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God Lives in St. Petersburg: Short Stories Paperback – January 3, 2006

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God Lives in St. Petersburg: Short Stories + Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia
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Editorial Reviews


“Mercilessly, masterfully nails its target. . . . Astonishing. . . . A discipline of craft and sensitivity to place that do for Central Asia what Paul Bowles did for North Africa.”
The Chicago Tribune

“[Bissell's] wit and dry-eyed compassion are on ample display, along with a precocious capacity for invention that would put most golden codgers to shame. . . . These stories are one more proof of a stunning and prodigious talent.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Terrific. . . . Scabrously funny. . . . Dazzling. . . . 'A'.” –Entertainment Weekly

“Bissell has a keen awareness of human loneliness — what O’Connor defined as the mark of great short story writers. . . . [He] reveals himself to be not only a subtle craftsman but also a mordant observer of a new generation lost in a complex and dangerous world.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Gobsmackingly great . . . Bissell traverses the landscape of modern war, and he does it with the tough bluntness and literary assurance of a young Hemingway.” –Outside

“Razor-sharp, blackly comic. . . . Bissell always avoids easy cynicism, dotting each bleak plot twist with big-hearted detail and pitch-perfect humor. This is fiction full of friction . . . [and] it's a thrill to watch the sparks fly.” –Newsweek

About the Author

Tom Bissell is the author of Chasing the Sea (available in paperback from Vintage Books) and contributes to Harper’s Magazine, The Believer, and other publications. He lives in New York.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400075424
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400075423
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,276,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By William J. Feuer on May 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
These are smart, humorous, readable, and compassionate stories that insert you easily into their characters and their characters' foreign experiences. We're lucky to have a writer as talented as Bissell to give us a window into the ex-Soviet republics of Central Asia, of which most Americans will know little except for their connection to Afghanistan. I was disappointed to read that Bissell's next book will be about Vietnam.

Death Defier, Expensive Trips, The Ambassador's Son, and Animals are all terrific in very different ways. The prize winning title story, God Lives in St Petersburg, was a little too bleak for me.

I agree with the Amazon reviewer who felt that "Aral", maybe didn't work completely as fiction. The story aims for the point where one character tells us they had wished to communicate to Americans the tragedy of the Aral - much as Bissell might like to bring this same message to his American readers. Unfortunately I fear the character is correct and `showing the Americans' will not matter. I know from my daughter's experience in Turkmenistan (where she was a Peace Corps Volunteer - a Do-Gooder in the language of "The Ambassador's Son") that of the many problems these struggling countries face (some of which if you're interested are: corrupt governments, rampant bribery, disease, lack of education/sanitation/good health-care, unemployment, ethnic tensions), water is among the biggest.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M. JEFFREY MCMAHON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
Bissell, who is very young (born in 1974)to be writing short stories with this kind of wisdom, worked as a Peace Corps volunteer near the Aral Sea and has used his experiences in South Central Asia and Eastern Europe, delving into the lives of journalists haunted by demons, searchers, spoiled rich brats, do-gooders, criminals, sociopaths, and a litany of misfits to produce a rare feat of fiction--literary short stories that have the feel of expose. He takes you into the heart of modern day Afghanistan, for example, in his story "Death Defier," where an American journalist, haunted by family demons, appears to be a courageous photographer of truth on one hand and a man with a death wish on the other. In "Aral," his story that more than the others ventures into exposition and polemic, a nihilistic KGB officer lectures an American biologist UN worker about the "fat souls" of Americans who, for all their platitudes, know nothing of real suffering before subjecting the woman to a little trial of her own. In "The Ambassador's Son" a rogue narrates his licentious exploits and the manner in which he corrupts a Christian missionary.

Amazingly, these stories can be peeled layer upon layer for their psychological depth while at the same time they percolate with the buzz of the chaos that we read about in the daily newspapers and blogs. A great achievement.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Grey Wolffe VINE VOICE on November 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
I'm just not that impressed by these stories, but then I was the kid who alwasys noticed that the emporer's clothes were invisible. The stories in this collection all have their good points, and the eponymous story is especially strong, but none of this is earth-shattering or new. One of the ongoing problems for me was Bissell's use of words that look like they were thrown in to prove his mastery of the english language. On the acknowledgement page on the library copy I read, someone had written, "and to Roget for his Thesaurus", so maybe I'm not the only one with this opinion.

Two of the stories (Expensive Trips to Nowhere, and Animals in Our Lives) try to mine the same sadness of relationships that have reached their terminal points, but the endings seem to be reached more for size limitations than for a necessary denouement. These stories read as if they were exercises written for a literary class, more than stories written for the reader. The idea of using Frost's "The Road Not Taken" to make a point in 'Expensive Trips', reminds me of the old Paul Simon comment about - "You read your Emily Dickinson, and I my Robert Frost and we mark our place with bookmarkers, to measure what we lost"; as - uh, yeah, so what?

I'd like to see something longer by him so that I could judge better his character's intentions, and how there backgrounds lead to their angst and loneliness. I give it a C+, with a lot of potential.
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