorkle
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jill McCorkle's new collection of twelve short stories is peopled with characters brilliantly like us-flawed, clueless, endearing. These stories are also animaled with all manner of mammal, bird, fish, reptile-also flawed and endearing. She asks, what don't humans share with the so-called lesser species? Looking for the answer, she takes us back to her fictional home town of Fulton, North Carolina, to meet a broad range of characters facing up to the double-edged sword life offers hominids. The insight with which McCorkle tells their stories crackles with wit, but also with a deeper-and more forgiving-wisdom than ever before. In Billy Goats, Fulton's herd of seventh graders cruises the summer nights, peeking into parked cars, maddening the town madman. In Monkeys, a widow holds her husband's beloved spider monkey close along with his deepest secrets. In Dogs, a single mother who works for a veterinarian compares him-unfavorably-with his patients. In Snakes, a seasoned wife sees what might have been a snake in the grass and decides to step over it. And, in the exquisite final story, Fish, a grieving daughter remembers her father's empathy for the ugliest of all fishes. The success behind Jill McCorkle's short stories-and her novels-is, as one reviewer noted, her skill as an archaeologist of the absurd, an expert at excavating and examining the comedy of daily life (Richmond Times-Dispatch). Yes, and also the tragedy.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The title creatures of McCorkle's third short story collection and eighth book are humans with animal qualities and animals with human qualities. In lesser hands, such a setup could be formulaic, but McCorkle has a poet's skill and the necessary restraint to make the conceit work. The interconnected stories follow the arc of a life span, beginning with the memory of a summer evening in 1970 in smalltown North Carolina. Running in a pack, the neighborhood children follow the mosquito truck and get high on its fumes, talk about murder and suicide, and swim clandestinely in a motel pool. The way these seventh graders deal with their impulses and fears foreshadows their way of handling life's crises as adults. Their candid voices, the foundation of any McCorkle fiction, are heard in the remaining 11 stories. In "Snipe," six-year-old Caroline realizes how vulnerable her bullying older brother is. "Chickens" features another unmasking, this one performed by the narrator, a woman on her honeymoon with perhaps the wrong man. In "Hominids," the husbands duke it out for the role of Alpha Male at a reunion, while the wives retreat to the kitchen. This is all background to the narrator's recollection of her sympathetic reaction to a model of Lucy at the science museum. McCorkle's two chief strengths are her earthiness and her command of narrative voices, and she is at the top of her game here. The stories are at once intricate and compulsively readable, redolent of the small failures and triumphs of human life. 16-city author tour.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A classy publisher of literary fiction and one of the ablest contemporary practitioners of the short story art combine to produce a superlative compendium of tales set in North Carolina. What makes Southern writers so good? McCorkle's economically worded stories are arguably the equal of the best of Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, or Flannery O'Connor. These deceptively simple animal-titled tales resonate and entertain, with people in one story migrating without warning to another story, further illuminating character and motivation. Themes explore the infidelity of spouses, the fears of childhood, and the terror of senile old age. It is hard to pick favorites from among these dozen all-too-human tales, but the unnamed animal groomer of "Dogs" will make you laugh as she narrates why she's come to prefer dogs to men. You'll also be startled along with the wife in "Snakes" when she discovers a disagreeable truth right next door, and you'll feel for the gentle souls (both animal and human) in "Monkeys" and "Turtles." McCorkle is the award-winning, best-selling author of both novels (Carolina Moon) and short stories (Final Vinyl Days). Recommended for all libraries. Jo Manning, Barry Univ. Lib., Miami Shores, FL
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 343 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: A Shannon Ravenel Book (March 28, 2003)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007V5AX6I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #184,256 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You're an animal! June 25, 2003
Do people behave any better than animals? Do they often behave worse? That question underlies Jill McCorkle's latest book, Creatures of Habit, a collection of stories set in the fictional town of Fulton, North Carolina, that explores the vagaries of childhood, love and marriage.
The best stories in this book deal with betrayal. In "Chickens," McCorkle demonstrates her profound ability to report on the intricacies of human psychology. The story tells of a young college graduate, Kim, who always expected to marry Randy, her childhood sweetheart. Toward the end of her college career, however, she learns that Randy has been dating -- and sleeping with -- other girls. When he attempts to patch things up, her pride rebels. Instead of taking him back, she starts dating a divorced man 14 years her senior. Has Kim betrayed her birthright or has she bailed out of a bad situation? McCorkle shows her brilliance as a writer by not telling the reader exactly where to stand on this question.
"Snakes" is another story that deals with the compromises one makes with the romantic ideals of youth. A middle-aged married couple has weathered a dark patch in their relationship. They are enjoying a quiet evening together when the wife learns that her husband had a brief affair during their estrangement. Now she has to decide whether to undo the repairs her marriage has undergone by making an issue of his lapse.
Another powerful story is "Turtles," in which McCorkle draws back the curtain on old age. The central character, Carly, is ending an unloved life in a nursing home that fails to live up to the promises of its brochure. Her son never visits, and she has an unrequited crush on a distinguished old man in another wing.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another wonderful story collection from Jill McCorkle January 18, 2002
Jill McCorkle has long been one of my favorite writers--the novel "Ferris Beach" and short story collection "Crash Diet" are two of my all-time favorite books. Her writing has a down-to-earth, true quality. Oftentimes, I find myself either identifying with her characters, or at least having known people very much like them. Not only does she have a gift for writing humor (some of the funniest lines I have ever read), but she can just as easily break your heart with a turn of phrase. Although her characters are usually from the South, I don't find myself thinking of them as "Southern characters", but simply PEOPLE. The characters in her latest collection, "Creatures of Habit", are no exception.
Not all the stories are humorous--in some (the opening story, "Billy Goats", "Cats", and the closer, "Fish", for instance) the tone is more poignant and melancholy. However, the stories "Hominids", "Snakes", and "Toads" are hilarious. Using the theme of humans' co-existence with (and likeness to) particular animals, these stories explore such subjects across the entire spectrum of human experience, such as marriage, loneliness, death, childhood, family, and aging.
If you are a fan of Jill McCorkle, you will not be disappointed. If you are new to her writing, this is a wonderful place to start, and representative of some of her best work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars McCorkle's Creatures November 29, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
McCorkle is a true artist. I admire good short story writers and I certainly admire her.Going Away Shoes
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