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Eating Naked: Stories Hardcover – May 11, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1st edition (May 11, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805060227
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805060225
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,757,552 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While Dobyns has written 20 novels (The Church of Dead Girls) and 10 books of poetry (Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides), this is his first story collection, and he proves himself an adept at the form. In these 16 tales he unveils a landscape of adultery, divorce, abandonment--a vista of dysfunctional relationships in which domestic bliss is rare and dark humor flourishes. In "A Happy Vacancy," a man is killed by a falling pig. After his bizarre, well-publicized death, his widow, a professor named Harriet, finds people chuckling whenever she enters the room. She quits her job, moves to the Midwest and tries to put the strange event into perspective: "For her, death had become a joke, a dreadful buffo, and she needed to make it big again." In "Part of the Story," a 63-year-old waitress prepares to meet, for the first time, her five children (each the product of a backseat or motel-room affair, each given up for adoption). The reunion is complicated by her latest lover, Burt--sitting dead in her bedroom, stricken by an in flagrante heart attack. Other stories feature a cuckolded poet who tries to get revenge by kidnapping his wife, only to be cut to the quick by her insults, and a gas man who breaks his leg while reading a meter and gets stuck in long conversation with a cruel man caring for his dying wife. What keeps these stories fresh, despite the regularity of misfortune, are Dobyns's deadpan humor and his characters' wry, unpredictable personalities, plus the sheer oddity of their dilemmas. Despite the often wretched combinations of hope, failure and pride experienced by Dobyns's characters, readers will be moved with compassion for their vigorously human lives. (May) FYI: Stories from this collection have appeared in the 1996 Pushcart Anthology and the 1995 and 1999 Best American Short Stories.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The 20 novels and ten collections of poetry penned by Dobyns represent a hefty oeuvre. Eating Naked is this master writer's collection of short stories. Pushing the boundaries of the genre, Dobyns writes in a natural, compelling, and convincing voice about ordinary people and people on the edge. In the title story, a disenchanted young man hits and kills a deer with his pickup truck, changing the lives of three people forever. "A Happy Vacancy" presents the farcical situation of an esteemed poet meeting his death when a pig falls from a helicopter overhead and crushes him. His bereft widow and sons must face the snickering of townspeople, who view his death as a joke. "Cynthia, My Sister" is the story of a charming misfit's attempts to connect with his father. Two of the 16 stories appeared in Best American Short Stories (in 1995 and 1999). These are tales that live on in the reader's mind. Recommended for all libraries.
-Mary G. Szczesiul, Roseville P.L., Fraser, MI
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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And it's good reading material for those long but not too long bus rides.
Mierin Eronail
Dobyns has written a collection of stories that breaks the bar for short story collections.
Jessica Lux
The stories flowed nicely, the characters were interesting, and the stories made you think.
jmz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By jmz VINE VOICE on January 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
I'm a fan of the short story, and I'm always interested in finding new books of short story collections. Dobyns' title of this collection grabbed my attention immediately (Eating Naked), and hence, I had to buy it.
The first few stories I read in Stephen Dobyns', Eating Naked, I was really impressed. The stories flowed nicely, the characters were interesting, and the stories made you think.
Then, I realized, Dobyns has a fascination on marriages and/or relationships that are falling apart, cheating, and dreams of murdering a loved one (or used to be loved one). Having one or two or even three stories like this in a collection is fine, but having almost all of them repeating the same pattern, with just the characters and circumstances changing all the time, gets slightly tiring. I even had to check the author's bio to see if it said whether he was married or not because his characters seem so bitter about their marriages (possibly a reflection on his life?).
I was most impressed with the last story in the collection, mostly because it strayed a bit away from the theme of marriage as a wreckage in life, and centered on younger people. While the theme of ruined relationships was still there, it was tucked away a bit more than the others.
All in all, I did enjoy Dobyns as a writer, and would like to read some of his longer fiction. If you can get past all the stories being somewhat similar in nature, then Eating Naked is a great find.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jessica Lux on April 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
I'm not usually a fan of short stories, but if more writers took Dobyns's lead, short stories would be a lot more popular. Too often, short stories are a cheap way to skim on true character development, or w way to pull flashy tricks and twists, and collections are usually uneven, with only a few stand-outs among the filler. Dobyns has written a collection of stories that breaks the bar for short story collections.

The challenge of reviewing this collection lies in summarizing his delightfully bizarre creations without cheapening them. Dobyns creates a small world with each tale and unravels the lives of his characters as they achieve a major turning point. Each story covers an entire person's life, their entire backstory, but the present action focuses on one turning point or strange occurrence.

The collection opens with the tale of the unfortunate death of the poet Jason W. Plover, who was killed by a movie-star pig which fell out of the sky during a shoot and crushed Plover in Harvard Square. Unfortunately, the late Plover once composed a poem entitled "The Pig and I," and his bizarre death catapults him into frenzied superstardom, must to this discomfort of his widow Harriet.

How can Dobyns follow this story? With the title story about two disaffected persons brought together by a roadkill deer for an unforgettable night, and with my personal favorite, the life of mobile home owner Lilly Hendricks and her uncomfortable reunion with the five children she had given up for adoption over her lifetime.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mierin Eronail on January 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
Stephen Dobyns has a wonderful talent for making light-hearted, almost comic narratives work in conveying a deeper message to his readers. Eating Naked is a wonderful collection of short stories that will never stop amazing you with thier simply written, yet highly intriguing, not to mention- very original- plots. It is not simply a book of stories, but a book on some very interesting modern day/pop culture philosphies. You won't regret reading it, it can really inspire. And it's good reading material for those long but not too long bus rides.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'd never heard of Stephen Dobyns, but the opening lines of the first story, A Happy Vacancy, convinced me I'd struck gold: "There are perils in life so disturbing that we need to hold ourselves in a state of readiness, ever alert to exercise our outrage and disbelief ... Jason W. Plover, a poet with six books, was killed when a pig tumbled out of the sky and crushed him as he was crossing Massachusetts Avenue against the light at Harvard Square." This unusual opener is more than just a ploy to get our attention, it leads us to the real point of the story: "Jason Plover was someone always in a hurry. Had he been a tad less serious, a tad more casual, he might be with us still today." Hooray! It's a cautionary tale about not taking yourself too seriously.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Bodor on July 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is the first Stephen Dobyns book I've read, but it won't be the last. These stories, about ordinary people thrust into extraordinary situations, sing to me. They're funny, enlightening, well-written and accessible. His writing reminds me of that of Steven Millhauser, another little-known author who deserves a wider audience. Thank you Stephen Dobyns for such magic....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gabriel Valjan on October 20, 2013
Format: Paperback
I borrowed Eating Naked from a friend who had taken it out of the library. Confession: I had never heard of the prolific writer who lives in Westerly, Rhode Island, according to his Amazon page. As many of the reviewers here have attested to Dobyns's originality, I was also taken with highly original premises to his stories. The "payoff" is where many readers stay with him, or put the book down. Again, I kept asking myself, "How does this writer come up with these ideas, these situations?" Originality. Where Stephen King or Kafka take the mundane and ordinary events of life and scare you, Dobyns does the opposite by making you laugh or cringe. Did you notice in the reviews that everyone remembered the falling pig? Whether or not you like the story the point is that you remembered the fatal porker -- more so, if you know the Harvard Square area. I agree the story was preachy at the end. The Chaucer professor starts out with the Department Chairman bent on ousting a freeloading visiting guest lecturer. Here is what I think is Dobyns's gift is: subversion. You, as the reader, walk in, understand the premises, and then slowly see your expectations and assumptions undermined. The Chaucerian prof manages to gain his adversary's empathy over a series of drinks and a meal -- which the Chairman pays for! By the way, Dobyns must like carrot cake because it figures in several stories. One story opens with a wife's decision to leave her husband because of a carrot. You don't want to laugh, but you do. That was another twisted story. I agree with readers that you may not like what Dobyns "does" with the premise, but it'll either keep you reading or not. I was left curious about his poetry since subversion in poetry is a nice surprise (thinking of Emily Dickinson). The title story must have been Dobyns's favorite, so start with that one.
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