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Things You Should Know: A Collection of Stories Paperback – Bargain Price, September 2, 2003

23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Homess first collection since 1990s much-praised The Safety of Objects offers 11 sharply original portraits of domestic life: the distance between family members, the minor wars between friends and lovers. Written over the last decade, with several stories previously published in glossies and literary magazines, this volume confirms Homess reputation as an expert stylist and unique chronicler of suburban drama. Conception takes a strange turn in Georgica, as a woman recovering from an accident fixates on the golden boys of the beach and plots to make one of them the father of her child. The narrator of The Chinese Lesson finds his sympathy for his confused, homesick mother-in-law, Mrs. Ha, has alienated him from his wife, who has spent her life trying not to be Chinese. In the title piece, a fourth-grade teachers list of things you already should know but maybe are a little dumb, so you dont becomes an obsession for the narrator, who missed school the day it was supposedly handed out. A shape-shifting woman who visits the insouciant, anorexic girl of Raft in Water, Floating finds her own story in The Weather Outside Is Sunny and Bright. Not much happens in it, she goes to her job (architectural forensics), visits her mother in a nursing home, takes a bath and casually exercises her powers, but the story feels full anyway, replete with a strange magic. It's precisely this sort of thing that makes Homes so good.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Twelve years after her debut, The Safety of Objects, Homes once again unearths the dark side of domestic life in a handful of disturbing pieces, Here, relationships and emotions are scrutinized within abnormal situations. The stories present a series of uniquely memorable characters: a woman who spies on young couples making love and who tries a bizarre method of impregnation, a shape-shifter who can transmogrify into various animal and human forms, a young boy whose idyllic summer is jolted by an accident, an anxious man who wants desperately but futilely to enjoy life, and a former President of the United States afflicted with Alzheimer's. Homes's storytelling is hypnotic, allowing the reader a peek into the exotic thoughts and worlds of people we do not normally meet in literature. Despite the oddness of the stories, readers are still able to identify with the characters. Engaging and dynamic, Homes's writing is remarkably surreal. Recommended for all fiction collections. Colleen Lougen, Mt. St. Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (September 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060520132
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060520137
  • ASIN: B000GG4I3S
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,687,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By hllib on October 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Homes has a vivid imagination and outstanding writing skills. She's in command of her storytelling technique. Her prose strikes all the right notes. She's even good at characterization.
Unfortunately, she's a slave to literary fashion, specifically, boring, New Yorker-style catatonic realism. (In fairness, perhaps to break the mold a little, Homes tosses in some self-consciously clever surrealistic bits here and there, but it doesn't work.) Homes gets accolades because she believes all the right things and expresses them in all the right ways -- but that's not the sign of an intellectually rigorous writer.
The women tend to be hyper-accomplished professionals, usually married to confused, weak men whom they have to dress and feed in the morning. This scenario got tired after the second story. By the fourth I began to feel like I was dealing with an ideologue.
Of course, that's the risk when you put together collections of stories from the last ten years. You start to see the writer's tricks ... for example, several of her characters are obsessed with being prepared. They try to stock up on emergency supplies to plan for every conceivable occurrence. OK, good enough idea once. But two, three times?
Recommendation: If you like New Yorker-style fiction, you'll really enjoy this. If you want ideas and characters explored in a little more depth, take a pass.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Adam Kelly on September 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
Dissatisfaction is the emotion experienced by most of the characters in this collection, but is also, unfortunately, the most likely reader response to the work.

Homes has undoubted talent, and most of the stories start well and have interesting themes. However, she doesn't seem to know where to go with many of the pieces, and the endings uniformly pack no punch at all, rather allowing the stories to peter out into forgettableness.

The two exceptions to this trend are 'Georgica', startling if only for its premise of a woman who inseminates herself using sperm found in used condoms (!), and the outstanding title story, in which all Homes' best absurdist traits are on show. Perhaps significantly, the latter is the shortest piece in the collection.

This is not a terrible book, and is probably worth about 2.5 stars, but how anyone could give it 5 is beyond me. One is tempted to recommend that those reviewers turn to some of the undisputed masters of the short form for greater delights than can be found here.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Carey on February 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I'm a big A.M. Homes fan, and this is a terrible book. I'd love to read stories the way she used to write them, but they're not in here.
I heard Ms. Homes say at a reading that "Things You Should Know" was conceived to contain stories that all involve "shape-shifting" of some sort. The stories don't display her talent; they're boring. They're pretty bad, really. It reads as though she's coasting, now that she's become as famous as she is. I don't think anyone without a "name" would have got this book published. One of the stories, btw, is on the Nerve website, so you can have a free look.
She's uneven, I think. I used to refer to A.M. Homes as my favorite contemporary author. Now, I find her to be ubiquitous and mediocre. This book is perfect example of her mediocre writing. Ms. Homes, though, is marvellously talented. Read "Music For Torching" (my favorite) instead, if you haven't. Or "The Saftey of Objects" (my own 2nd favorite) or even "Jack." "In a Country of Mothers" is also easy to skip - her first (I'm pretty sure) and predictable from right near the beginning.
If you've not read Ms. Homes's work, I would definitely not start here. If you're a fan - go for it. I know I'll keep reading what she writes and keep watching her read - though it is becoming tiresome.
As an aside: she's rather unfriendly and pompous in person, a busy-looking-for-better-people-to-talk-to type. But, that's her prerogative. She's earned the right.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Bosiljevac on September 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
As is usually the case with Homes, these stories focus on discontented suburbanites. Mostly weaker men, stronger women. Some very good, if tough to read stories. As always, Homes's writing is quick-hitting. Especially as she deals with more serious topics: a husband and wife couple in which the woman's cancer is exposing the weaknesses in their relationship, the story of a man who hits and kills a kid with his car, and a story about Nancy and Ronald Reagan and dealing with his Alzheimer's. Overall, the stories were less outrageous than some of her other stuff, and several of them seemed to end with punch lines, which I didn't care for. But pretty good stuff otherwise.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
No matter what the gender is, everyone acts irrationally in all of Homes' short stories. It is without rhyme or reason these characters exist to do whatever and to say whatnot. Each tale ends abruptly therefore it is up to the readers to compose their minds about each conclusion. Some are funny than others and all of them are quite bizarre. Extreme usage of adjectives and pronouns in narrating events among more than two people at one time can result in a mild confusion in regards to the actual speaker or doer. Nevertheless, it is a fast read of a collection of peculiar people and happenings.
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