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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, creepy, unsettling stories
This is one of the best collections of short stories I've read in a while. The settings and themes vary, but each has at least some element of magical realism. Many of them are creepy, not in a blood-and-guts horrorshow kind of way, but more in a strange, unsettling way. Many of them are sad; "Elephant and Boy" especially touched me. But there is also quite a bit of sly...
Published on April 9, 2006 by dephal

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3 stars
It annoys me that the pieces have such strong beginings and weak ends. It's a buzz kill.
Published on July 10, 2010 by Christy Leigh Stewart


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, creepy, unsettling stories, April 9, 2006
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This review is from: Nice Big American Baby (Paperback)
This is one of the best collections of short stories I've read in a while. The settings and themes vary, but each has at least some element of magical realism. Many of them are creepy, not in a blood-and-guts horrorshow kind of way, but more in a strange, unsettling way. Many of them are sad; "Elephant and Boy" especially touched me. But there is also quite a bit of sly humor, as in "Sales," in which traveling salesmen in some future time are captured by a family and kept penned, and still continue their salesmen-like ways. One of my favorite stories in this volume was "Preparedness," an ultimately rather hopeful tale featuring a world leader who seems quite familiar.

Budnitz writes beautifully. Her writing is filled with interesting images, and yet she never forgets her characters and plots. These stories are rich but not dense. I can strongly recommend this book, and I look forward to reading more of Budnitz's work.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 12 Magical Allegories, February 9, 2005
By 
Gene Koo (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nice Big American Baby (Hardcover)
Judy Budnitz dares make the genre of allegory palatable again by stretching her metaphors to absurd lengths. In "Where we come from," the first in this excellent collection of short stories, a mother's need to provide the best for her son leads her to delay giving birth until he can be born in the right place - and even then she can't let go. Compared to this, the shenanigans of parents trying to get children into "feeder" nursery schools seem downright sane.

The anxiety of motherhood runs through the best of the stories in this collection. In addition to "Where we come from," the teasingly titled "miracle" (first published in The New Yorker) describes a situation in which the normal ambivalence of new parents is magnified by a decidedly unusual child.

For Budnitz, motherhood is the flip side of daughterhood: "Where we come from" starts with the mother as young daughter. "Flush," perhaps the best in the collection, is a straightforward, poignant story of the intertwined fates of mothers and daughters, while "Visitors" examines the gap and alienation (perhaps literally) between them. And "Motherland," which begins as a thought experiment about "an island of mothers," suddenly transforms into an evocative wish to transcend the roles we are assigned as daughters - and sons.

The weakest stories in the collection explore the consequences of motherhood gone wrong - the Big Spoiled American Baby. "Nadia" highlights the ego- /ethno-centrism of the Baby when she's all grown up, but it soon veers too far into caricaturing the unsympathetic narrator. "Elephant and boy" suffers from a similar weakness in exploring a similar theme. On the other hand, "Preparedness," featuring the President as Big Baby, successfully repackages tired hippie sentiments into a gentle fairy tale.

Not fitting neatly into any of the above categories are two meditations on artistic endeavor: "The kindest cut," which has a certain old-world charm, and the melancholy "Saving face," one of my favorites.

Budnitz's vivid imagination makes these stories fun to read, but it's her observations about the human condition - our vanity, our anxiety, and also our morality - that make them worth reading.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Flying Leap at Night - A More Mature Writer, March 28, 2005
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This review is from: Nice Big American Baby (Hardcover)
I really like the way Judy Budnitz writes. I picked up Flying Leap years ago and was hooked. She is one of those authors that when I go to a bookstore I look up to see if anything new is released. I don't know if she is for everyone though. Her stories tend to be highly . . . imaginative. They are almost like fairy tales, allegories that may or may not have a deeper meaning. To be honest, I've never really looked. Her writing is just so rich and full of flavor that I tend to just devour the stories in a sitting and not think about them later. Her writing has matured and "Nice Big American Baby" has a darker feeling than Flying Leap. I would even argue that it is darker than her novella, "If I told you once," which has its dark parts, but really straddles the space between Flying Leap and Baby. My favorite story by far in this collection is "Saving Face" a story about two people living in an imaginary authoritarian regime ruled by a benign Prime Minister. Perhaps it is a sign of her maturation as an author (or perhaps me as a reader) that I do keep this story percolating in my head going over themes of true love, devotion, happenstance, and self that play in this story. It is really very very good. "Visitors" is also a nice diversion wherein she uses an interesting flash-cut narrative routine that never gets boring or staid due to the fact that after each transition you are left wondering what NEW bizarre twist of dialogue or scenery she going to appear. You really can't go wrong with a Budnitz book so if you are looking for something of an interesting read I would highly recommend her.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3 stars, July 10, 2010
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This review is from: Nice Big American Baby (Paperback)
It annoys me that the pieces have such strong beginings and weak ends. It's a buzz kill.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very affecting stories, March 25, 2005
By 
Peter Rosen (Marlborugh, Massachusetts) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nice Big American Baby (Hardcover)
It will be interesting to see what other reviews of this work will be like; I imagine that there will be many that are extremely positive and some that will be very negative. That tends to happen when someone reacts to something novel. Reviewers will try and type Ms. Budnitz's stories as political or magical realism. Her work does not fit neatly into any genre.

What Ms. Budnitz does amazingly well is despite fantastical plots and truly hilarious writing, she taps into the reader's feelings and the result is not always pleasant. In "Miracle" we are exposed to a baby of fantastic density and ambiguous race. Although the events are extraordinary, the feelings of burden, disconnection, love, and guilt are commonplace to the reader. The effect reminds me of Tim O'Brien's magnificent "How to Tell a True War Story" as Ms. Budnitz allows herself complete freedom in her plot to achieve her goal to get the reader to feel wants she needs you to feel. There will be some like my mother, who after reading "Miracle" in The New Yorker, called me very troubled by the story with the review of, "you are not suppose to tap into those feelings about your own baby", but what is undeniable is how affecting the stories can be.

The result are stories about people who prefer nuclear holocaust drills to real-life (as in "Preparedness" my favorite story in the collection) or racism turned in the spreading of plague or supposed do-gooders doing repulsive acts. Each of these stories requires reflection, re-reading, and conversation. I made more phone calls to friends while reading this collection than any other that I can remember.

What is also undeniable is how truly skilled Ms. Budnitz is with language. There were many phrases and passages that the reader will want to read outloud because of their simplicity and power. Ms. Budnitz begins her collection with the sentences, "There was a woman who had seven sons and was happy. Then she had a daughrer." Sentences like these capture the reader's interest and imagination so quickly. She is truly a gifted writer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars love this author., January 4, 2013
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jennifer (fort pierce, fl United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nice Big American Baby (Paperback)
she has a rich and smoky style that i just love. but her stories are for people that think in an artistic type of way. they are definitely creative and sometimes even creepy. but really great stories.
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5.0 out of 5 stars astounding, October 14, 2007
This review is from: Nice Big American Baby (Paperback)
Judy Budnitz has created masterpieces. These stories are explored with lucid themes and magical depth.

Among the stories that I remember most vividly is "Elephant and Boy." Its devastating yet inspiring. The personalities of the characters are so strong- but we can relate to them and recognize what they have to offer each other and the world.

The last story is like a grand finale.

unforgettable.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Budnitz back with biting vengeance, March 23, 2005
This review is from: Nice Big American Baby (Hardcover)
In Nice Big American Baby, this still young writer makes a big comeback, after some five years, and brings the whole genre of short fiction with her. Be warned these are not nice stories of the naturalist kind, say a mother and daughter who learn to apreciate each other through talk and by staring at oaks. They are viscious, powerful stories that pack all the punch of, well, a lot of punches. While many of the stories could be seen on their face as political allegories, these are not political stories, but real fiction, stripped of most everything save the most basic: a narrator, a vague setting and the highest of consequences.

The writing is brutally efficient; poetic where it needs to be, spariongly expository and always moving the plot along, the stakes, in these too beautiful stories, ever increasing. Bravest of all is the short story format. I, who've always leaned on a good marathon of a novel for reading, was swept away by the strength and grace of budnitz's sprints and have remained since, branching out to read many of her contemporaries, most of whom this still not known well enough talent towers above.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoying it, May 29, 2007
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This review is from: Nice Big American Baby (Paperback)
I am enjoying reading these short stories. Each one is very unique, and quite creative.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice Big American Baby, August 22, 2005
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This review is from: Nice Big American Baby (Hardcover)
A mixed bag of short stories. What one reviewer called "inventiveness" often strays into manipulation, pseudomysticism, and nonsense, yet there are several gems among these tales. Ms. Budnitz has a gift for language and understanding people. Maybe in the future she'll depend on those solid skills and get away from ventures into the bizarre.
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Nice Big American Baby
Nice Big American Baby by Judy Budnitz (Paperback - February 14, 2006)
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