From Publishers Weekly
All fiction concerns people with problems—without them, after all, where's the plot?—but the characters in these 17 stories, originally published in the Paris Review
between 1974 and 2004, have been dealt particularly bad hands. Some, like the junkie mother in Malinda McCollum's "The Fifth Wall," have screwed up their lives pretty thoroughly, while others appear to be merely drifting along, like the therapist in Charles Baxter's "Westland." The tone shifts from story to story: Joanna Scott traces the beginnings of a psychoanalyst's obsession with a patient in the neutral language of a case history, while Elizabeth Gilbert continually ups the farcical stakes as she spins a yarn about a violent nightclub owner, his magician daughter and their rabbit. Other contributors include Denis Johnson, Mary Robison, Rick Bass and Norman Rush. Charlie Smith's tale of drunken buddies who hook up with a naked woman on a canoeing trip is the only real misstep, coming off like a parody of stories of rural dysfunction. But this is overall a strong anthology of tales of trouble. (July)
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It is said that all literature is ultimately about people in trouble--in short, people with problems. Hence this collection of 17 short stories about protagonists in fixes, exemplary tales that first appeared in the Paris Review
. Notables such as Rick Bass, Norman Rush, Charles Baxter, and Elizabeth Gilbert twist the lives of the problem-ridden in stories resonating with all-too-human travails. On one end of the spectrum is Joanna Scott's "A Borderline Case," featuring a suave, sophisticated gentleman, K, analyst for 30 years to patient B, a fellow gentleman, lover of boys, closet scientist, and object of K's love and lust. In contrast, blue-collar Buddy, in Annie Proulx's "The Wamsutter Wolf," loses jobs because of his temper and finds himself unemployed in a run-down, single-wide, furnished trailer. There, in a setting that makes Tobacco Road look luxurious, he suffers a venomous snakebite as prelude to the trashy neighbors who embroil him in their violent, squalid lives. Is all life a problem or the overcoming of it? This far-ranging collection will inspire lively discussion. Whitney ScottCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved