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This Day in History (Iowa Short Fiction Award) Paperback – October 1, 2005

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Varallo retreads the familiar cul-de-sacs of bored, awkward suburban adolescence in these 12 solemn tales that comprise his listless debut collection. As the eighth-grade narrator of "The Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg" yearns for his neighbor Carolyn and goofs off with his friend Ben, whose college-age older brother Mark commits suicide, he mulls over The Great Gatsby. The latchkey sixth-grade narrator of "The Pines" (his artist father took up with a college student and ditched his mother) is all too vulnerable to an older bully who drags him into minor vandalism. In "A Dictionary of Saints," the 14-year-old protagonist defies peer pressure and attends the birthday party of unpopular Brady Carson, who accepts his friendship with prickly pride instead of gratitude. "Sunday Wash" establishes a sympathetic kinship between a young boy, Jody, and his mother's well-meaning, but ill-equipped, live-in boyfriend, Ron, when the boy-still grieving his dead father-breaks down in a car wash. Varallo sympathetically paints children unbalanced by death or divorce, but his understated prose aims for insight without often reaching it.
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From Booklist

In this fine debut collection, a young girl says, "There are times so unremarkable in every way, so dull and ordinary, that, when looked back upon with the knowledge of their outcome, stand out like a dime run through the wash." Many of Varallo's characters are approaching adolescence. They're watchful young people who see and feel life's dull and ordinary moments with intensity, sometimes finding glimmering truths in the connections between them. In one selection, a girl at a sleepover observes her host family's living room and sees, in the magazine-strewn coffee table and piano sheet music, clues to what makes a happy family. In another, a boy who finally visits the bedroom of his fierce crush is saddened to find that the objects--a purple bra, a ball of socks--only make him feel more "insubstantial." Tragedy, sorrow, and violence appear on the stories' edges, but through his young characters' quiet, startling perceptions, Varallo seems to celebrate children's intelligence and resilience and the "vast valley charged with mystery and consequence" that is growing up. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Series: Iowa Short Fiction Award
  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Iowa Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877459517
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877459514
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,108,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anthony Varallo is the author of This Day in History, winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award; Out Loud, winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize; and Think of Me and I'll Know (Northwestern University Press/TriQuarterly Books), finalist for the Balcones Fiction Prize. Currently he is an associate professor of English at the College of Charleston, where he is the fiction editor of Crazyhorse.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A stunningly good collection of stories that will make you laugh out loud one moment and break your heart the next. Eleven of the 12 stories are told through the eyes of children, generally preteens or early teens. In the first half of the collection, they're boys coping with bullies, aloof brothers, or distant or absent fathers. The second half of the collection gives ways to girls, dealing with the key relationships in their lives - a sister, a friend with an imagined "perfect" family, or an ornery grandmother who won't speak to the girl's wild mother.

As is this case with most literary fiction, plot takes a back seat to character, and in some of these stories, there's very little plot even by short story standards - just a series of impressions of key moments in characters' lives. But the emotional impact of those gradually accruing impressions pack such a wallop that you're left feeling far more dazzled than you could be by any standard plot arc. Some of these stories were so moving, I immediately re-read them just to fully appreciate their emotional weight. These are stories that I will turn back to again and again. I was particularly blown away by "The Miles Between Harriet Tubman and Harriet Truman," which focuses on a young boy who's the child of divorced parents and who tricks his father into spending more time with him by giving the wrong directions about where he should be returned to his mother after his brief visits with his dad.

The writing here is masterful. Every story offers at least one gem of a metaphor.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is Anthony Varallo's first collection and it is filled with wonderfully funny, intelligent, and surprising stories. I read it in a couple of days and would have read it in one afternoon if work and other obligations hadn't intervened.

Varallo has a light touch and like Updike, I think it's safe to say that his default mode is the comic; at the same time, Varallo is capable of revealing character in ways that are deft, sometimes devastating, truly skillful.

This collection should be read widely and by everyone who loves short stories and contemporary fiction. I think Varallo deserves a large readership.
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This Day in History (Iowa Short Fiction Award)
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