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Trouble: Stories Paperback – September 12, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (September 12, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307275353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307275356
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.9 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #610,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Somerville's uneven debut collection portrays men and soon-to-be men in various states of transformational chaos. In "Puberty," Brandon, on the cusp of adolescence, attempts to wrest control of his body from Mother Nature by using vitamins to hasten the onset of puberty. In "Crow Moon," Seth mourns his fading childhood and faces a monotonous and unhappy adulthood. Somerville's men don't behave very differently from the teenagers: in "Cold War," an older doctor's affair with a disturbed young woman is the catalyst for a breakdown as he owns up to his impending mortality. One of the collection's better stories, "Trouble and the Shadowy Deathblow," is the first-person account of an unemployed food scientist who learns a deadly martial arts technique from a disabled man. His struggle to control his newfound power becomes a darkly comic portrayal of men afraid of their destructive power. Less successful are short dialogue pieces like "The Train" and "The Whales," which present the banter of teenage boys without sufficient context or the means to involve the reader. At his best, Somerville crafts stories that, with equal parts grace and humility, highlight mordant absurdity and revel in darkly comic moments. (Sept. 12)
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Review

“A darkly comic portrayal of men afraid of their destructive power. . . . Somerville crafts stories that, with equal parts grace and humility, highlight mordant absurdity.” —Publishers Weekly

Trouble is a wittily demented and off-beat collection of stories about the peculiar joys and perversions of the ordinary lives of an eclectic group of boys and men. . . . Wildly entertaining and remarkably funny. . . . Reminiscent of such great, dark storytellers as T.C. Boyle and even Ray Carver.” —Artvoice

“Trouble is a great collection of stories, full of the true adventures of life and what it means to be a man.” —Hannah Tinti, author of Animal Crackers

“These gorgeous stories, written with wit and precision, are energized by Patrick Somerville’s improvisational humor and the authentic sympathy he brings to the tempest of ordinary lives. It is hard to think of another book quite like this one. Every story is provocative, revelatory, and satisfying.” —Stephanie Vaughn, author of Sweet Talk

“Wonderful. Here are stories packed with big-hearted humor, serious compassion, and plenty of loopy narrative thrust to keep you turning the pages. Patrick Somerville’s characters exist in a modern world where love and cruelty are indistinguishable, and he imbues their struggle with real grace. Oddly tender, dementedly funny, this book is a pleasure to read.” —Gabe Hudson, author of Dear Mr. President

More About the Author

Patrick Somerville is the author of two novels - This Bright River and The Cradle - and two books of short stories - Trouble and The Universe in Miniature in Miniature. He lives with his wife and son in Chicago, and he teaches creative writing in the MFA programs at Warren Wilson and Northwestern University.

Customer Reviews

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This is my favorite of Mr. Somerville's works and his earliest short story collection.
Steve1290
Endings that make the reader feel as though they've done something, or learned something, vaguely important just by reading Somerville's stories.
j.live
The stories were great: funny without relying on stereotypes, poignant without delving into sappy.
Hillary I. Schroeder

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on March 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
TROUBLE by Patrick Somerville is a brilliant collection of stories that comes as a surprise, for until the book arrived in my slush pile I had never heard of the author. He writes beautifully in every regard, and most impressive, he doesn't parade his learning and he knows how to craft a plot that perfectly sets off his themes and his symbolism. I learned a lot about the food sciences from his tale of "Trouble and the Shadowy Deathblow," but what I will take away with me is its incisive portrait of a whipped husband and dad whose wife has the power in her eyes to make him jump up from the E-Z chair and do her bidding. He finds himself at a convention in San Francisco and then a special "Monkeys Paw" episode of Steven Spielberg's AMAZING STORIES happens to him in the men's room of his hotel, after a stranger in a wheelchair with a macaw on either shoulder sells him the secret of slaying his enemies with the eponymous "deathblow."

"The essence of trouble," Somerville has written, "is the connection of the emotional and the rational. You make decisions you would not make under normal circumstances." He is especially good at depicting young people, and his story "English Cousin" will have you crying in laughing fits at the dumb and dumber antics of exchange student Bill and his American cousin Terry. If there was an English Anti-Defamation League they'd be planting pickets around Somerville's house and office. As I say he's great with the young, it's when he ventures into the minds and hearts of older men that he's out of his depth. It must be the hardest thing being a fiction writer, having to recreate the inner life of people who are so different than you--men writing women, white writing black, rich people writing poor, whatever.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Hillary I. Schroeder on November 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
The stories were great: funny without relying on stereotypes, poignant without delving into sappy. It's really rare a short story collection can sustain my attention throughout, but this one did.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By K. OMalley on April 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
Being a court reporter in criminal court, I hear a lot of stories about a lot of crazy horrible things. One day on my lunch hour, after viewing exhibits of clothing so caked with dried blood it cracked and fell audibly to the table, I felt the need to go for a walk. I wandered around and discovered a used bookstore. Before going in, I checked out the bargain bins and found this book. I opened it up to the first page and read the first line. I knew right away I'd be taking it home with me.

I've come to understand that reading is a kind of treasure hunt where the gold is the human condition laid bare, not in a cruel or cynical way, but with humor and compassion. This is what Mr. Somerville's writing is. I have not enjoyed a collection of stories so much since Vonnegut.

I am very excited to have discovered this wonderful author. I look forward to reading Cradle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By j.live on September 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
In 'Trouble,' Patrick Somerville writes stories about restless characters trapped in a conformist's world. Midwestern rebels of sorts. Somerville has a consistent sense of humor. The kind that hangs back, then attacks in the instant before you've forgotten how effectively he can tell a joke. And good jokes at that. The kind of jokes that force you to put the book down for a minute or two, to commemorate each joke with a head shake and an audible laugh. Some stories in 'Trouble' made me feel nostalgic about events in my own life, while most of the stories made me feel nostalgic about events that had no visible similarity or relevance in my life, which is a great compliment to Somerville's ability to be compelling, even when his subject matter is alien.

Somerville achieves great versatility in this book as his topics range from the all-encompassing vulnerability of puberty in 'Puberty,' to the fantastically funny look at the pros and cons of possessing the "deathblow" technique within the corporate snackfood world in 'Trouble and the Shadowy Deathblow.' Then from the heartbraking decline of a once-great cousin amidst tragedy in 'Black Earth, Early Winter Morning,' and a middle-aged widower's unraveling despite the sexual comfort of a runaway teenage girl in 'The Cold War,' to a sweet eulogy of sorts by a young man reflecting on his deceased dentist in 'So Long, Anyway.'

But perhaps the greatest aspect of the stories in 'Trouble,' is Somerville's ability to finish a story satisfactorily. His stories have endings, endings visible enough to touch. Illuminating endings without pretentiousness, that reinforce and reward the reader for reading the story all the way through. Endings that make the reader feel as though they've done something, or learned something, vaguely important just by reading Somerville's stories.
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