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Paper Lantern: Love Stories Hardcover – June 3, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Acclaimed for his exquisite and imaginative coming-of-age tales, Dybek has filled Paper Lantern with nine extraordinarily ample, mysterious, and enrapturing stories of incendiary romance and catastrophic longing. Music, a shaping force throughout Dybek’s work, takes center stage in “Tosca” as he cleverly and profoundly dramatizes the consequences of doomed passion and devotion to art in an indifferent world. In “Waiting,” he explores that state of limbo from multiple perspectives as the narrator, a social worker become writer, reflects on Hemingway, suicide, and a disastrous affair. In “Four Deuces,” an exceptionally complex creation, been-through-the-ringer bar owner Rosie tells artist Rafael her life story, a wild and devastating saga of gambling mojo and loss, love and aberration. Then in “The Caller,” we see Rafael caught in a web of imperiled women. The magnificent, far-voyaging fairy tale “Oceanic” pulls in many of Dybek’s signature preoccupations, from the mysteries of the deep to time, the church, Eros, the opposing fears of rejection and of losing one’s self in another, and the transience of beauty and bliss. In these sexy, surprising, haunting, droll, dreamy, and sorrowful stories, glorious word-by-word and magnificently symphonic, Dybek confronts the radiance and combustibility, fragility and fleetingness of love and life. --Donna Seaman

Review

Not only our most relevant writer, but maybe our best. (Darin Strauss, New York Times Book Review)

What I will remember about these stories . . . [are the] sudden moments that rise up out of a conversation or out of the surface of a mirror, or which suddenly appear, as shocking as being served an entree of predigested seaweed from the beaks of swifts: a little alarming, a little wonderful. (Meg Wolitzer, NPR)

Stuart Dybek's genre-bending short stories flout many of the basic premises of fiction itself. . . . What drives them is less the need to tell a story than to evoke--through closely observed, carefully rendered images and free-associative visual memories--physical sensations. . . . His writing feels painterly. (Shoshana Olidort, The Chicago Tribune)

Ecstatic Cahoots and Paper Lantern confirm Dybek as a virtuoso of the short story--a nimble, compassionate writer who uses precise, lucid, original descriptions. He shows us all we need to know and nothing more. (Valerie Milner, The San Francisco Chronicle)

Here are bold, frankly erotic tales of transporting force--stories so sensual someone, somewhere, must be reading one aloud to a lover on a rumpled hotel bed. (John Freeman, The Boston Globe)

To read [Dybek] is to be reminded of the resonance of small moments, the connections that arise and dissipate with the passing power of a thought . . . Again and again, we get a notion of what might have been, of life or narrative going in different ways. (David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times)

A modern master . . . Dybek is incapable of writing a dull page. (Clarence Brown, The Seattle Times)

Paper Lantern . . . deserves to be read and reread by those who cherish words and all that they evoke when they are carefully strung together. (Kevin Grauke, philly.com)

The nine stories gathered here have appeared, scattered across two decades, in the most prestigious American outlets for short fiction; they make for a remarkably unified and consistent collection. . . . A very fine book from a gifted practitioner of the short story form. (Publisher's Weekly, starred review)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374146446
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374146443
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #175,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mike Hopping on July 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The stories collected in Paper Lantern are a mesmerizing group, individually and taken as a whole. “Tosca” is plotless on the page, though not by inference. Fragments of scenes are laid alongside each other to create a richly dimensional impression of intense feeling in the face of imminent death. What anchor might you cling to at such a moment of extremis? (I don’t know if this story’s organizational scheme has a name, chip mosaic? collage? Whatever it’s called, the film director Paolo Sorrentino employed something similar—to equally soaring effect—in The Great Beauty.) Plot isn’t a huge element in the other eight stories either. “Four Deuces” is a fifty-page monologue of increasing intoxication, strangeness and ambiguity. The gorgeously evocative “Oceanic” only appears to be told in reverse, through a series of scenes that read like dreams. Some stories share characters. Beaches figure in at least four. As advertised, each piece centers on an aspect of love, but there’s not a standard romance in the bunch.

Dybek uses his poet’s mastery of evocative language, odd perspectives and unexpected disjunctions to invite us to park our rational minds and revisit the worlds of spirit and imagination modernity has trained us to ignore. This isn’t a rejection of rationality, just an acknowledgement of its insufficiency for the task. He is not afraid—slyly—to invoke magic or weave masterworks from other art forms into his spells. (He’s considerate about it. In “Tosca”, where the opera of the same name is a major element, readers are off-handedly supplied with the essential details.)

These excursions beyond the polite consensus are not retreats into childhood fantasy or escapist fairytale. He reminds us that art and imagination mature too.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
PAPER LANTERN contains nine short stories by an underappreciated contemporary American writer. (Dybek's "I Sailed with Magellan" is one of the best contemporary American novels I have read in the past decade.) For the most part, the stories take place in Chicago or its environs. The time period is current, or the recent past. And per the book's sub-title, the stories all involve love in its many forms -- romantic, sexual, possessive, destructive, and transcending. All of the love affairs, however, are over by the time of the telling, living only in memory.

There is considerable variety in the structures, styles, and narrative techniques of the stories of PAPER LANTERN. Most of them feature characters in their thirties who tend to be relatively hip. There is an abundance of cultural references. (Two of my favorite such references concern the classic pop song "Blue Moon" and Sviatoslav Richter's performance of "Pictures at an Exhibition" as recorded over an epidemic of audience coughing in Sofia, Bulgaria.) In several of the stories Dybek gives rein, temporarily, to a surrealistic impulse. Three of the stories are very good -- "Tosca" (which is very, very good), "Seiche", and "Four Deuces". Two are only fair. The other four stories, however, are strong enough to warrant five Amazon stars for the collection as a whole.

Dybek has a creative mind and he is an original, sometimes quirky, writer. He has an unusual ability to capture scenes, situations, or concepts in a few sentences. Example: "I had this sudden awareness * * * of how the moments of our lives go out of existence before we're conscious of having lived them. It's only a relatively few moments that we get to keep and carry with us for the rest of our lives. Those moments ARE our lives.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By peter g gooch on September 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dybek has a seductive voice in these stories, one that captures the essence and ambiguity of the recollection of love. I bought this book in early summer, read it in a sitting, liked it, and then handed it around to friends. When it finally came back, I read it again in one sitting and liked it even more than I had originally. The book works as a seamless totality, and has a way of staying with you long after you've put it down. The stories are not all equal...some great, some good, a couple just okay in my opinion, but the language is consistently tight, controlled, and the characters are compelling. My favorites were Seiche, Four Deuces, and, best of all, Oceanic. When I was reading them the stories reminded me of several other contemporary short story writers, but when I put the book down, my conclusion was that they were classic Dybek...nostalgic, mystical, redolent of loss. For me a paraphrasing of the Merriam-Webster definition of mystical seems work as a sum of this collection: ...having a reality that is neither (wholly) apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intellect.
Well worth the read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Fred Misurella on August 21, 2014
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This book has a great range of subject, language, and styles, and has two stories, "Tosca" and "Waiting", that are among the best I've ever read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie West on August 7, 2014
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This is as expected a wonderful wonderful collection. Buy it. Read it. Then buy everything else he has written!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By W. Arnold Johnston on October 11, 2014
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More moving, richly observed short fiction from a writer at the top of his world-best form.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Peter A. Fiore on October 13, 2014
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Dybek is a master of the short story and related short prose forms. A must read.
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