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Wet Places at Noon (Iowa Short Fiction Award) Hardcover – November 1, 1997

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My Struggle: Book Four
Eighteen-year-old Karl Ove moves to a tiny fishing village in the Arctic Circle to work as a school teacher. As the nights get longer, the shadow cast by his father's own sharply increasing alcohol consumption, also gets longer. Read the full description

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

More salty, exuberant tales of modern men struggling to make sense of their lives, fighting the temptation to make self- destructive gestures ``of the spectacular and dreadful kind,'' by a writer with one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary fiction. Abbott's sixth collection of short stories (Living After Midnight, 1991, etc.) doesn't stray far from the terrain of his previous volumes. The eight pieces are set largely in the Southwest, and focus on baffled, essentially decent middle-aged men (many of them veterans of the Vietnam war) suffering from several kinds of severe internal turbulence. In ``Wet Places At Noon,'' Eddie, a refugee from the middle class, is struggling, with the help of his lover, to construct firewalls in his life to hold back the madness that keeps threatening to erupt. In ``On Tuesday Nothing, On Wednesday Walls,'' Harry, reluctant to start over, maneuvers desperately (and ingeniously) to remain a part of his bemused ex-wife's life. Women in these stories spend their time reacting to the frenzied hijinks of their husbands or lovers, sometimes, as in ``Wet Places At Noon,'' being drawn into the contests their men are absorbed in, and at other times, as in ``On Tuesday Nothing,'' good-humoredly keeping themselves at arm's length from the action. In some tales they are largely absent: Billy, the protagonist of ``The Human Use of Inhuman Beings,'' despite a serene marriage, discovers that the most intimate relationship in his life remains his longstanding acquaintance with an angel--who only appears to Billy to announce the deaths of loved ones. All of these stories are narrated in the invigorating prose that has become Abbott's trademark, mingling the tang and vigor of regional speech with sly humor and a jaunty, startling cadence. Too rich, perhaps, for some tastes, but fiction with a vigor, intelligence, and rueful wit sorely lacking from the work of many of Abbott's contemporaries. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


In his sixth collection, the often-anthologized writer draws on our cultural standards--our wars, our divorces, our suppressed alien crash-landings--to create a mythology all his own, rising from a landscape of "scrub and chamisa and creosote and snakeweed and gnarled-up yuccas and, like set directions from the cruel genius of Rod Serling himself, ugly mountains left and right of you across a desert, flat and depressing and trackless as a nightmare." -- The New York Times Book Review, Tom Drury

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Product Details

  • Series: Iowa Short Fiction Award
  • Hardcover: 204 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Iowa Press; 1 edition (November 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877456054
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877456056
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,310,542 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Laurie Neubecker ( on October 30, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Lee K. Abbott's stories have the taste of cognac, VSOP: heady,yet smooth. They tingle through the body, letting us know we'realive. And, if I may continue to extend this metaphor, Abbott gets better with age.
His style pulls us in gently, is of the kind that is familiar. It's the voice of our own lives, has the beat of our hearts in its rhythm, is of who we are. We know because of the honesty in it.
In the sixth story of this new collection, "As Fate Would Have It," the main character, Noley, is confronted by fate with who he is--the man who can't land a punch, makes a fool of himself and ends up not with the woman he believes is his true love, but with "Miss Congeniality." In the end Nolely faces the truth of his life. No matter how much he (or we) may wish otherwise, it's unavoidable. This story, written in second person future subjunctive mode, is one of those rarest of gems: a perfect story. Each word is used without waste, the setting, the characters, the circumstance, all contribute exactly as they should. And the tense, what wraps the story together in it's perfect package, is what truly hits us--the punch that even as the one Noley throws in the story misses Slate, hits us square where it counts. Hard.
Each story, each moment in Wet Places at Noon is deftly rendered, written to bring us in tightly to it. Each holds us. Abbott's are the kind of stories that must be savored--the emotions he exacts (and extracts) from us demand that. These are the kind of stories that are important for us to read. They make us look at, and feel deeply, the humanness of us.
The eight stories in Wet Places At Noon are struggles of the heart, struggles with ourselves, us confronting us. Dare we look? Yes. We must. Lee Abbott shows us how.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By K. Graney on March 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Some of these stories are not in Abbott's newest collection, one of which is the humorous and unforgettable "A Creature Out of Palestine." The first two pages introduce us to the world Abbott has created, characters speaking with his strength and natural humor, the landscape and characters as unique as Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, but in the desert of the American southwest. When I first read Abbott, I thought, "Wonderful. Who IS this guy?" Answer: an original, and per William Giraldi in "The Georgia Review", "Abbott fuses a poet's purpose with a fiction writer's, the lyrical with the narrative...[but it would be] impossible to sustain that level of stylistic fervor, those orgasms of language for more than twenty or twenty-five pages." The limitation of length in the short story challenges a writer to create a world peopled with three dimensional characters in conflict, and yet to make the story whole, with synergy. Abbott is the master, doing so with beauty, pathos, and most especially, humor.
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By A Customer on April 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Simply THE BEST. Every book by Lee K. Abbott reads like a chapter in a BIG AMERICAN NOVEL. I mean: each one of his short-stories is more nutritive than most novels published these days. I already wrote a review as a READER FROM BARCELONA, SPAIN but forget to put my e-mail there in case Mr. Abbott wants to send me the promised out-of-print-book (if you're there, Lee, knock three times). In a world where everybody seems to fall for minimalists, Mr. Abbott is a maximalist with a vengeance. Lucky us.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Lee K. Abbott is the King of Kings and the true heir to John Cheever's crown as the ruler of the short story as Big Art. I once phoned him while doing a stage at the University of Iowa International Writers Workshop and he promised to send me "The Heart Never Fits its Wanting" (his only title I didn't have); he never did but it's okay: still looking for it and proud to be his only fan born in Argentina.
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