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My People's Waltz Paperback – Bargain Price, October 31, 2000


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Paperback, Bargain Price, October 31, 2000
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0380733366
  • ASIN: B000H2N83M
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,435,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

At first glance, Dale Ray Phillips appears to be cut from the classic Southern storyteller's cloth. That is, he's got a fine colloquial style, an assortment of Dixie-fried settings scattered throughout North Carolina, Arkansas, and Texas, and the sort of heightened, occasionally grotesque approach to character that seems to flourish below the Mason-Dixon line. But Phillips is much too talented a writer to pigeonhole. And My People's Waltz, which is billed as a collection of linked stories, is an extraordinary debut.

We first meet Richard, the narrator, at age 8. In the wake of his mother's mental illness--which has caused her abrupt disappearance into a sanatorium--the miserable child has fallen into a state of muteness. "Not talking don't make you special," one young relative cautions him. Happily for the reader, though, Richard's silence leaves him no less observant:

My grandfather kept his floozy in a silver Airstream above the bend in the river where the dead crossed over. He had finagled Miss Minnie a job as lifetime caretaker of a little patch of no-man's-land and a cemetery just across the Haw River. Whenever a black tenant farmer died, we watched from the trailer's picture window as a slipshod barge fashioned of dye-barrel pontoons and salvaged lumber ferried the coffin and mourners across the river to the grave.
By the end of "Why I'm Talking," Richard regains his powers of speech. Yet his other wounds--the kind inflicted by the spectator sport of family life--are slower to heal. He grows up, comes to terms with his parents, and has his own trip through the wringer of love and marriage ("On Friday, Lisa points out that I've been drunk since signing the divorce papers"). What never fails him, or the reader, is the voice that Dale Ray Phillips has honed: eloquent, funny, and invariably forgiving. --William Davies --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Each of the 10 stories of this collection drew accolades when they first appeared in prominent literary journals, but reading them together reveals the way they meld into a darkly funny and lyrical narrative. With one exception, the stories follow narrator Richard chronologically from childhood through adolescence, into college, marriage, parenthood and divorce. Richard is a Southerner, a wanderer making and escaping homes from North Carolina to Arkansas to Texas and back. Indeed, the tug of geography is the one constant in Richard's life. He teaches college students that each person carries "a love map, a sketchy cartography formed in childhood which outlines the topography of the people to whom we will surrender our hearts." His grandfather, a retired judge, lives by the Haw River with a secret "floozy"; his traveling salesman father and suicidal mother torment themselves with their repeated separations and reconciliations; Richard himself marries up only to learn that upward mobility doesn't ease the difficult work of keeping love alive. Richard's people?hard drinking, smoking, carp-fishing, shady men and cuckolding, pliant women?hold onto one another long after love no longer works. In one memorable scene, Richard plays a game called "electricity" with his mother: he grabs a hot wire with one hand, his mother's hand with the other; as the conductor he feels nothing. The reader is not so grounded: Phillips's prose flashes powerful unpredictability with every delicious little shock. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As a former fiction writing student of Mr. Phillips, this book gives me new insight to his often repeated words of wisdom, "Write what you know." I must agree with another reviewer who said that these stories might be more enjoyable if read seperately, grouped together they provide us with sense of dread and a complete picture of the inescapable life of Richard. Most of the stories were printed seperately at first as short stories in magazines and they lose something if read in chronological order.
Still, My People's Waltz showcases the extraordinary talent of Dale Phillips and his slant on the Southern fiction writer. The stories each draw you into to the characters' lives and force you to care for them, while the sad humor attempts to lighten the underlying message.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By MDBURGH@aol.com on April 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Dale Ray Phillips is a great voice in American fiction. Summing up the life of the character he calls Richard, Dale Ray breaks into the broken human heart like a burglar and finds the lost riches there. His characters are lost, deaf, and knowingly unholy in a landscape of mischance, love, and unbearable knowledge. Fathers betray sons as naturally as crappies bite hooks, and lovers try to force each other into different shapes. A forceful collection of stories.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 31, 1999
Format: Hardcover
These linked stories announce a major new voice in American fiction. They investigate through the narrator, Richard, the demise of the American dream at the end of a millennium. Written in prose that takes your breath, I would suggest these stories anyone brave enough to take a hard look at the landscape of loss. To quote the book jacket blurb by Fred Chapel, "My People's Waltz is an experience during which you forget to breath." Highest reccommendations.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Dale is able to weave the ordinary, humerous, and profound in his stories. I can visualize the places he has been and taste the seafood seasoned with Old Bay, lemon, and butter. This will sound like a cliche but his main character Richard is like a modern day, adult Huck Finn: knowing, aching, and ready to venture out to new territorys.
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Format: Hardcover
Imagine the American Dream refracted through a shattered kaleidoscope and you will begin to have sense of the life of the significant characters which populate "My People's Waltz," a series of interconnected short stories mainly revolving around the central character, Richard. Divorce, alcohol addiction, domestic violence, ruined trust and unethical business practices compete with dancing in kitchens, genuine affection, teen-age debauches and waterskiing buck naked. Richard, the son, witnesses the dissolution of his parents' marriage; Richard, the husband, participates in the deterioration of his own marriage, and Richard, the father, considers exactly what his own son, Fisher, will remember about the chaos of his own early life.
Dale Ray Phillips is a fine writer, and his style encompasses sympathy for his characters and wisdom as to their circumstances. He describes his characters: "A people like mine were not pleasure-fearing Pilgrims, nor the landed aristocracy of the Virginians who would write the Constitution...We became whatever the new landscape required: reluctant but rum-fortified revolutionary soldiers; willing purveyors of smallpox-infested blankets...traders of horses and human flesh." These "owners of damaged dreams" don't stumble through life; they make war on it. They love hard, recklessly, and without consequence. Their unions, emotional, familial or sexual, are intense and unlasting. They lie, cheat and steal with abandon. But, Philipps makes them appealing to us. Richard, his failed father, his emotionally-damaged mother, his frustrated wife Lisa -- all of them contain that quality of humanity which ultimately bonds them to us.
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By A Customer on June 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
My People's Waltz is the most memorable book of stories I have read in years. It's set in the humid, salty South, but the futility and blown opportunities that Richard and his parents experience is so real and rich that even a transplanted Jersey girl like myself got sucked right into the amazing narrative, identifying very strongly with Richard, Lisa (his [ex] wife), and even Richard as a child. Every line in this book is believable and entertaining. I hope this author has a novel in the works. His skill is that big. ...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To limit Dale Ray Phillips by calling him a Southern Regionalist author would be sinful, but if you have ever longed to know what the insider's perspective looks like then read these stories. The collection is not about the South, though, it's about ordinary people living ordinary lives trying to make sense of the world around them. The stories are hilarious and heart-wrenching as the narrator pieces together events from his life and reflects on the meaning.
This is a "must read." Start immediately.
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