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Problems with People: Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 3, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385351488
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385351485
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #356,203 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Whether it’s the utter disdain a successful son feels for his nattering mother or the unavoidable anguish an elderly father experiences at not being able to reunite with his peripatetic son, missed connections often take center stage in award-winning novelist Guterson’s (Ed King, 2011) second short story collection. In 10 perceptive tales, he explores the monumental and circumstantial episodes that form the underpinnings of daily life.There are petty jealousies and niggling insecurities, long-held grievances and newly minted outrages. There are memories that blur when the past and present collide, conjuring up images of good times and bad for fathers and sons, husbands and wives, friends and strangers. Through them all, Guterson’s protagonists confront life’s challenges with something like aplomb, if not outright skill, and in doing so, often uncover unsuspected silver linings in otherwise darkly cloudy situations. While most stories are set primarily within the familiar landscape of Guterson’s native Northwest, several venture farther afield to Germany, Nepal, and South Africa to further highlight the universality of emotional connectivity. Guterson is ­celebrated for his deeply atmospheric novels, and his electrifying short fiction is equally expressive. --Carol Haggas

Review

“Excellent . . . What’s striking about Guterson’s new collection is the consistent brilliance of the set-ups. Each of the ten stories fascinates in a different way, and the main problem is trying to resist devouring these crisply written morsels in one delirious binge.” —John Harding, Daily Mail (UK)

“Guterson’s second story collection displays simplicity even in its titles. Set mostly in the Pacific Northwest but also touching down in South Africa, Germany and Nepal, these 10 spare stories feature characters, mostly nameless and in midlife, trying to connect with family members, lovers and strangers . . . Throughout, intimacy is problematic: elusive, startling and awkward. More often than not, the author’s impulse toward the austere—both thematically and stylistically—proves effective.” —Carmela Ciuraru, The New York Times

“First-rate . . . The stories in Guterson’s second collection portray men and women who experience some sort of people problem. Whether it’s loneliness, anxiety, or depression, they suffer a paradoxical fear of and desire for human contact and intimacy . . . Some of the tales involve burdensome family members; others a new lover or the possibility of one; one has a racial theme. Painfully humorous, ironic, and satiric, each story is realistic, bordering on surrealistic; they’re well-written and well crafted . . . A collection worth reading for its portraits of and insights into personhood and its problems.” —Joseph Peschel, The Boston Globe

“Succinct, ambitious . . . People struggle to connect with each other in these 10 stories from the author of Snow Falling on Cedars. Some return to Guterson’s customary Pacific Northwest, but elsewhere he ranges abroad, with settings including Kathmandu, Berlin and South Africa. Though Guterson’s characters differ in their ages, locations, and worries, all of their stories turn on the thin lines that separate friendship from acquaintance, and the strange from the familiar . . . Guterson reminds us of the boundless potential of everyday encounters.” —Publishers Weekly

“Deeply affecting . . . A strong sense of anonymity and isolation connects the characters in this collection . . . Missed signals, isolation, distancing oneself from social contact—all describe the emotional core of Guterson’s narratives. A haunting collection from a thoughtful storyteller.” —Donna Bettencourt, Library Journal (starred review)

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Customer Reviews

This makes many of his characters seem overly neurotic, but not annoyingly so.
L. Bravim
His beautifully crafted work draws the reader into each story, creating empathy for the individual characters.
delicateflower152
The book is a good value for those of us who love great writing in the short story genre.
Brad Teare

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By delicateflower152 TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In each of the short stories comprising "Problems with People", David Guterson explores the physical and emotional needs, as well as the concerns each one of us has, but may often try to deny. Among the subjects Guterson addresses are the need for social interaction and physical contact; the relationships between men and women, parents and children, brothers and sisters; and the concern each of us with respect to our own aging and to that of others.

In most of the ten short stories, the main characters are unnamed; only minor characters have names. It is as if the majority of individuals are anonymous both to themselves and to others. They have not clearly defined their roles. It is only in the final two narratives that Guterson provides the primary characters in each vignette with names. The title of each narrative highlights the focal point of the story's action or the characters' impetus for their own reaction to events taking place in that particular piece.

David Guterson is a master of tight, uncluttered prose. His beautifully crafted work draws the reader into each story, creating empathy for the individual characters. He allows the reader to identify with the characters' situation. Without fostering distain for their weaknesses, Guterson is able to make the reader understand both the fears affecting the characters and the motivation for their actions.

"Problems with People" is a collection of quiet, powerful stories. Each addresses, without judgment or commentary, some aspect of the human condition. Each may give the reader reason to pause and to consider his or her own life and relationships. David Guterson is one author that the reader may count on to deliver a five-star work of literature.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By she treads softly on June 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Problems with People by David Guterson is a highly recommended collection of 10 short stories that showcase introspective people struggling to connect with each other. Almost all of the characters are isolated in some way, physically or emotionally. They all seem to distance themselves from human interaction or misinterpret social clues, creating drama where there is none.

Most of the characters in Guterson's stories don't even have names, which enhances the sense of isolation and solitude that surrounds them. Each story is a small picture of a character that is being developed subtly, gently, by an author with an understanding of human nature and its nuances.

This is a well written collection that should resonate with those who enjoy thoughtful short stories that focus on character development and the frailties of human nature.
Contents:
Paradise - a couple in their sixties who met through an online dating service are starting a new relationship
Tenant - a landlord struggles over his questions about his new tenant
Pilanesberg - an adult brother visits his dying sister in Africa
Politics - a man admires a beggar tenacity at first and then has enough of him
Feedback - a woman obsesses over Hamish McAdam's name and its seemingly incongruous ethnicities
Hot Springs - a judge who ignores being Jewish is reminded of his heritage
Krassavitseh - a father and son tour Holocaust memorials in Germany
Shadow - the retired narrator has developed short-term memory loss which negatively impacts his life
Photograph - a couple grieve over their grown son's drowning death, while the wife blames her husband
Hush - a friendship develops between a dog walker and her gravely ill customer

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday for review purposes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. JEFFREY MCMAHON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The good news in Guterson's collection (I've never read Guterson, much venerated writer, before) is that the prose is assured, precise, clean and very pleasing to read; the opening paragraph is always deft at creating the character's immediate crisis and sensibility; every story has a concrete, tactile sense of place; in the better stories, the characters suffer with confusion and ambiguity in their lives in a way that is convincing and satisfying.

However, the less than good news, for me anyway, is that there is a sentimental streak in some of the stories that read like romances dressed up in literary fiction such as the very promising "Paradise" about a senior citizen couple dating from match.com and dealing with the awkwardness of intimacy in a convincing and hilarious manner until the story diverts into the woman telling a very long, overdone, sentimental story about a lost love from her teen years.

Another problem I had is that Guterson ends too many of his stories in the same way with the character straining for credulity over his or her life situation and the story ending on a question, and here I paraphrase, "Is this really happening to me?" This ending became a bit pat and predictable in a half dozen of the stories.

So while I'm impressed with Guterson's prose style and his adroit creation of character in the compressed short story form, I found my problem with sentimentality and pat endings to give this collection three and a half stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Monika on June 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The stories in Problems with People are ten snapshots of relationships, connections, human experiences, life. This collection explores how we relate to each other and how we perceive ourselves and those around us.

By far, I found "Shadow" to be the most memorable of all ten stories. A newly diagnosed dementia patient attempts to visit his youngest son. This experience causes him to shift from defiance in the face of his diagnosis to acceptance (and maybe resignation). It's difficult to watch, but Guterson's sense of style and atmosphere gently places a thought in the back of your mind: This happens in real life.

That reminder holds true in each of the stories in Problems with People. Whether it's the husband going to great lengths to try to connect with his estranged wife, the budding of an unusual but sweet friendship, or the parents hearing an account of their son's death, Guterson momentarily puts readers into someone else's shoes in a way that brings you out of each story with a little more insight, a little more compassion.

3 1/2 stars. I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.
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