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Paper Trails: True Stories of Confusion, Mindless Violence, and Forbidden Desires, a Surprising Number of Which Are Not About Marriage Hardcover – February 6, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0061189357 ISBN-10: 0061189359 Edition: 1st

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Paper Trails: True Stories of Confusion, Mindless Violence, and Forbidden Desires, a Surprising Number of Which Are Not About Marriage + Paris Trout (Contemporary American Fiction)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1 edition (February 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061189359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061189357
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,088,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this sprawling collection of finely etched prose, noted novelist Dexter (Paris Trout) lays bare the darker workings of the human experience. Assembled mostly from his newspaper columns for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Sacramento Bee, these short pieces chronicle the often violent, sometimes tender foibles of the denizens of America's lower socioeconomic strata. Senseless crimes are committed, alcohol flows like water and lives are damaged beyond repair. In clipped, world-weary prose, Dexter writes of Joline, a prostitute working the streets of West Sacramento—"The rent is $95 a week, and she still owes the manager fifty. She says that is two dates, maybe three. Joline is twenty-three years old. She says she'll have it in two hours." The stories are imbued with the spirit of the ink-stained old school journalist. While not all the tales are of degradation and mishap—Dexter writes tenderly of his wife and child—the self-inflicted woes of the less fortunate stay with you. "Mummers Day on Two Street: The body is laid out on the corner. The pink dress is pulled up around the neck, which is painted green. The eyes are partly open; but when you look into them all you see is white." With authority and a strange grace, Dexter has crafted a powerful portrait of the underbelly of the American Dream. (Feb.)
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Review

“[A] literary feat—when Dexter gets going he crawls under the skin and stays there.” (New York Times Book Review)

[Dexter’s pieces] read like finely honed short stories....Their spare, haunting scenes echo Hemingway, their insights Faulkner. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

PAPER TRAILS is what great newspaper writing is all about. (Washington Post Book World)

“Pete Dexter is a master story teller in all forms... This is the work of a great American writer.” (Michael Connelly)

“A jewel box of muscular writing…” (Denver Post)

Superb...Remarkable...The simple clarity of [Dexter’s] prose is like an Edward Hopper painting. (New York Sun)

With authority and a strange grace, Dexter has crafted a powerful true portrait of the underbelly of the American Dream. (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Lovers of fine writing ought to give a serious consideration to Pete Dexter’s new book.” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

“Paper Trails is a master class in tight, effective writing.” (St. Petersburg Times)

“The author’s true eye for detail makes for easy reading.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Laugh-out-loud stories…Ideal for... writers and any book lover who appreciates a good story.” (Library Journal)

“Compact and illuminating…” (Sunday Oregonian)

“Paper Trails will stir nostalgia for those who remember a time when newspapers prided themselves on cutting loose, colorful writers…” (Columbus Dispatch)

“A book full of good reading…” (Rocky Mountain News)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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There's something in the book for every taste.
James B. Johnson
Because the stories can be read in under four minutes, I often read them during the commercials of TV sporting events.
Frank Marra
Dexter's stories about life in America may be the most inciteful observations being written today.
F. A. Stuart

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By RSProds TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Four FASCINATING Stars! National Book Award-winning writer Pete Dexter wrote kaleidoscopic newspaper columns and magazine articles on his observations of life, love, marriage, death, and everything in between in preceding decades. These 82 vignettes are unique and engrossing, coming from multiple sources Iike Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Redbook, Inside Sports, Philadelphia Daily News, and the Sacramento Bee, focusing on many locations around the country. Although somewhat dated, this book proves the timeless phrase "The more things change, the more they remain the same": case in point, Dexter's 'O. J. Simpson vs the press' viewpoint is right on the money, as O. J. once again regretably rises to the attention of the world.

In the great tradition of writers like Jimmy Breslin, Mr Dexter writes with a keen eye, sardonic wit, and a gift for detail and opinion in rough-edged, highly-descriptive, and presumptive prose. The stories keep coming, letting the reader sometimes read between the lines and fill in missing details: here's how he describes how he rushed from Florida to Philadelphia in mid-winter to accept a much-needed new job: "I arrived three days later with one pair of boots, no coat, running as close to empty as I've ever been", a whale of a winter image in 21 words. You fill in the rest; unshaven, dirty laundry in the back seat? The book is loaded with these.

The specific stories are varied: a salute to a TV newsman murdered on his knees in a foreign country (no, not that newsman and not that country!), the escapades of two friends nicknamed Low Gear and Minus (no kidding!), a mother cat in a dangerous world, a beer throwing contest (seriously!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Charlie Stella on March 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dexter is truly one of America's greatest writers ... this collection is impossible to put down. If the first piece doesn't grab your heart, you don't have one. This is every bit as good as his novels ... and those are masterpieces.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James B. Johnson on June 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
PAPER TRAILS is a collection of essays. Some are hilarious, some are sad, some are outrageous, and all of them are thought provoking. The essays cover a wide range of subjects, from kittens to tractors to mentrual pads to evil boys who abuse dogs. There's something in the book for every taste. The writing is sublime.

It's a page flipper and difficult to put down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Why Not Dream on March 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pete Dexter writes about people who rarely make it into print and stories that rarely are told. There hasn't been a story yet that didn't make me stop and contemplate; I'm amazed at his skill in poignantly sketching a person and telling a story. Everyone is either caught in unbelievable circumstances or caught in a web made from a series of mind-boggling choices. No good can come of this -- yet Dexter makes you feel something special with each masterful, self-deprecating portrait.

Highly recommended.

(And best of luck to Mrs. Dexter.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By K. Knutsson on August 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really, really enjoyed this book. Very interesting stories. Only I should have saved it for a long flight in two weeks...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dix Sean Michael on December 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
only one complaint- the SOB needs to stop editing and give us all of it. he weeded through, he says, mountains of stuff to make this selection. he selected what i guess was his best. i don't care. my heart cries. he's cheating us. his worst surely blows the doors off of anyone else's writing. i want the stuff that for some writerly motive wasn't good enough for him. it'll be good enough for me. i love this guy. when i grow up (i'm 41) i want to BE him, without the punches. i read more than you do, most likely. and he is without a doubt my favorite writer, bar none. reading this book is like eating one potato chip. i'm lucky- i discovered dexter late (thanks to that HBO travesty, it should be noted) and thus could gobble his other novels without waiting. but his output does not satisfy my craving. sean@seandix.com
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I remember Pete from his time at the Philadelphia Daily News. It truly was a different era. We still have columnists, but Pete was something special. Many of the columns collected here have the power to break your heart. Those that do not will make you laugh, or perhaps think. If you suppose that you can peg Dexter as a typical left wing demagogue then you must read his thoughts on the LA riots, and O.J. Simpson. This is a man who is dedicated to the notion of equality, and will brook no excuses for bad behavior. This book is like eating popcorn if you were eating popcorn that was extremely filling and had super nutritive qualities.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By H. Graham on April 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Boy is Pete Dexter a good writer. This collection of his columns from, among others, the Sacramento Bee and the Philadelphia Inquirer are occasionally a little dark, but never boring, and cover a wide array of subjects. If you've never read Pete Dexter, you should, and this is a good way to get your feet wet; that being said, his novels are not to be missed.
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