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The Identity Club: New and Selected Stories Hardcover – October 5, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A master of elevating perversity, callousness and loneliness to the level of story premise, Burgin offers shorts that read as if Raymond Carver and Edgar Allan Poe shared a body and had to write about it. In "The Spirit of New York," a man "gets through his twenties" by inducing, through a variety of creepy contrivances, the startle response in passersby; in the title piece, a secret club takes on the identities of the famous dead and holds meetings of the minds. Matter-of-fact renderings of drugs, STDs, prostitution, alcohol, guns, money, threats, cruelty, shame, desolate public space (often Philadelphia) and depraved indifference shape some stories; others rely on the inherent alienation of boring or dead-end jobs, as when, in "Miles," a fight between a supervisor and trainee results in illicit sex for the eponymous witness. Burgin's style is similarly (and intentionally) prosaic, but it's also the problem: despite fresh-seeming contortions, the people of these 20 stories end up an indistinct, pathological amalgam. Burgin (Ghost Quartet), who has written seven novels and edits Boulevard, selects from four previous collections along with new work, and, oddly, includes a CD of his art songs, praised by composer Ned Rorem. (Oct. 17)
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From Booklist

Burgin, author of Ghost Quartet (1999) and editor of the literary magazine Boulevard, has gathered 20 of his short stories. Most were previously published, some in literary magazines and others in collections. The title story appears in Best Mystery Stories, 2005. Characters live lives of noisy desperation in a dark fictional universe populated by victims and victimizers--it's often unclear who's which. Lonely, alienated people act out bizarrely in violent encounters with strangers. They meet in bars, in parks, at parties, and when trolling the streets looking for prostitutes. In this cosmos, there are definitely no free rides. But despite the darkness of the worldview--possibly because of it--there is a fascination to these stories. Dreams shape lives. Twists in the middle of stories and at endings tantalize and keep readers off balance. And there's an ugly attraction to watching perverse characters enmeshed in urban angst. Recommend this book to fans of Alan Cumyn and Robley Wilson. The publication also includes a CD of Burgin's music and miscellanea. Ellen Loughran
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Ontario Review; Har/Com edition (October 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865381151
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865381155
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,898,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Penn May on January 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
While many readers may find Richard Burgin's work disturbing, there is no doubt he is a master storyteller. Each word and phrase is carefully crafted and compels the reader forward. Often the endings do not seem to resolve much, rather they seem to hurl you into darkness, spinning and twirling, disoriented, and awash in loneliness, with an eerie sense of "it's not over yet." But if you are confident enough to regain your footing and if you appreciate the glow of exquisite writing, then don't deny yourself these stories.

Women in particular may have a hard time finding Burgin palatable, as his work is often about male strangeness, lurking emotional twists, and implied violence. But for those women wanting to explore the dark psyche of disturbed men, and the motives of female characters who interact with them, it can be eye-popping and intellectually stimulating.

Even trying to review Burgin's work can be daunting. The stories vary widely in content. The characters are complex. And the endings often leave you feeling uneasy. (Maybe that's why there aren't many reviews here on Amazon. I'd love to hear from others.) Bottom line, however, this is superb writing. Don't miss out. I echo Floyd Skloot; it's no wonder he won five Pushcart Prizes.

An excellent review of The Identity Club by Julia Gordon-Bramer can be found at nighttimes.

Jeffrey Penn May, author of [[...]]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Floyd Skloot on December 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Richard Burgin's wide range of gifts as a writer of fiction are on generous display in this selection, which includes both new short stories and an assortment of his finest work from previous collections. His edgy, troubled, isolated characters struggle to connect with others, with themselves and their own pasts, with the world around them. There are never easy resolutions to the alienation and loneliness experienced by his characters, only honest, haunting, sometimes frightening choices about what to do. Readers unfamiliar with Burgin's work would benefit from beginning their acquaintance with it here; those who already know and admire it can sample the best of his earlier work alongside several newer pieces. Burgin has won a remarkable five Pushcart Prizes for his stories and readers will leave "The Identity Club" convinced he deserves such honors.
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