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Fire Year (Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction) Paperback – November 5, 2013


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Product Details

  • Series: Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books; 1ST edition (November 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1936747642
  • ISBN-13: 978-1936747641
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,010,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Friedman’s adept first story collection, winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize, evokes several weighty themes—religion, sexuality, coming-of-age—while remaining grounded in the everyday culture and communities of its characters, many of whom find themselves on the outside looking in. “Reunion” follows the narrator, gay New Yorker Edward, as he returns to Savannah for his 25-year high-school reunion, where he struggles to feel any connection with his brother while being pursued by a former classmate. In “All the World’s a Field,” Miriam’s adult son, with whom she lives, demands that she no longer speak Yiddish, leading her into a self-imposed code of silence. The standout, “There’s Hope for Us All,” follows Jon, an assistant curator at an art gallery in Atlanta, who is tasked with editing a catalog essay about an enigmatic, 500-year-old Italian painting. His work is put into flux when his boyfriend unwittingly uncovers a surprising discovery that challenges years of critique as well as their relationship. In a collection that marks its own territory, Friedman’s seven tales offer a compelling exploration into shifting social norms. --Leah Strauss

Review

"These seven funny, fearless outsiders' tales set in Savannah and Atlanta--sometimes depicting bygone orthodox Jewish communities, others the rife-with-irony "New South"--gravitate toward taboo. One preoccupation of Friedman's Mary McCarthy Prize-winning debut collection is the breakdown of traditional mores, but its standouts specifically tackle pent-up sexual desire.... Strengthened by the diversity in subject matter, the through-line of sexual coming-of-age and temptation gives this volume a satisfying coherence."
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Loneliness predictably attends these people on the fringes, yet sometimes Mr. Friedman craftily reverses the polarity of acceptance and rejection. . . . There can also be loneliness in inclusion, Mr. Friedman suggests, when it resembles exploitation."
The Wall Street Journal

"Friedman has assembled a memorable posse of misfits in his debut collection. . . . Friedman works in that same O’Connor-Welty tradition, and in light of 2013’s Nobel Prize going to short story writer Munro in recognition of a life’s opus, I am thrilled for this new voice to join the genre with Fire Year."
The LA Review of Books

"Friedman’s adept first story collection, winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize, evokes several weighty themes—religion, sexuality, coming-of-age—while remaining grounded in the everyday culture and communities of its characters, many of whom find themselves on the outside looking in. . . . In a collection that marks its own territory, Friedman’s seven tales offer a compelling exploration into shifting social norms."
Booklist

"The seven stories in Jason K. Friedman's rich, funny and finally very moving debut all feature characters who feel like transplants in a strange land, even though often enough it's a land to which they were born."
Towleroad

"Friedman writes with an air of post-modern irony yet remains fully sympathetic to the characters who people his stories as they fumble toward irresolution.... In this Isaac Bashevis Singer-like take on the Jewish experience in the American South, with humor set against despair, Friedman writes with a gift for language, employing words and phrases quietly. The characters are real and diamond-sharp, but observing from the outside, always through the lens of Jewish culture, oft times amplified by sexual identity."
ForeWord Reviews

"Candid, cunning, brave, and wickedly funny—Jason K. Friedman's Fire Year will make you remember the first time you read Philip Roth. Love, lust, religious tradition, the new South, the transcendent promise of faith, the liberating hope of sexual awakening—he twists all of them together here in stories as true to our goofy joys as to our deepest intuitions."
—Salvatore Scibona

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 7 customer reviews
I've discovered a new Jewish writer I'll want to read AGAIN!!!!
Jody
Beautiful writing, very interesting stories that reflect a knowledge of the past and a perceptive observance of the present.
Hastings Wyman
I read this book slowly, a couple stories at a time before bed, and I loved it.
eric glassgold

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By LR Sawyer on December 5, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Do you prefer to read short stories rather than novels? Are you gay? Are you Jewish?

Are these questions necessarily relevant to your reading and enjoying "Fire Year", a collection of short stories by Jason K Friedman (with a Forward by Salvatore Scibona)?

For myself, I would answer, "No; no; no" to the first three questions, and so I would also answer "No" to the last. What is relevant: Friedman writes wonderfully well.

My favorite of the seven stories is "There's Hope for Us All." This line is pure genius: "...<Y>ou can't help knowing what Giorgione's subjects are thinking....'How strangely nice it feels to have Holofernes's head under my foot!"" A few pages later, Friedman skewers the art critique essay dead-on. And irony runs from first (the title) to last (the final statement).

Anyone who reads with an open mind and an open heart and who appreciates sensitive, intelligent writing will love, love, love "Fire Year". There are passages of lyricism; there are humorous passages; there are characters one cares about. Read and enjoy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Hastings Wyman on January 22, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Beautiful writing, very interesting stories that reflect a knowledge of the past and a perceptive observance of the present. Those interested in the Jewish experience and the culture of the American South will especially love these stories.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By eric glassgold on January 10, 2014
Format: Paperback
I read this book slowly, a couple stories at a time before bed, and I loved it. The first two, Blue, and Reunion, are the tour de force ones. In both, there's the story of two cultures, the Southern childhood one, the adult, urbane coastal one, and the ways in the narrator longs for each, and the ways in which neither can quite be ever fully be home for him. Reunion is laugh-out-loud funny, naturalistic, but also poignant in the tremendous revelations of the vulnerability of the narrator, who is the major character. If you can imagine Philip Roth and Carson McCullers co-writing Romy and Michelle's High School reunion but giving it a serious literary treatment in the 21st Century, this is it. The vulnerability is all there in Blue as well. The tone of the last story, Fire Year, is entirely different. I'm not familiar enough with Judaism to know the name for the commentaries on the Bible, but I imagine serious Yeshiva students reading stories like this and passing them along to their students across generations. But then the twist: it's very much full of fantasy, a dream space like Kafka's The Castle. Perhaps the reason I really liked these and indeed all the stories in this book: they really took me into another world where I had to look at life on terms completely unfamiliar to me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Lasar on December 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
I too really loved Friedman's story titled "There's Hope for Us All." I'm not sure I even know how to categorize it, sort of an absorbing historical detective tale with rivalries, romance, gender intrigue, and a critique of the academy all rolled into one. Friedman is a very engaging writer. You just want to sit down and continue reading. I also recommend "Reunion," "The Golem," and especially "Fire Year," which includes playful commentary on Orthodox Jewish exegesis (or numeracy, perhaps). Wonderful narratives of love, history, hope, regret, and strange/beautiful worlds of learnedness. Indeed, Mary McCarthy would have approved.
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