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How Aliens Think: Stories by Judith Grossman (Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction) Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Series: Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction
  • Hardcover: 152 pages
  • Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press; First Edition edition (August 20, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801861713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801861710
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,685,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though she sometimes errs on the side of glib irony and her more formally ambitious stories may read like academic in-jokes, in the best and most straightforward of these 12 short narratives Grossman (Her Own Terms) achieves a polished balance of deadpan wit and understated emotional intensity. In precise, economical prose, Grossman depicts a generation of transatlantic driftersA mostly academics and writers who fled their modest postwar English subdivisions for the U.S. as soon as they came of age in the early '60sAand their self-sacrificing, unfulfilled, working-class parents. Yet Grossman's characters are alien not so much because they are adrift in a foreign country or members of an inferior class, but because they are mute observers, shut off from the world by their own inability to communicate honestly with those around them. In "'Rovera,'" a young wife choked by need and resentment can only communicate with her indifferent husband through dumb gestures. "She handed him the glass and stroked across his shoulders, meaning all the time, See how I love you, Robby?" The properly restrained family of "A Wave of the Hand" is so reticent that no one ever discusses the obvious and startling fact that the narrator's "father" is actually a woman passing as a man. In the unsentimental "Death of a Mother," the narrator returns to her childhood home in England after 20 years abroad and finds, among her recently deceased mother's otherwise minimal possessions, 20 years' worth of her own airy and shamefully disingenuous letters. If some of her tropes and narrative tricks are familiar, Grossman slyly acknowledges as much, and the strength of her best stories is not so much in their revelations as in the frank, intelligent, unassuming characters who populate them. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A first collection by English novelist Grossman (Her Own Terms, 1988), whose expatriate view of the US is fresh enough to distract a reader from the drabness of her pedantic prose and academic settings. University life is no ones idea of glamournot to mention a good timeand it provides much less in the way of good fiction than one might expect: Most of Grossmans characters labor in the academic vineyards of America and Britain, but theyre a long way from Lucky Jim. Clara Diamant, the postmodern scholar in The Two of You, is the daughter of a rabbi whose traditionalist aversions toward female scholarship help boost Claras interest in constructing the critique of patriarchal sexuality that has made her famous. Great Teacher is a former students rather sad memoir of a brilliant Oxford don who runs his career into the ground through drink, sex, and overwork, while the title story traces the tentative path taken through New England and New York (Sort of like Manchester but with a river) taken by two British Fulbright Scholars in the early 1960s. Quirky and lighthearted, its the best piece here. Many of the tales are elegies, precious and somewhat heavy-handed, like From the Old World, which portrays two pairs of siblingsthe bent Uncle Raymond, the straight Uncle Frank, the cruel Aunt Edith, and the kind Aunt Madgein the language of a fable (Aunt Edith . . . lived forever after, for as long as her cruel heart could desire, and even longer). Grossmans pedantic tone can even be pleasant and light at times, as in De Maupassants Lunch, a delightful reconstruction of a lunch that Swinburne had with de Maupassant and a monkey in the 19th century. Like the English sky, Grossmans work is mostly gray, but its sudden bursts of sunlight feel all the brighter for the surrounding gloom. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I loved this collection but was suprised to see the author comment. Not that I don't agree but why only 4 stars. 5 stars please. This is writing that speaks to everything I enjoy most. The humor here is a depth charge humor and so is the way it radiates outward in sometimes brutal but always insightful ways. I could have used Grossman in the 80's when I began to feel that if I was raised with a brain I had better hide it because it wasn't stylish and it sure as hell wasn't something you should WRITE about. For committing that sin among the current "don't worry, be happy" (and certainly don't think!) collections I've been seeing, I thank her from the bottom of my big brainy soul. Excellent fiction that challenges and is equal to the best readers.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jane Brenda on October 17, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a frequent Amazon.com customer, I feel OK about supplementing the Kirkus Review (nice example of their famed snarky style--) of my book, "How Aliens Think". The title is, I admit, a take-off on anthropologist Levy-Bruhl's notorious "How Natives Think." Because yes, some of my stories do like to send up intellectual arrogance; and some use a college setting. But I resist the idea that this (and the fact that I freely use apostrophes) goes along with pedantry. No-one needs to know about Levy-Bruhl to get the point of what I'm doing. Plus, I've seen more heavy-duty pedantry in tomes such as Frank Herbert's "Dune"-- There seems to be a creeping taboo here against fiction that shows the life of the mind, along with that of the body. If so, it's a taboo I'm happy to break-- JG
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
A very witty and perceptive collection by a fine writer. Would love to see more but blessedly this is the kind of fiction that you can read more than once and still enjoy on each reading. I am off to her novel!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This writer isn't afraid to be smart about human errors we all make. Her stories about family and motherhood and estrangement from people closest to us are shockingly insightful and I felt I had lived in her shoes by the time I finished reading. Her story, "Mammalia," about a mother coming to terms with her own daughter's sexuality is amazing. This writer is a British transplant and has all the elegance of Virginia Woolf and the common ground of every American woman.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book knowing nothing of Grossman's earlier work, but that's my next stop. So smart, so funny, so sad. She's English, apparently, and I get the feeling it's her outsider status that allows her to see America so clearly. What a beautiful book.
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