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Starting Over: Stories Hardcover – January 13, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Spencer’s first work of fiction, a novel titled Fire in the Morning, was published in 1948, and, as affirmed by her new collection of short fiction, these many years have not dulled the sharpness of her prose nor inched her into out-of-date perceptions of the world. Grand dame of southern letters that Spencer is, she remains a vital, passionate, contemporary-issues writer. She writes especially well about lives ostensibly like anyone’s neighbors, but, like everyone’s neighbors, peculiarities lurk behind closed doors. Take, for example, “On the Hill,” about a couple who live just outside town, new to the area but already known for throwing great parties. Suspicions among the neighbors are aroused when the husband is spotted leaving a church thought kooky by the local Episcopalians. Invitations to parties at their house dry up, and their young son starts wandering away, bizarrely visiting other houses. Abruptly, the family moves away, leaving behind an unresolvable sense of mystery as to the family’s true situation. This story is not alone in the collection in showing the control and ease of a master; each story has superb qualities of artistry and social relevance. --Brad Hooper

Review

“There seems to be nothing this extraordinary writer can’t do… Spencer recounts the details and doings of her characters in such spare, unfussy, almost conversational prose that she sounds at first like nothing so much as a shrewd family storyteller…. Spencer’s great gift is her ability to take ordinariness and turn it inside out, to find focus in a muddle…Dazzling…a work of genius.” (Malcolm Jones - New York Times Book Review)

“Spencer has a special gift for the nuances in “ordinary” human relationships; she creates suspense via anticipation more than through interactions themselves…. Spencer’s strength lies in highlighting human truths in captured moments.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Spencer’s elegant stories are more about what doesn’t happen than what does…. Quiet and spare prose ferries tiny but explosive clues which point to powerful insights lurking between the lines…. In Spencer’s world, the emotional debt ceiling is always on the rise.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Spencer’s first work of fiction, a novel titled Fire in the Morning, was published in 1948, and, as affirmed by her new collection of short fiction, these many years have not dulled the sharpness of her prose nor inched her into out-of-date perceptions of the world. Grand dame of southern letters that Spencer is, she remains a vital, passionate, contemporary-issues writer. [These stories] show the control and ease of a master; each story has superb qualities of artistry and social relevance.” (Brad Hooper - Booklist, Starred Review)

“Spencer [is] an elegant and subtle writer.… Like Chekhov, the moments of most acute misery—those achingly common things that nearly kill us all—are offstage.… There are nine stories here, all wonderful, subtle and complex—which makes the cumulative effect all the more alarming.” (Ann Beattie - San Francisco Chronicle)

“Spencer’s stories dance with the illusion of happiness but swell with unspoken sadness. Humor bubbles to the surface in the most unexpected ways …but that humor, too, is fragile….Starting Over is a veritable Whitman’s sampler of bite-sized stories stitched together by their shared stillness.” (Michelle Moriarity Witt - The Charlotte Observer)

“She is, as she ever was, one of America’s best short story writers, with her invention and craft undimmed. Next time they bring out Spencer’s Selected Fiction they will have to wedge in at least two more masterpieces from Starting Over…” (Wilton Barnhardt - Slate)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; First Edition edition (January 13, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871406810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871406811
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #807,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Lydia on December 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
It says something when an author can boast that they have been writing for seven decades. Seven, folks. Elizabeth Spencer creates a nearly perfect set of short stories with Starting Over: Stories. Some of these stories broke my heart, moved me to tears, and made me put the book down out of sheer self-preservation. I’m a fairly recent convert to the power of the short story (by recent, I mean within the last few years) so for a collection to move me as deeply as some of these stories moved me…well, let me just say that it doesn’t happen as often as I like. Had I read a collection like this during my years of “not-a-fan of short stories,” I think I may have had a come to Jesus moment a little sooner.

There are quite a few solid stories in Spencer’s collection, but I want to talk the most about a particular story. ”Sightings” is a story about a young girl who has come to visit a father who she has partially blinded. During her time with her father, very little comes out. Actually, very little comes out in the entire story. However, Spencer uses tension and some really deft writing to make her reader understand what is fully going on here.

Spencer’s grasp on the intricacies of writing from different viewpoints and of portraying each character in a way that is true to not only themselves in the story, but transcends the story to read life, is something that should be marveled at. During “Sightings,” I felt like I was there, in the story. It was a shock to see it come to an end because I had become so invested in such a short time period. This story alone makes the collection worth owning – but don’t let me talking about just one story convince you that there aren’t also other worthy stories inside.
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Format: Hardcover
“Starting Over: Stories” written by Elizabeth Spencer is well-made collection of stories that manages to show how with a skilled author much can be said in this short literary form.

Elizabeth Spencer is present on the literary scene for almost seventy years, though already her first work attracted the attention - since then, all of her fifteen published works during her fruitful career managed to equally attract the attention of critics and readers.

In “Starting Over” anthology she brought nine new stories none of which have more than 30 pages, and some of them only a few, and regardless of that fact after reading each you’ll be lost in your thoughts for some time being unable to proceed with the next.
Although relatively short, this collection with just over 200 pages, it will be difficult to read in one reading, moreover, I don’t suggest to do that because with its themes and style, the author manages to cause a lot of different strong emotions that would be good to settle down before you continue reading the following story – that’s especially true for some that are very sad.

The theme that runs through all the stories are the things often hidden behind the facade of happy and harmonious families, small secrets that are known only to those who live in them.
The strongest impression in my case left the story “Sightings” that brings the story of daughter who is coming back home to her father who accidentally became blinded during the sad divorce from her mother. In the story less than a 20-page long reader won’t learn much about what happened, but for what you will find out, thanks to the author's style will be enough to be completely drawn into this painful story.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By francine roberson on February 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Elizabeth spencer is a wonderful story teller, but the writing is at times difficult to follow. I recommend this collection of short stories, but with reservations.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Baars Bultman on March 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After hearing the hype on NPR, I considered STARTING OVER a must read. Elizabeth Spencer is good, but to say that she is in the same league with Eudora Welty and Flannery O'Conner is off the mark. Still, the collection is worth your time.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By jym on January 24, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Per columnist D.G. Martin. Author Elizabeth Spencer is 92 years old and best know of her works is "The Light in the Piazza "which was made into a movie in 1962 and more recently the basis of a Broadway musical. Starting over is a collection of 10 individual stories. Excellent read at any age.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
beautifully wrritten, subtle, a definitr Souuthern atmosphere, and comfortable melancholy...referneces to Southern relatives and customes, and food...I am a Southener, as you might have guessed...quiet . and brl;ievablre universal situations thank you.
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The author populates her stories with very individual people who live lives of quiet desperation mixed with uplifting moments of joy. Her terse prose is compelling and her insights into human nature cause reflection.
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Wonderfully written characters, drawing on Southern family life. Author uses seemingly simple memories or actions to create significant insights into relationships in families and, particularly, between spouses.
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