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I Thought My Father Was God: And Other True Tales from NPR's National Story Project Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 13, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, September 13, 2001
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When the call went out to listeners of National Public Radio's Weekend All Things Considered to submit stories about their personal experiences, the results were overwhelming. I Thought My Father Was God: And Other True Tales from NPR's National Story Project contains editor Paul Auster's pick of the best submissions. The stories, whether fact or fiction, all exhibit a heartfelt earnestness to be heard, and share similar themes of bizarre coincidences, otherworldly intervention, love and loss, life-changing experiences, and mundane pleasures. Some are deeply moving, most are not. But it is uplifting and well worth the time to sift through these brief snapshots of our collective human experience.

To give the book shape, Auster has done his best to categorize the material by subject, such as Animals, Families, War, Love, Dreams, and the like. These categories hold true to the submission criteria: "[I was most interested in] stories that defied our expectations about the world, anecdotes that revealed the mysterious and unknowable forces at work in our lives, in our family histories, in our minds and bodies, in our souls.... I was hoping to put together ... a museum of American reality." I Thought My Father Was God is a testament that, despite what on a bad day we may think is a drab existence, we all have a few good stories in us. --Michael Ferch --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Finally, a bathroom book worthy of Pulitzer consideration: the one- to three-page stories gathered in this astonishing, addictive collection are absolute gems. In 1999, novelist Paul Auster (Timbuktu) and the hosts of National Public Radio's All Things Considered asked listeners to send in true stories to be read on-air as part of the National Story Project. Auster received more than 4,000 submissions; the 180 best are published here. The result is "an archive of facts, a museum of American reality." Auster is particularly interested in stories that "def[y] our expectations about the world, anecdotes that [reveal] the mysterious and unknowable forces at work in our lives." Accordingly, a vast number of the stories involve incredible, stranger-than-fiction coincidences: a pendant lost in the ocean off Atlantic City that's discovered 10 years later in a Lake Placid antique shop; the missing pieces of a china set handpainted by the author's grandmother that mysteriously surface at a flea market; a man who turns purple and dies just after being told to "drop dead." Others, while not as improbable, are no less powerful: an anecdote about a ruined birthday cake, for instance, leads one contributor to muse that fighting is "an intimate gesture reserved for the people close to you."; a small boy's realization that his mother has pawned her wedding ring so that she can buy him a school uniform serves as the knockout last line of one of the collection's quieter stories. (Sept.)Forecast: The renaissance in autobiographical writing, the accessibility of these captivating stories, and this title's appeal to all sorts of readers make this an ideal gift book. The push it will get from NPR should ensure robust sales.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 383 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt; Later prt. edition (September 13, 2001)
  • ISBN-10: 0805067140
  • ASIN: B0000AZW7E
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.7 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,535,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
At first blush, I was not impressed with this collection of true-life vignettes collected from NPR's National Story Project. I would leaf listlessly about the book looking for something -- a sentence, a title -- that would catch my interest, and reading the piece (none of the selections, I think, are any longer than four pages) in a second or two. Initially I was disgruntled by the style and voice of some pieces; they would not have been out of place in the "Life In These United States" Reader's Digest feature.
I don't know why I did not shelf the book and pick up something else, but I am glad that I persevered (uncharacteristic for me: I am quite superficial and fickle, overdependent on first impressions) because as I kept reading, I found something within me responding to these stories. Reviewers here have heckled the abundance of sentimentality and reductive life lessons that pulse through these pieces, but they're seeking a literary sophistication from texts that never aspire to anything more than the urge to tell a story. (In the words of one writer included in the collection, "What do you do with a story like [this]? There is no lesson, no moral, barely even an ending. You want to tell it, hear it told, but you don't know why.")
With that provisio, the patient reader will find pieces here of quiet movement, emotional honesty, jaw-dropping coincidence (a lot of these), eerie dreaminess, and everyday wonder. I especially like Joe Miceli's "Taking Leave," with its glimpse of a world I hope I never know; Mary Grace Dembeck's "Act of Memory," which made me cry; "Your Father Has The Hay Fever" by Tony Powell, which is as lunatic as anything by S.J. Perelman; "Table For Two" by Lori Peikoff, and Nicolas Wieder's "Ballerina," stories of love, coincidence, and hope.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is filled with hundreds of vignettes--some funny and some moving, but almost every one interesting (and NOT saccharine as I sort of expected them to be). I pick it up when I walk by it, read one, and feel re-connected and less numb. Give this to someone you know who's tired (it's easy reading) or sad or disconnected from daily reading or daily life. It revives the reader. Great stories. I hope NPR does another one.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is exceptional. I have read many books by Paul Auster and this one, although not technically written by Auster is true to this author's fascination with life's mysterious twists of fate. The stories assembled here are captivating, often deeply moving and sometimes hilarious.
The fact that these are all real stories makes the reader relates strongly to the people involved. These are rich with familiar characters (the grumpy neighbor who hates kids in the title story, the soft spoken grandfather who does not dare confront his wife in "Revenge", etc.) I could not put the book down.
In this day and age where so much attention is given to shallow story lines and pre-packaged entertainment, how refreshing it is to come across these incredible, yet so believable, stories that have happened to ordinary people.
The French version of the book has been published before the American version. This is how I got advanced reading of this wonderful collection of stories. Tip: Most of them make great bedtime stories as well. My 7 year old daughter really enjoys it.
I got the book from my public library but I want to buy it so I can go back to it again and again.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"I Thought My Father Was God: And Other True Tales from NPR's National Story Project" is a superb and unusual book that manages two wonderful things: it confirms the universality of the human experience and it amply demonstrates that everyone, EVERYONE has a story to tell.
The experiences told in this eclectic and endlessly absorbing collection are varied and run the gamut of experiences life has to offer. There are stories of love, loss, regret, joy, sorrow, and growing up. The subjects that bring on these emotions are as varied as a pet bird, a sharp slap from a parent, a new piece of clothing, a weekend alone at the beach, a party in which the increasingly annoying guest of honor gets his face pushed into the cake, a reconnection with a former lover, a loose car tire, and a harrowing audition for a sleazy adult film.
Some of the stories are flatly told, facts laid out on the page. Others take loving care with the details. Either way, the accretion of all the stories gives the reader a most satisfying sense of membership by the end of the book--membership in the human race.
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Format: Hardcover
Based on the sample stories recited as a monthly feature on NPR, I purchased this book ro read while on a couple of long plane rides, thinking the short stories would be well suited to the task of keeping the mind entertained among the numerous waits and between the various interuptions becoming a standard of airline flight. For the first several stories, I felt I was on the right track. But my initial enthusiasm soon waned, as the repeated themes and predictability of outcome of most of the stories became more apparent.
Surely, there are some real gems in this catalog of American life, but other efforts range from the plain to the rediculous. I'm sure that Paul Auster had a difficult task in selecting among the many entries submitted, but eliminating a few of the "miracle" tales would surely have made it a better read.
The organization of the book unfortunately emphasizes the sameness of many of the stories by grouping essays about objects, or war, or whatever, one after another. I suggest that an interested reader pick stories at random, to keep the topics fresh...
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