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Love, in Theory: Ten Stories (Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction) Hardcover – September 15, 2012

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Product Details

  • Series: Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press (September 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820343498
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820343495
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #683,692 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Levy’s award-winning short story collection masterfully explores the vagaries of romantic love…[in] 10 lyrical gems…. A smart, insightful collection of stories about life and love." (Kirkus, starred review)

"A master of [the] form... Levy is skilled at bringing [her] characters to life, each story searingly made real through [her] subtlety and fastidious attention to detail." (Publishers Weekly)

"...a readable, addictive collection of stories about love, lust, loss, and loneliness." (The Picky

"Levy's artful debut story collection finds varied characters—young and old, male and female—confronting the ornery manifestations and delusions of modern love. . . . Levy's 10 engaging stories speak to the sorcery of the heart." (Booklist)

"[I]ndulge with this clever recipe of intelligent romance." (Sarah Barr, VOX magazine)

"I would compare Ms. Levy's style in these stories to Lorrie Moore - who is also among my favorite writers...these were really, really good….I hope we see much more of E.J. Levy's writing. She is a talent to watch." (The Betty & Boo Chronicles)

"A brilliant debut . . . Sad, funny, and always wise, Levy’s stories reveal truths about how we love and lose, trust and betray, with an intelligence that takes my breath away. I’ll be returning to these wonderful stories again and again." (Cheryl Strayed)

"E.J. Levy’s stories brilliantly and winningly reveal the human heart as it strives to measure its own beating through love. Love, in Theory is a collection richly worthy of Flannery O’Connor’s name." (Robert Olen Butler)

"This debut collection . . . is wholly beguiling and authoritative, an instruction from first page to last." (Nicholas Delbanco)

"Selfishness has never been sent up as mordantly as it is in E. J. Levy’s debut collection of stories."(Andrew Holleran)

"This is a smart, smart book."(Roxane Gay)

"Levy keeps her focus on failed romance...[going] deeper than the outlines, down into the details...[of] the girl-talk repertoire." (New York Times)

About the Author

E. J. Levy’s fiction and essays have appeared in the Paris Review, the Missouri Review, Gettysburg Review, the New York Times, and Best American Essays and have received a Pushcart Prize and Nelson Algren Award, among other honors. She is the editor of Tasting Life Twice: Literary Lesbian Fiction by New American Writers, which won the Lambda Literary Award. This is her first book of fiction.

More About the Author

E. J. Levy's fiction and essays have appeared in the Paris Review, Best American Essays, and The New York Times, among other places, and have won a Pushcart Prize, a Nelson Algren Award, a scholarship to Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and twice been named among the year's 100 Distinguished Stories in Best American Short Stories, among other honors. She edited Tasting Life Twice: Literary Lesbian Fiction by New American Writers, which won the Lambda Literary Award. Her story collection, Love, In Theory, won the 2011 Flannery O'Connor Award and has been called "a brilliant debut" by Cheryl Strayed (author of WILD: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail); it was released in September 2012. To learn more, visit

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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I was amazed with each story in this collection.
Tiffany A. Harkleroad
Her stories are so eloquently written and developed that each one felt like it was gift wrapped and tied with a literary bow.
The writing is so superb, the stories original and smart.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Unabridged Chick on September 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
You know how when you meet someone, and you immediately decide they're a total snob and you hate their guts, and then you spend more time with them and you realize you were totally wrong and this person is actually wildly cool, and now you've got to backpedal to all your friends about how that person is actually not as awful as you originally said...? Well, that's exactly my experience with this book.

On Friday I blogged about how I was kind of on the fence about this book because there's adultery and a lesbian who falls for a married man, and I definitely had my eyeballs rolling as I opened the first page. Ooops.

I loved this collection. (Not in theory, either, but for real.)

Every story was like, I don't know, something delectable and redolent. Be it a piece of chocolate or a slice of cake or a gorgeous aria -- Levy's writing sucked me in from the first line and I wanted to savor her stories, linger with them.

The characters felt real, immediately, their emotional state familiar and resonant, and their challenges and conflicts achingly, uncomfortably articulated. In the much feared 'Theory of Dramatic Action', with the lesbian and married man, I found a character I could relate to and understand, and a poignant situation that made me tear up a little. The volume's opening story, 'The Best Way Not to Freeze', about a woman's first real love, was so good I read it twice, then read it to my wife, then to a friend. After that, when I started reading 'The Three Christs of Moose Lake, Minnesota' to my wife, she just took the volume from my hands to inhale on her own. (I raced through this book in one night, then reread almost all the stories over the following two days.)

I have to stop saying I dislike short fiction because clearly, I do like it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tiffany A. Harkleroad TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 26, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Love is never simple. Sometimes love means sacrifice. Sometimes love means forgiveness. Sometimes love can not be conform to social constraints. Sometimes love is temporary. In this collection of short stories, we are are able to view love in many forms, new love, lost love, destroyed love, and theoretical love.

This collection of short stories is unlike anything I have ever read. These stories are so smart, so deep, so powerful. Not all literature needs to be highly intellectual in order to be good, but it just so happens that this particular collection is so intellectual, so philosophical, I had to consume these stories on a one by one basis, reflecting on each one before moving on to the next.

The characters on these stories are raw and real. I see so much of myself, and the people I know, in the variety of characters and situations in these stories. I really appreciate the fact that a wide variety of love and romantic situations are explored, heterosexual, homosexual, fidelity and infidelity, the complexity of love intersecting with religious faith. We see several themes reoccurring across different stories, but playing out differently depending on the story.

I find Levy to be an incredibly gifted writer. I was amazed with each story in this collection. If you are someone who typically does not like short stories, I encourage you to still give this book a chance, as it is far from typical. I found more depth and meaning in just one of these stories than I have found in some full length novels. I really think this book will appeal to many readers.

I received a review copy of this book courtesy of TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Don't open this book expecting happy endings. Of the ten stories in the collection, only one ends in anything much more promising than resigned acceptance. I won't give the name of that one exception, but here is its last sentence: "You will be full of hope, will take it on faith that she will be there, waiting for you, with open arms, believing briefly, fervently, though you know it only happens in the movies, that yours will be a Happy Ending." Well, maybe it will; there is always that possibility. The giveaway phrase, though, is "you know it only happens in the movies." Most of E. J. Levy's characters believe that there is little chance of permanent success in the real world, but even the brief periods of contentment are worth much -- a fact that stops the book from being entirely depressing; very few of the characters have become cynical.

Many of the stories begin with the recent loss of a lover; a few others end with one. There are often flings with other people along the way, briefly welcome or immediately regretted, but they are never the focus. The prevailing tone is elegiac: an almost pastoral lament for a lost idyll; it is a literary mode that has always attracted me. Most of the characters are around what I presume to be the author's age and situation: well-educated thirty-somethings working as adjunct instructors at a university, or something very similar. But the exceptions (most of which come towards the end of the book) are striking. The protagonist of "The Three Christs of Moss Lake, Minnesota," for example, is an orderly in a mental hospital.
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