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Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing: Stories Paperback – Deckle Edge, July 21, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 189 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (July 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061724734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061724732
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #996,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this debut collection of eight esoteric stories—three of them prize winners—Peelle's characters negotiate tumultuous relationships and buried memories. This nimbly crafted group of lonely souls range from a one-legged taxidermist, who happens to be the only person in town who does not believe a hungry panther is on the loose, to a winter-bound woman, tormented by her ex-husband but saved by the most unlikely of creatures. In This Is Not a Love Story, a mother comes across a box of old photographs, which remind her of a summer she spent trying to turn a hobby into a career and a lush into a husband. In Sweethearts of the Rodeo, the narrator reminisces about working at a stable with her best friend, tormenting their handsome boss and the rich women who board their horses there. Yet another, The Still Point, follows a man traveling with a carnival, trying to outrun the loss of his twin brother and family home. Peelle writes her meaty characters with vigor and packs each tale with descriptions so subtly vibrant that they warrant multiple visits. (Aug.)
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“Lydia Peelle’s lovely, fluid voice lures you into a world full of heartbreak and devastation.... calls to mind masters of the unsettling short story like Mary Gaitskill, or even Alice Munro. … [Peelle] has the makings of a writer who defies labels and creates her own categories.” (New York Times Book Review)

“With humor and insight, these sharply etched fictions illuminate turning lives conscribed by limited horizons.... Peelle vividly evokes a setting and brings its inhabitants...instantly and convincingly to life.” (Boston Globe)

“An incredible collection of eight gorgeously crafted stories, with wonderfully drawn characters whose individual tales stay with you.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“The eight stories in Lydia Peelle’s debut collection are remarkable for their clarity and precision. . . . artful...” (BookForum)

“Peelle’s acute perception of a squandered world inspires complex, suspenseful stories that celebrate life’s endless improvisation and assertion....darkly lyrical, ironic and compassionate stories...brilliant and stunning.” (Kansas City Star)

“Peelle’s stories in REASONS FOR AND ADVANTAGES OF BREATHING carry a memory of the Southern past that we might find in a short story by Flannery O’Connor or Eudora Welty.” (BOMB Magazine)

“Rock-solid prose, surprising connections, and resounding transformations add up to powerful and significant stories of improvised life in a consumed world.” (Booklist (starred review))

“Peelle writes her meaty characters with vigor and packs each tale with descriptions so subtly vibrant that they warrant multiple visits.” (Publishers Weekly)

“[The stories] read like fully formed classics, as if Bob Dylan was rewriting the stories of Alice Munro. These are eight clear and precise gems, deeply rooted in Southern soil, and alive with every pore to heartbreak and possibility.” (Louisville Courier Journal)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By C. E. Selby on August 22, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I began to read this book of stories--elegies actually--having just finished C. E. Morgan's All the Living. I say this because it seems so ironic that I would discover both books at the same time, each set in areas where tobacco was the main crop. And each brilliantly composed. I say elegies because that is what all of the stories really are. In a world gone mad--and sometimes I truly believe it has--where collecting possessions seems to be our only reason for existence, it is wonderful to have stories like these. I too had a wonderful set of grandparents who also owned and labored on their farm, theirs up at the tippy-top of Vermont where instead of tobacco maple syrup was the crop they harvested (in addition to haying for their Jerseys). These are stories, like Annie Proulx's, which are firmly held together by the landscape from which they emerge. I found many of the characters to be like shadows, ghosts really, who refuse to let go. And that was wonderful for me, seeing the grandfather crying and the son occasionally lifting lids on the spices his long-dead mother once used in her cooking. The landscape in these stories is both harsh and unforgiving and yet not necessarily so because asparagus does continue to grow, year after year, in spite of all else human that has occurred. Tractors replace mules, the mules who created the roads upon which the huge trucks with all their noisiness take these mules off to slaughter. But Lydia Peelle leaves us with those mules because of memory left by those still living. I believe this is a book that will--and should--win awards. And not least it is wonderfully presented in his binding.
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Format: Paperback
Lydia Peele's debut book, "Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing", a superb collection of eight short stories, is an astonishing book written in splendid prose. The cumulative effect of reading these marvelous stories lingers in a reader's mind for a very long time.

There is a unifying theme, a common thread running through most of these stories: the effect of modern technology on the human psyche, the deleterious effect of human progress on nature, the rapidly dwindling wilderness, the pain and cruelty man inflicts on others and also on animals, and the most alarming phenomenon - the diminishing ability of man to empathize with others. These points meld perfectly in the story I most admired, "The mule killers", about the effect of the advent of tractors not just on the narrator's grandfather's farm, but on the grandfather's mind itself. The narrator describes the heart-rending scene of the mules of the farm carted away in trailers to the slaughterhouse, to be sold as cheap meat for dog food. This story just tugged at my heat and caused me a great deal of pain and anguish. This story won the O Henry Award in 2006.

"This is not a love story", "Shadow on a weary land", "The still point", and "Sweet hearts of the rodeo" are extraordinarily good. I enjoyed reading them.

Two of these stories have been featured in the "Best New American Voices", and two others have won Pushcart Prizes also. And all these stories have been published, individually, as e-Books by "Mobypocket".

I do not wish to compare Lydia Peelle with other short story writers such as Jhumpa Lahiri and Alice Munro because Lydia Peelle has a unique voice and a unique style. Reading this book was a great joy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth on September 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
Gripping stories about how development and modern life is changing the south. It's a beautifully written book, however, it is not uplifting, not light. I finished some of the stories asking if there was any hope. I'm not saying not to read the book, since it takes a well written book to make me question how I view the world, but be prepared for the emotions it will surely evoke.
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