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The Wedding Cake in the Middle of the Road: 23 Variations on a Theme Hardcover – January, 1992


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 206 pages
  • Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc; 1st edition (January 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393030806
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393030808
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,786,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This rewarding collection of short fiction is the product of a larky idea from writer and teacher Garrett and National Public Radio program host Stamberg. Originally presented to six writers, the challenge was to create a short story suitable for radio, incorporating the image of a wedding cake in the middle of the road. The invitation was extended to 17 other writers for the purposes of this book. The tales run from sad to funny, sentimental to cynical. Of the original six, Stuart Dybbek's "I Never Told This to Anyone" is a touching story about a lonely boy's friendship with an imaginary bride and groom, "their shoes covered with frosting," who visit him. In "Eternally Yours," Joy Williams tells of a special dumping ground for plastic wedding cakes, "the prettiest place plastic ever made." A surreal image typical of his work--the figure of the groom removed from the cake by crows, dominates Ron Carlson's "A Kind of Flying." Judith Guest provides a whimsical story, Ann Beattie an intriguingly offbeat tale and Garrett a witty one. Other contributors include Josephine Humphreys, David Leavitt, Richard Bausch, Mary Lee Settle and Bharati Mukherjee. Although some of the tales are slight, the reader will enjoy the anticipation of encountering the central image in diverse contexts.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

National Public Radio personality Stamberg, along with novelist Garrett, got the bright idea to have 23 writers--Richard Bausch, Ann Beattie, Madison Smartt Bell, Stuart Dybek, and a host of others--work independently of each other on a story that incorporates the title image. The resulting anthology--some of these stories were first read on NPR--is more a novelty item than a worthy dive into contemporary fiction. Dybek's ``I Never Told This to Anyone'' is a touching fabulism about ``a little bride and groom'' who ``would come to visit me at night,'' though it's more self-conscious and mannered than Dybek's better work; Charles Baxter's ``Possum'' is an amusing dialogue story, mostly between a sister and her younger brother; Kelly Cherry's title story is a delicate but all-too-brief prose poem; Bausch's ``Tandolfo, the Great,'' about a clown who loses his cool at a birthday party for a five-year-old, is clever but forced; Beattie's ``Picture Perfect'' is a slight present-tense account that combines Virginia Woolfian lyricism and some notes (one character is a photographer) on perspective. The three most affecting tales--in their own right, not as variations on a theme- -are Al Young's ``The Subliminal Cakewalk Breakdown,'' in which a narrator, forced to leave the California freeway, breaks down at a zany, surreal truck-stop and becomes involved in the lives he finds there; Bell's ``Pawnshop,'' about a narrator at said pawnshop who must deal with a junkie friend and with his own conscience; and Mary Lee Settle's ``Dogs,'' an evocative southern reminiscence. Stamberg tells us she came to this idea after having writers concoct first a chain novel and then a chain mystery. Such ideas make sense to fill air time, but aren't particularly worth memorializing in a gimmicky book like this. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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By Scout on February 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The stories in this book were quite clever, save for several in which the author seemed to insert the wedding cake as an afterthought.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Manola Sommerfeld on June 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Attractive premise, but very poor delivery. Some stories left me feeling sticky and uncomfortable ("Tandolfo the Great"), some others disappointed (i forgot the title of the one about the bigoted Southern lady who is finally moving out of her multicultural neighborhood). The best story, in my opinion, is the one written by Pam Houston, about the engagement proposal. But one story is not enough to save a book. There are many other compilations of short stories to waste your time on this one.
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