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Heavier Than Air: Stories (Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction) Hardcover – November 8, 2006


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Product Details

  • Series: Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press; First Edition edition (November 8, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558495568
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558495562
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #847,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Set mostly in rural Minnesota, this debut collection's stories are aching, spare studies of survival and desire. Many of the characters are exhausted by farm life's relentless labor. In "Mr. Hellerman's Vacation," a farmer, recovering in the hospital after a breakdown, recounts his "numbers"--42 cows, 25 chickens, 4 fields, 2 sheds, 1 barn, 6 children, 1 wife--and wonders if "the weight of living is unreasonable." Characters speak with astonishing pragmatism: "Stop being so damn self-centered. Shit or get off the pot," says one woman to a girl in a coma in "Vegetative States." Several of the central characters are girls growing up in the 1960s and '70s who struggle with secret longings for other girls, and their passionate awakenings are an undercurrent to the adults' foggy fatigue. In several stories, the simplest acts--even just noticing one's breath--become wondrous moments that push characters past anguish to reclaim their "bright, insistent, blooming" lives. Darkly funny, compassionate, and unsentimental, these quiet stories offer memorable, rarely seen views of midwestern life. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

Set mostly in rural Minnesota, this debut collection's stories are aching, spare studies of survival and desire.... Several of the central characters are girls growing up in the 1960s and '70s who struggle with secret longings for other girls, and their passionate awakenings are an undercurrent to the adults' foggy fatigue. In several stories, the simplest acts -- even just noticing one's breath -- become wondrous moments that push characters past anguish to reclaim their 'bright, insistent, blooming' lives. Darkly funny, compassionate, and unsentimental, these quiet stories offer memorable, rarely seen views of midwestern life.

(Booklist)

The elegantly crafted short stories... quietly buzz with life and secrets, like a hot summer afternoon in Midwestern farm county. There is a thread of longing that moves through the stories, as the characters watch their dreams decompose under reality's harsh glare.... Caspers is a careful, unsentimental and highly skilled writer.... Like Anne Tyler, another Minnesota-born writer, Grace Paley and to a lesser extent Flannery O'Connor, Nona Caspers digs beneath the surface to examine the small details and then brings them to life in this quiet, but lovely collection of stories.

(Lambda Book Report)

Revving up Willa Cather's naturalism and lesbian undertones with Denis Johnson's deadpan Plains rowdiness, these are like alt-country songs, tales of wild but not wild-eyed girls and women as likely to be enraptured by the girl next door as by the lay of the land. The prose is exact, unsparing, unsentimental.... Caspers' pungent voice, her fairness to city and country mores, and the artful arrangement of her tales reward rereading. Simplicity this precise takes time, talent and considerable cultivation.

(San Francisco Chronicle)

Set mostly in rural Minnesota, this debut collection's stories are aching, spare studies of survival and desire. Many of the characters are exhausted by farm life's relentless labor. In "Mr. Hellerman's Vacation," a farmer, recovering in the hospital after a breakdown, recounts his "numbers"--42 cows, 25 chickens, 4 fields, 2 sheds, 1 barn, 6 children, 1 wife--and wonders if "the weight of living is unreasonable." Characters speak with astonishing pragmatism: "Stop being so damn self-centered. Shit or get off the pot," says one woman to a girl in a coma in "Vegetative States." Several of the central characters are girls growing up in the 1960s and '70s who struggle with secret longings for other girls, and their passionate awakenings are an undercurrent to the adults' foggy fatigue. In several stories, the simplest acts--even just noticing one's breath--become wondrous moments that push characters past anguish to reclaim their "bright, insistent, blooming" lives. Darkly funny, compassionate, and unsentimental, these quiet stories offer memorable, rarely seen views of midwestern life. Gillian Engberg

(Booklist)

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Each story drew me in.
P. Lovitt
Reading HEAVIER THAN AIR is a tasty prelude to what is most assuredly going to be a fine career for a gifted writer.
Grady Harp
Nona Caspers' writing is full and lush and ethereal.
S. Kaplan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Reading Nona Caspers is more than simply exploring the world of one writer's view of the world from the vantage of raw countryside of Minnesota. Reading Nona Caspers is a discovery of a writer with particularly well-honed gifts of creating unforgettable characters who become etched on our minds in the same way the great American writers of the past (and present) have entered our perception of what this country is all about. Caspers writes with a fluid style that wastes no words but describes nature and those animals that fly, crawl and walk this strange territory of rural Minnesota - and the rest of this country - in both harmony and dissonance. She manages to enter realms of thought and situations other writers avoid, and from these peculiar places she creates characters both strange and sad, some who border on decisions edging on ostracism and some who have already entered a plane misunderstood by friends and family.

The lead story, 'Country Girls', is one of the more realistic examinations of a young girl's discovery of same sex love with all the peripheral highs and lows that confrontation presents. In 'Wide Like An Eagle's Wings' we meet a young girl obsessed with the JFK campaign for presidency while coping with the a deeply moving, succinct account of a personal tragedy of death. Characters such as the sad Mr. Hellerman who is hospitalized as one unable to cope with the dwindling losses of his family land inheritance and hopeless future of his farm mix with other children and stunted adults who face changes in their lives that seem to force them into precarious places.

Not a book of sad or dreary tales, this, but one that is unafraid to make us think about the weightier subjects of life while entertaining us with some equally finely tuned comedy.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Elaine S. Buckholtz on December 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Read this collection! These stories rich and deeply satisfying and moving--I read straight through and then read some of the stories again (Country Girls, The Fifth Season, Wide Like an Eagle's Wings). This book is for everyone who loves stories and great characters!

We rarely experience rural people with such complexity and compassion--a farmer, Mr. Lawrence Hellerman--you'll LOVE him and the way he looks at the world as he's trying to recover from a breakdown in a hospital. And the girl who collects cow bones and falls in love with a farm girl, and the woman who invites her mother to visit her in San Francisco after a break up with her girlfriend and then loses the mother in the park. You will love these people and you will witness the generosity of great writing. The San Francisco Chronicle said the stories rev up Willa Cather's lesbian undertones with Denis Jonson's (Jesus Son) deadpan plains rowdiness" -- and that the artistry rewards rereading: "simplicity this precise takes time, talent and considerable cultivation." And it was on the Editor's Choice list (underneath the Bestsellers Feb. 25 2007) in the New York Times Book Review! BUY THE BOOK OR GO TO THE LIBRARY-- BUT READ IT.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. Kaplan on January 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Nona Caspers' writing is full and lush and ethereal. The characters come alive and yet simultaneously exist in some sort of magical world. Each story is so full of feeling and emotion and beauty. I only put this book down to make it last longer. Loved it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David Bentley on January 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. Caspers captures the essence of growing up in a rural setting where the spaciousness warps time and the boredom becomes mind expanding; riding the border between neglect and freeedom. Her prose is witty and intelligent, but yet humble and downright home cooked. A triumph of mind and spirit...Cheers!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Susanna Hutcheson TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book reminds me of Dorothy Parker. She wrote of New York. Caspers writes of the Midwest. This is real classic writing. As a lover of all things classic like Sinclare Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald and their stories of the part of the country they knew, Nona Caspers is a writer of the Midwest and its unique culture and people. They are real and funny and warm. Caspers goes deep and looks at things as they really are.

Put this wonderful book on your night stand. Read it and enjoy it. You'll treasure it.

Highly recommended.

-Susanna K. Hutcheson
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