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Do the Windows Open? Hardcover – January 21, 1997


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Do the Windows Open? is a smashing debut by short-story writer Julie Hecht. Bound together by the insight and wit of her neurotic narrator, Hecht's short stories document the mania of the modern day in devastating detail. Hecht's narrator, a forty-something photographer, moves through the world burdened by the mundane and tawdry incidentals of contemporary existence. Taking in fertility clinics, hairpieces, obnoxious speech patterns and omnipresent consumer demographics, nothing escapes her eye or avoids her comment. The intelligence of her judgment negates the inanity of much of what she sees, and her stories become a tragicomic critique of her affluent and stifling social milieu.

From Publishers Weekly

It's surprising that Hecht, a longtime contributor to the New Yorker and a winner of the O. Henry Prize, hasn't published a book before this. These nine stories are all narrated by the same bracingly neurotic heroine, a 40-ish photographer named Isabelle who has a lot to say on virtually everything from the intricacies of macrobiotic cooking to whether or not her optician is or was a Nazi, the son of Nazis, a neo-Nazi or, at the very least, a Nazi sympathizer. When she's not working on her idiosyncratic photo-essays (flowers in decline, reproductive surgeons and their dogs), Isabelle spends an inordinate amount of time chasing down objects essential for her daily life, like organic vegetables and reversible alpaca coats from England. Meanwhile, she keeps up a barrage of exceedingly manic diatribes on such pressing subjects as the greenhouse effect, the passage of time and how annoying Swedish people can be?all expressed in borderline hysterical, impeccably crisp diction, like Miss Manners with the wrong prescription. The best of these stories are hilariously funny, filled with the horrors of modern life (bad architecture, traffic jams, the smell of peanuts on the bus) and wacky exchanges with her loudmouthed reproductive surgeon, Dr. Loquesto, her careless floor sander, the guy at the Discount Drugs or her neighbors in Nantucket and East Hampton. Some of the stories may remind the reader of a long phone conversation with a batty, obsessed neighbor who doesn't know when to hang up. You may breathe a little sigh of relief when they're over?but then again, her point of view is so entertaining, you can't wait for her to call back.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (January 21, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067945201X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679452010
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,878,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Her writing is both simple and complex.
Eileen Pollock
For now, however, I think I'll stick to her occasional New Yorker story -- that's really quite enough.
Michael J. Harris
I loaned it to my friend, and she loved it so much that after she read it, she went and bought a copy.
Sunny Afternoon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Thank God for this book. When I first encountered it I had nearly teetered into the abyss of believing that the way we live now has a rational underpinning. Julie Hecht possesses a brilliance that is at once undeniable and subtle. She sees things. To her critics, I can only say that worthwhile literature is not required to have formulaic plotting, at least in the traditional sense. Something doesn't have to "happen." Characters don't have to be drawn with giant magic markers. There is great power in the small. The quiet voice. To those who prefer the opposite, get a Tom Clancy book.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Loveitt on May 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
I am always hesitant to recommend fiction to other people because enjoyment of fiction is so subjective and so personal. I feel so strongly about the stories of Julie Hecht, though, that I had to write this review. When I see an issue of "The New Yorker" that has a new Hecht story it just makes my whole week. It is hard to define her style but perhaps calling her the Steven Wright of short story writers would give you some idea! She makes the most oddball but humorous (in a bittersweet way) observations using a deadpan delivery. Her narrator, always the same person in all stories, is alienated and lonely and neurotic but touching and engaging because of her humor and intelligence. Hecht's stories have no grand themes and contain no momentous events. She writes of the mundane daily activities of her protagonist: going to the health food store; riding on a bus; a visit to the doctor. The activities are not important; it is Hecht's observations of other people that will resonate within you. If you enjoy lowkey writing which is concerned with the behavior of everyday people I think you will enjoy these stories as much as I did. I can't wait for Ms. Hecht's next collection of stories. Unfortunately, I think it will be awhile as her stories come out very infrequently!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Sunny Afternoon on May 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
It's so comforting to know that there are other neurotic people out there! This book is a laugh-riot. I loaned it to my friend, and she loved it so much that after she read it, she went and bought a copy. When she gave it back, I reread it and laughed just as hard the 2nd time. It's genuinely hilarious if you are the type of person who can agonize and analyze forever.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Pollock on July 5, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In a world of the banal, the vulgar, the repellent, Julie Hecht glows with a true light. Her writing is both simple and complex. Her stories are of a wandering soul, a person trapped in solitude while speaking to many neighbors and acquaintances. All her conversations, as her cypher of a husband comments, are "futile, aimless". With no one has she the slightest communication beyond the trivial. Her attempts at communication invariably bounce right off those around her, like a bead of oil on water. Julie Hecht is incredibly funny, as in the opening title story, but she is also deep and subtle. Her story about a dinner at friends, featuring an unbearably smug Swedish wife with 4 small boys, is really about the narrator's sad alienation because she is childless. Yet nowhere is this spoken. The reader must infer it from quiet moments. The angst-filled, anxiety-plagued narrator seems so like me, filled with worries that to her are real, looming possibilities rather than far-fetched scenarios, that although she would be horrified by my carnivorous eating habits and yogaphobic lifestyle, I nonetheless am presumptuous enough to feel we would be instant soulmates. Her final story, "Who Knows Why", which seems to be about the renovation of a floor, is really a melancholy reflection on the frustration of effort. Why bother? it seems to ask. Yet nowhere is this book of stories depressing. It is uplifting, it is spiritual, it is - well, brilliant. You probably won't like it, but since its Amazon sales rank is 400,000-something and it can be bought used for .01 cent, you are probably in the majority. I, though, have found my literary soulmate.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Leach on February 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
this book caught me by surprise. the writer's style is unique and enjoyable. i don't usually write reviews because i think they are incredibly subjective but i had to make an exception here because of a review that criticized julie hecht, taking on her racial slurs. the reviewer obviously is confused with the first-person narrative point of view and sees the narrator and the writer as one and the same.they write that they continued reading to find out if hecht got pregnant in the end. i can't believe this!lighten up. it's a story told from a made-up character's p.o.v.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 30, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Julie Hecht's debut collection introduces a narrator with a voice and awareness by far funnier and more beguiling than any I have read. She is tactful, alienated, melancholy and hilarious, without ever indulging the confessional; that is, the tour we take is in her world, not merely in her mind. She is a guide through the insanity of the mundane, sure of her mark and always fresh. Writing like this is a reminder of what we all orinally loved in literature: the bliss of taking in a life other than our own
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 5, 1997
Format: Hardcover
At first, I was put off by the collection. The first story, with all that blindness and sight blather, made me think: "Oh, no, not this again. There really is nothing new under the sun." But I read on, to discover that the rehashed metaphors and neuroses can still sparkle. The narrator of these stories is a barely-menopasal Holden Caulfield, another New Yorker type. This one veers through her life, never really connecting her insights to any of the deeper ironies they contain. She is starkly, sternly innocent--and rightfully nuts. She sees and speaks associationally, in long, looping digressions that circle back on themselves to reveal the poverty of her circumstances. Along the way, she finds her devoid insights and splatters them out at the reader, as if they make sense, much like that adolescent boy who donned New Yorker print a long time ago. My favorite lines were "I didn't see how poetry could be written in the suburbs" and "Hurry up. I don't have time for surrealism."
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