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Do Not Deny Me: Stories Paperback – Bargain Price, June 9, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
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"[Thompson's] particular grace...may be that her language and approach at first seem so straightforward that it's only partway through reading a story that, like one of her characters, we experience the surprise of a new world unfolding from the ordinary....twilit, elegiac...downright funny, too...Reviewing such a remarkable writer, one's own words can seem too ordinary, but Thompson's talent is such that it can overcome even those limitations." -- Booklist, Starred Review
"I don't deny it. I didn't know Jean Thompson's short fiction until I began reading this new volume of a dozen stories -- and didn't stop. Move over, Alice Munro, this gifted writer now sits in my mind near the throne of the short-story queens and kings of old. She is a master of dialogue, character, pacing and plot, and -- anyone who loves the form will have to cheer about this...Thompson employs spare, plain language, whose rhythms she assembles appropriately for various occasions." -- Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune
"[In] Jean Thompson's immensely satisfying new collection...emotional movement is small but powerful....The prose brims with unforced insight." -- Richard Rayner, Los Angeles Times
"[Thompson's] latest collection, Do Not Deny Me, is compelling, funny, thought-provoking.... Thompson is an astute observer of the pitfalls of contemporary life, how it isolates and challenges, how it brings out one's worst and best. Her clear-eyed, thought-provoking stories highlight rare, precious moments of grace even as she wisely notes the human tendency toward selfishness, pettiness and general bad behavior." -- Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald
"Thompson...takes us to a disturbing place in this darkly beautiful collection of short stories...Enthusiastically recommended." -- Library Journal
"The experiences of ordinary people...are precisely depicted in this fifth collection from the increasingly accomplished Thompson...who wields illuminating quotidian details and stunningly apt clichés with lethal skill, demonstrates how closely their desires and disappointments parallel and echo our own....Wonderful work from a contemporary master of scrupulous observation, plain statement and unvarnished common sense." -- Kirkus
"[Thompson's] at home anywhere and everywhere. She's at home in the skins of women and men, young and old, losers and winners, tyrants and victims, flakes and dupes and dopes and geniuses and soldiers and bikers and moms. Her characters hail from small towns and big cities. In her sparkling and sometimes heartbreaking short stories...Thompson channels all kinds of personalities, but she does it so artfully, with such supple, unaffected grace." -- Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune
"Thompson takes tragic, ordinary figures and lifts them to the sublime in prose that's often as funny as it is sad." -- Jeanne Kolker, Wisconsin State Journal --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I was not disappointed. These twelve stories reveal how Americans truly live -- it's like looking in a mirror. All the nuances are pitch perfect, to the point that you say, "I know that guy!" Or, "That reminds me so much of someone I used to know..."
Each reader is bound to have his or her own favorites; I particularly enjoyed "Mr. Rat", the story of a presumably young man in a large, impersonal corporation, who seems at first to be bored and lethargic... and ends up being something far more horrible, a genius at self-preservation and a master at throwing his best friend "under the bus." Then there's "Escape", a tale of Hurley, a stroke victim, and his wife -- two unpleasant people who have a visceral hatred for each other. The twist at the end is reminiscent of O'Henry.
You'll meet people who build treehouses to escape from life's mundanity, women who sing in German and try to save little girls, a divorcee who suffers the blind date from hell, the young "golden couple" who are victims of today's economic times and, in their own way, survivors. Some stories will make you laugh out loud, others will make you wince in self-acknowledgement. All are little gems in their own unique ways.
My all-time favorite is the first story, 'Soldiers of Spiritos'. Ms. Thompson takes on all the politically correct 'isms' that are currently in vogue in academia. The story is about a drama teacher who feels worn-out and out of place on the faculty. At the same time, he is busy writing a science fiction satire about his colleagues who look down on him and sometimes do not even acknowledge him. We see his sensitive side and that he really cares when he can get through to his students on some level.
Another wonderful story is 'Little Brown Bird'. A woman is working on a quilt and hidden among the appliques in plain sight is a little brown bird. The woman befriends a young girl from a troubled family next door and realizes that the girl's life is as visible as the little brown bird.
'Escape' is a story of two older folks who live to hate each other. Sadly, the husband has had a stroke so he is at a disadvantage in the 'let's see how I can get her back' category. They manage to torment each other and the story is sad to read but most of us know at least one couple like this.
On page 251, Ms. Thompson says. "I think you're destined for something wonderful. Not sainthood, exactly." . . ."But some other kind of shining, special life. No matter what things might look like now." Sadly,in each of her stories, nothing much better than the current unhappiness that each character is facing is likely to appear on the horizon. She uses the term "emotional pollution" on page 250. That is what we see in all of the stories - - sadness, anger, bitterness, despair, hopelessness and the repetition of those same mistakes that got each character to the miserable place that they find themselves in now.
No matter. I have now.
Her stories, quintessentially American,focus on characters that make up middle class America: a single, middle-aged, woman visiting her married house-wife college friend at Thanksgiving; an aging English professor who is being edged out by up-and-coming theory obsessed colleagues; a successful salesman who counters his mid-life crisis by building a tree-house. On the surface these stories sound flat, but Thompson picks away at that surface to reveal the supreme aching loneliness that swims beneath. Isolation runs through all her stories as a constant current, but sometimes her characters are able to counter this by finding meaning and small, measured pleasures within the banality of everyday life.
Rather shorter version of my feelings on this collection would be as follows: Read it late into the night. Finished it in 2 days. Not a light-hearted summer read,BUT an exceptionally satisfying read. Highly recommended.
I must admit that I picked this book up simply because it was a short story collection and, as a short story writer, I try to familiarize myself with successful authors' styles and subjects. When I read the author biography and discovered that Thompson only lives fifty miles away from me, well, I automatically wanted to like the book and support a fellow Central Illinoisan.
We got off to a rough start. The first story in Do Not Deny Me, entitled "Soldiers of Spiritos," began promisingly enough but then fell flat as it detailed a burnt out professor and an "emo" student. "Wilderness" was not much of an improvement as it followed the stories of two middle-aged women--friends--and their troubled love lives. The third story was almost enough to make me put down the book; "Mr. Rat" was the typical jerk at work story focusing upon an egocentric young man.
But then, with the fourth story called "Little Brown Bird," things markedly improved. From that moment on, nearly all of the following stories were extremely good. In particular, I enjoyed "The Woman at the Well," a story about a female prison Bible study group; "Escape," a story about an elderly man still suffering from the ramifications of a stroke trying to gain his independence again; "How We Brought the Good News," a story about a spurned lover discovering amazing art in her workplace and hunting down the artist; and, my absolute favorite, "Treehouse," a story about a middle-aged man who just doesn't much see the point of anything anymore, and so he builds himself a tree house as a coping mechanism.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Just stories of regular people dealing with life, interesting, compassionate, and full of real life.I'll be looking for more of the same soon.Published on November 24, 2012 by Emily Ann
I love short stories, and am always glad to read a new author. I haven't read any other works of Jean Thompson, so I can't say anything about how this book of stories ranks in her... Read morePublished on July 11, 2012 by N. B. Kennedy
Like O. Henry, who ended many of his most famous stories with a melodramatic revelation, Thompson tends to cap each of hers with a psychological one. Read morePublished on April 14, 2012 by D. Cloyce Smith
I have read Jean Thompson's short stories in other books and did not enjoy them as much as DO NOT DENY ME.
Her characterizations are intuitive and identifiable. Read more
This latest collection of Ms. Thompson's short stories is almost a disappointment, as it's somewhat uneven. Read morePublished on September 11, 2010 by Keith Otis Edwards
Thompson's short stories are beautifully simple; her narrative capture little windows into the lives of completely ordinary people, ordinary incidents, and makes the reader... Read morePublished on May 25, 2010 by Kalera Stratton
Do Not Deny Me is a collection of short stories that are structured so tightly and intimately that you can read through the entire book in one evening, like I did. Read morePublished on March 17, 2010 by A*
This is the first I've read of Jean Thompson, and I think I'm in love. What a perfect title: I felt sated at the end of each story and yet couldn't put down the book. Read morePublished on March 5, 2010 by M. J. Cotner
Thompson's collection of short stories are hit and miss.
Soldiers of Spiritos is a unimaginative portrait of two lonely people-an aging professor and mediocre student,... Read more