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In My Other Life: Stories Hardcover – May 1, 2000

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books (May 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1889330426
  • ISBN-13: 978-1889330426
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,114,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

The inhabitants of In My Other Life--bartenders and waitresses, drug counselors, teachers, many with histories of narcotics use or minor criminality--come to engaging life in Joan Silber's serene, understated prose. She renders even the few fantastic occurrences in her first short-story collection in simple, serviceable phrases, like aluminum cutlery--not the stuff you'd bring out for company, but the battered, durable everyday kind. That Silber can sometimes make a kite or a suspension bridge out of knives and forks is one reason for reading these stories, which in other ways may sound like old New Yorker fiction: short on incident, long on tranquil recollection. In "Without Ellie," a young woman remembers the night that she failed to save the life of her mentally disturbed stepsister, who broke away from her on a Manhattan street one night and was later found beaten and stabbed. In "Partners," a Florida travel agent receives a phone call in the wake of Hurricane Andrew from her old friend and business partner, for many years a drug runner and shady character. Rae tells Nathan about her sojourn in the basement during the hurricane, and, from the safety of middle age, recalls the "tremendous things" they had undergone in their youths: a failed drug buy in La Paz, the new gun that made Nathan "silky and confident."
In fact, they had worn her out, those exciting troubles. She was weather-beaten when they were over. But down in the laundry cellar, with the pipes shaking, she was just as glad to be weather-beaten. All the disasters of her life (and Nathan was far from the worst) seemed reassuring, the grislier the better, she was glad to have them to remember. The trouble stored in her was like a white noise, another roar, to whatever was outside.
At their most oblique, Silber's stories can read like the rambling monologues of transients in bus terminals--the book's opener, "Bobby Jackson," has a climax so soft that it's easy to miss--but at their best, they are shrewd and revelatory, well worth reading twice. --Regina Marler --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Troubled, middle-aged New Yorkers ponder their wild youthful selves and their belated or botched second chances in these 12 accessible, moving tales. Novelist Silber (Household Words; In the City) imagines households of mostly decent, though emotionally scarred, women and men trying to cope with kids, difficult exes or grown siblings. Some of these reflective characters can hardly believe they've outlived their perilous youth. The loquacious narrator in "Bobby Jackson" reminisces about his days as a downtown bartender and smack addict ("I was swimming around in fulfilled wishes"). He's survived to become a divorced realtor with a daughter, but fears his pals from the old days have fared far worse. In "Lake Natasink" (first published in the New Yorker), Patty and her lover, Charlotte, prepare to move with their adopted baby from New York City to a farmhouse upstate; "Ordinary" follows these same three characters to their not-quite-paradisial country life. Here and in the poignant "Commendable," Silber authentically depicts the affections and troubles of unconventional couples, making accurate, sensitive prose look easy. She can also sharply portray dysfunctional couples, or uneasy relationships among exes. Devotees of Alice Munro will find in Silber a simpler take on some of Munro's favorite themes: the revised expectations of middle age; the fading and nuanced traumas of adolescence; the lingering hangover from the hippie era. "What Lasts," a tale of volatile newlyweds, contains some of the book's most striking, skeptical writing, exemplary of the keen, expressive sense of the improbable, of dumb luck and ill luck, and of unlikely recovery that makes Silber's stories so warmly convincing. Agent, Geri Thoma at the Elaine Markson Literary Agency. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Leonart on July 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In her collection of short stories, Joan Silber probes the complexities of emotion that are trigerred by relationships as they change with time. A central theme of each of the stories is the changes in peoples lives as they grow older: The different people that we become despite remaining the same person with, perhaps, the same issues. In one story, a woman artist struggles with her passivity in having allowed herself to fall into a relationship turned marriage of immigration convenience. Years later, unable to extricate herself from a unsatisfying marriage to a besotted Englsihman, she resigns herself to a life she could have avoided had she marshalled the courage an uncle of hers evinced many years earlier when he finally unloaded his inveterately obnoxious wife. In another story, a hipster restauranteaur in Manhattan's trendy Lower East Side struggles with the tragic death of a mentaly fragile family member and, in yet another, a now Yuppie realtor on Manhattan's Upper West Side recounts his hippie days working in a downtown restaurant. This is a book for the reader who wants to delve into psychodynamics and enjoys the downtowmn Manhattan life. Ms. Silber may strike a chord in your own life, as she did with me. I highly recommend this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In My Other Life gets at the truth of people's lives. The stories are trying to do something new and wonderful. They don't have the cliches associated with so much fiction, instead they resemble the way we all come to understand how our lives have become what they are. No great dramatic events...just quiet realizations about what we really are. Silber is really truthful in her writing, and reveals how characters are thinking and feeling so that they seem really alive. A reader can learn a lot about living from this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Chris Bondante on June 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
The most amazing thing about this book is that within the first few sentences of each story, you find yourself completely immersed in these peoples lives. Some of the characters are familiar, perhaps people you used to know but you've lost touch with over the years. Others are people you know you would have never spent time with, but are fascinated by their experiences. Silber is skilled at describing ordinary experiences in eloquent and sometimes very funny ways. I highly recommend this book of short stories to anyone who has stopped to relect about how their lives could have been if....
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By joyce on August 10, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I like short stories ---these were different than the ones I usually read---her other book "FOOLS" was more to my liking----they were both interesting and worth my concentration
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More About the Author

Joan Silber is the author of six books of fiction, most recently The Size of the World (Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Prize in Fiction) and Ideas of Heaven (Finalist for the National Book Award and the Story Prize). Her stories have appeared in the New Yorker, two O. Henry Prize collections, and The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction. She's known for stories that leap over long blocks of time, and this led her to write The Art of Time in Fiction. She lives in New York and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College. Her website is

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