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Dexterity Paperback – March 1, 1999

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Paperback, March 1, 1999
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Owl Books; 1st Owl books ed edition (March 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805043020
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805043020
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,022,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Combine the characters of Raymond Carver with the sensibilities of Henry James and the result might be Bauer's bleak, but vividly written first novel. Ed and Ramona King live in Myles, a grim mill town in upstate New York. They have a baby named Jonas, but already the marriage has turned sour. During her pregnancy, Ramona, a wiry and rambunctious young woman, had tried to escape her claustrophobic existence, but a freak car accident severed her right hand. Now she has an artificial hand (which makes it difficult to care for the baby), a stultifying home and a distant and sullen husband. Early in the novel, while lying in the middle of a field on a hot summer day, Ramona wanders away from the baby. Before she knows it (it's as if she's in a trance) she's fleeing Myles and all it represents. On the road she meets a goodhearted man named Donnie, who lives in a trailer by the river. Ramona establishes with him the first genuine intimacy she's ever had. But fear of discovery causes her to move to a nearby town, where she finds a job and an apartment. Meanwhile, Ramona's aban don ment of him throws Ed King into a tragic tailspin. The book follows both their stories; as Ramona struggles to find her identity, Ed sinks into a lonely and embittered oblivion. This densely written novel occasionally employs language and metaphor that over whelm the characters and settings it depicts. Still, the first-time author writes with power and compassion.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"An altogether stunning debut. Bauer's prose is rich, startlingly resonant, stylistically powerful." -- The Detroit News

"Brilliant-one of those relatively rare novels, first or otherwise, that just keep getting better as they unfold." -- The Washington Post Book World

"From his supple prose to his common touch, one can detect in Douglas Bauer a substantial talent. The genius of Dexterity is that it is scrupulously organized and yet seamless in its narrative structure. In other words, Mr. Bauer is himself extremely dexterous." -- Michael Pellecchia, The New York Times Book Review

"Here is an extraordinary writer. In an age when minimalism is in vogue, he tells his story with a density that we associate with Henry James. I am convinced that Dexterity is a great and original book." -- William Kennedy

More About the Author

My newest book is called What Happens Next? Matters of Life and Death. It's a series of connected personal essays,a highly personal book indeed, published in September. It has just won the 2014 PEN/New England Book Award for Non-fiction.
I've also written three novels, Dexterity, The Very Air, and The Book of Famous Iowans, each of them set in small towns, in Upstate New York, in Texas, and in Iowa. Their subjects and interests are as varied as their settings, although reviewers have pointed out that they all concern themselves in some fashion with mothers' unpredictable presences and absences and the effect of that unreliability on their sons.
I've also written two non-fiction books, Prairie City, Iowa and The Stuff of Fiction. The first covers a year of reunion with the tiny farm village of the title, where I was raised and to which I returned at the age of 30 in order to try to understand the place where I grew up and, not incidentally, some things about myself as I reached that critical age. The second is a series of essays devoted to the craft of fiction writing. The essays cover the elements of character creation, dialogue, narrative strategies, how to start and end a story, and many more. There are exercises accompanying the essays.
In addition to the books I've written, I've edited two anthologies, Prime Times: Writers on their favorite television shows; and Death by Pad Thai and Other Unforgettable Meals. These anthologies feature contributions from some of the most prominent writers of our time, including Sue Miller, Andre Dubus III, Aimee Bender, Richard Russo, Claire Messud, Nick Hornby, the late and very great Barry Hannah, and on and on.
My stories and essays have appeared through the years in The Atlantic, Harper's, Esquire, Tin House, The New York Times Magazine and Sunday Book Review, The Massachusetts Review, Agni, and other publications.
I've received grants in both fiction and non-fiction from The National Endowment for the Arts.
I've taught at several colleges and universities, including Harvard, Smith, The University of New Mexico, Rice, and since 2005 at Bennington College. My courses there include literature classes in the works of Charles Dickens, my favorite author in the language, as well as Twentieth Century writers such as Willa Cather, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 2, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The reviewers said that this book's elegant prose sometimes overwhelmed and obscured its story. I happen to be a sucker for that kind of writing, where the real action is in the twists and modulations of the syntax. But in the end I was a bit disappointed by the book's prose, which is more Raymond Chandler than Raymond Carver. The book's characters and the things that happen to them are not very convincing, either. The arbitrariness of the plot reminded me of the novels of John Irving: if you can't give a character a rich interior life, then why not have her lose her hand in a bizarre accident and then raise her baby using a prosthesis?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Many things to recommend this book: well-written prose (sometimes much too "poetic" for the world it's trying to describe and very heavy on adjectives), great dialogue, finely-etched characters. The problem is plotting, pacing and the nature of the main character, Ramona. At times I just didn't believe in her, nor did I quite understand or sympathize with her actions. (Okay, the husband's a brute, but why ditch the baby? And then to feel such little remorse?) Unfortunately, she remains ultimately an enigmatic character (and there's a whole not very interesting sequence where she watches a neighbor across the street...) and not quite compelling enough for a novel. Her husband, too, is much too self-pitying to take seriously and he simply takes too long to act -- pages and pages of him just brooding and getting drunk and lamenting his loneliness before he gets off his butt to find Ramona; it takes way too long to get there. Still, Dexterity is way above most books written today, and for that alone, it is worth reading, as Bauer at least tries to get at some real issues and isn't just concerned with how clever he is.
As for the reviewer below me who compares the prose to Chandler's -- the comparison couldn't be further off. Bauer is a word-rich writer, much more like a southern writer (Faulkner and Styron come to mind...), and yes, sometimes falls into the web of his own words, threatening to stall the story. But Chandler? Come, now.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Estoye on November 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book has a nice leisurely yet disturbing pace to it- a lot like a David Lynch film. Not to give away too much of the simple plot, I found the main character's journey on the road to be frightening and beautiful. I honestly felt completely alone reading this book, even on the train.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Laurel B. Deloria on December 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A woman refuses to live her life in quiet desperation, instead starts an improbable escape only to be called back by her son.
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