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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

4.8 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1 edition (February 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061189359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061189357
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,431,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
Pete Dexter is on of my favorite authors. His writing is tight, his insight is deep, and his humor is off the wall. “Paper Trails” puts all his talent on display.

The book is a collection of eighty-two of his well-received journalistic efforts. The essays are from newspapers and magazines that are astute enough to realize there are many readers who are tired of droning news items and who welcome some clever, diverse observations and musings. Dexter has handled that craving for decades.

Most of the entries are short. There are some towards the end of the book that tend to be wordy. I’m not sure where they came from. But, for the most part, the entries are concise and easily ingested. Most of them also contain irreverent remarks and humor that skewer conventional thinking, politics, bigwigs, and even Mrs. Dexter, his often put-upon and remarkably understanding wife. I love Mrs. Dexter.

Dexter calls the book “true stories of confusion, mindless violence, and forbidden desires, a surprising number of which are not about marriage.” There are so many of these true stories here that I hesitate to pick out my favorites. So I’ll just mention a few. There’s one where Mrs. Dexter catches Pete making love to his pillow. And another where Pete stuffs a raw egg down Mrs. Dexter’s pants to demonstrate a chicken’s egg factory process to a grandchild. There are several about inscrutable cats, insufferable editors, the never-ending search for girls, southern low-lifes, drinking adult refreshment, and juvenile pranks, most of which he instigated.

He gets a little more serious as he discusses inane lawyers, civil rights, down-on-their luck folks, and mindless violence, but his views on all these popular subjects mesh very well with mine.
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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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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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