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Livability: Stories Paperback – December 23, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (December 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596916559
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596916555
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #325,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. These nine gorgeous stories from novelist and screenwriter Raymond find pallid Northwesterners testing the moral perimeters of their decent lives. In The Suckling Pig, set around the preparations for a dinner party, the divorced middle-aged host hires two Mexican men for some yard work at his suburban house, then adds them to the guest list to spur on what turns out to be a transformative and class-blurring evening. The wayward protagonist of Train Choir hopes to make it to Alaska and find work with the fisheries, but she gets caught stealing food for her dog, setting off a chain of mishaps that sinks her deeper into a perverse, solitary rut. In Young Bodies, 17-year-old Russian émigré Kendra sneaks into the store where she works to return the money she'd stolen, only to get locked in the mall for the night with an increasingly unsympathetic co-worker. A sense of fragility pervades these characters' lives, and as the upsets that threaten each of them simmer, Raymond reveals how close failure (and worse) lingers. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

This enticing collection pulses with the intensity of its diverse characters and the affliction that comes part and parcel with decisions, large or small, that they make at life’s junctures. The haunting “Benny” finds a reluctant man returning to his old neighborhood to search for a lost childhood friend, the titular character, as a favor to Benny’s dying father. With “Young Bodies,” two teenagers, Kendra, a Russian emigrant, and Bryan, are locked in a mall overnight after Kendra’s plan to return stolen money goes awry. As the night progresses and inhibitions dissolve, Kendra finds herself slowly, then eagerly testing the limits of her burgeoning sexuality, to uneasy affect. “Train Choir” follows the nomadic Verna, who is traveling to Alaska in hope of finding work at a fishing cannery. Verna’s rash decision to steal food for her dog during a layover in a small Oregon town is her first misstep in a line of many, and her situation increasingly worsens alongside her emotional desperation. Devoid of extraneous narrative, Raymond’s nine stories are delicately refined and sublimely electric. --Leah Strauss

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Shogun on January 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
I make my living as a screenwriter. And, honestly, this book made me think I have a tremendous trek ahead of me to get to this level. The stories (save perhaps one) are astonishing. The Suckling Pig in particular punched the wind right out of me. There are no enormous events - as the critics note, it's the slipping of shadows across the room, the subtleties - but they are clinging with me in a way I can say no fiction has in some time. Highly recommended reading.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lost in Siberia on March 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
Jonathan Raban wrote an excellent review for this book and for the film "Wendy and Lucy" -- which is based on one of the book's stories, "Train Choir" -- for the New York Review of Books, March 26, 2009 issue. The review is available at [...] Here is a brief excerpt:

" . . . Raymond is a prose maximalist. Although his characters have difficulty relating to each other, they relate to the reader with unbuttoned, occasionally garrulous, intimacy. To the reader alone, they entrust their memories, thoughts, feelings, landscape descriptions, even as they explain to the reader why these private riches can't be shared with the person closest to them in the story. At the end of 'Benny,' the narrator considers talking about his dead friend to his Vietnamese wife, Minh:

"'I heard her walking around in the kitchen and I knew she'd be happy enough if I came up and told her what was on my mind. I stayed put though. I had plenty of stories about Benny I could share, but I didn't really see the point. Why bother?... It was too late for Minh to understand what Benny had meant to me. It was too late for her to understand that we might as well have been brothers.'

"The cumulative effect of this, extended over nine stories, is to immerse the reader in a varied society of compulsive and fluent interior monologuists, who experience their lives with articulate intensity, but find it uphill work to communicate satisfactorily with their fellow loners."

A podcast of Raban is also available at Based on his review, I'm ordering the book, and look forward to seeing the film ...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Murphy on April 14, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Livability, Jon Raymond's collection of nine short stories about life in contemporary America, is a showcase for the author's deep literary talent and his profound observational powers. This is a somber anthology; each of the nine tales includes a significant measure of sepia in the emotional palette on display.

The nine tales are diverse, ranging from failed attempts at new romantic relationships, to the creative angst of artists, to two teenagers (a boy and a girl) literally trapped in a mall as well as being figuratively trapped in the mall-like tawdriness of American life. In one, a young boy struggles through a day in which he has been commanded to participate in the male ritual of physical combat in front of an audience (a ritual that is now formalized in the enormously profitable Ultimate Fighting franchise). In another, a well to do man that loves to prepare fantastic gourmet meals for friends invites his Mexican American day hire workers in for a suckled pig meal after the original invitees fail to show. Train Choir, made into a movie called Wendy and Lucy, traces the inexorable descent of a young woman into homelessness and loss of both human and canine companionship.

It's a fair bet that some readers of this collection will struggle with the relentless physical and/or emotional shabbiness of human life that Raymond's pen tends to gravitate toward. Those readers that persist, though, will find their thoughts provoked repeatedly by the author's observations, whether or not the reader agrees with them. Consider the revelation that teenager Kendra arrives at, as she provides oral sex to a semi-willing male teenager: "No one was pure. No one was good. Anyone would fold given the opportunity and the cover of night. It was an important thing to understand.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Indian Prairie Public Library on April 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
This short story collection is set in and around Portland, Oregon, and follows characters at transition points in life. Two of the nine stories have been adapted into independent feature films directed by Kelly Reichardt.
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