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Vanilla Bright like Eminem Hardcover – September 10, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (September 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151013144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151013142
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #237,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Scots author Faber (The Crimson Petal and the White) practices a distinct and finally winning form of defamiliarization in these 16 short tales, creating characters with very low thresholds for overstimulation, so that the everyday, through their eyes, looks nightmarish or sublime. A man wakes in a pile of garbage in The Safehouse, strips off his fetid raincoat and then can't understand why, as he tries to figure out what day it is, the townspeople want to help him—even after he discerns his name, an address and a phone number printed on his T-shirt. In Serious Swimmers, a recovering drug addict is overwhelmed with love for her son during a swim at the local pool. The homicidal wife-beater on a rampage (in Someone to Kiss It Better) is oddly sympathetic as his misguided coverup goes very wrong. More fantastically, legions of Western businessmen are held in ecstatic captivity by a machete-wielding Miss Soedhono (Explaining Coconuts), while the grotesque 1861 demise of Alchester's richest man (in Flesh Remains Flesh) is freakish and deeply satisfying. Faber's elaborately imagined stories often end at a moment of tension or ambivalence, underscoring his characters' fragility and giving the book an uncanny coherence. (Sept.)
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From Booklist

In the 16 short stories collected here, Faber (The Crimson and the Petal, 2002) continues to demonstrate the full range of his talents. Most of the stories contain a fantastical or magical element that only serves to underline Faber's disquieting take on alienation in modern society, and the effect is somewhat like an episode of The Twilight Zone as penned by Ian McEwan. In "The Safehouse," an emotionally exhausted homeless man enters a shelter where the residents, emitting "an aura of consensual hopelessness," are required to wear T-shirts emblazoned with their psychiatric histories. In "In the Eyes of the Soul," a depressed single mom, who can't afford to move out of her violent neighborhood, agrees to purchase a virtual picture of a living garden to replace her view of the rundown, graffiti-laden store across the street. Not all the stories are as grim, and, in fact, the collection seems to move from dark to light, closing with the title story, a snapshot of a time when the father of two, on vacation with his family, experiences the happiest moment of his life; what should be overly sentimental becomes instead profoundly moving. Expertly crafted short fiction. Wilkinson, Joanne

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
With a nod to the American market, what in Britain two years ago appeared as "The Fahrenheit Twins" now comes, after the success of his Victorian novel "The Crimson Petal and the White," as Faber's third collection of his more usual genre, the short story. If you're wondering about the similarity with his blockbuster, triple-decker, door stopper of a novel (I'm told a sequel's in the works), there's only one story, "Flesh Remains Flesh," that takes place in the mid-19c., and this was one of the weakest entries, in my opinion. However, even this macabre tale displays Faber's genial wit, his edgy sensibility of an outsider, and his fascination with the outré amidst the mundane.

These stories often depict a character out-of-sync with society, or one who shifts slightly away from the norm and finds wonders or horrors. The first two, "The Safehouse" and the slightly less successful "Andy Comes Back," present protagonists who in the first case leave and the second case return from the margins. Faber conjures up a marvellously sinister take on the Panopticon and an Orwellian society of surveillance and suspicion in "The Safehouse" and ends it perfectly. He does this with "Andy" and the "Eyes of the Soul" also, and after three strong stories that begin this collection, "Explaining Coconuts" veers off into an off-beat satire of a deadpan recitation of the properties of that magical fruit to an audience of lustful middle-aged rich men; impossible to explain the tone of this story, but it's almost extraterrestrial in its strangeness. It reminds me a bit of his haunting novel "Under the Skin" in how it evokes an alien sensibility within otherwise ordinary surroundings.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By trainreader on February 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I suppose anyone who has read Michel Faber's two novels - the Twilight Zonish "Under the Skin," and the historical epic "The Crimson Petal and the White," will hardly be surprised at the extraordinary array of ideas that are contained in "Vanilla Bright Like Eminem," which consists of 16 well-crafted and insightful short stories. Very briefly, here they are:

1. The Safehouse: In a future dystopian society, the homeless are warehoused in barrack-like surroundings with their histories written in code on their t-shirts.

2. Andy Comes Back: Andy, long in a semi-catatonic state,wakes up, but will he want to resume his old life?

3. The Eyes of the Soul: Trading a harsh reality for fantasy in the squalor of one's own home.

4. Serious Swimmers: A recovering junkie makes another go at the joys (and potential perils) of motherhood.

5. Explaining Coconuts: (Notable) Hard-up businessmen watch an exotic woman do something that will give them a sexual charge they can't get anywhere else (but wait to you find out what that is!!!).

6. Finesse: (Absolutely riveting) A flippant and brutal dictator gives a choice to a female surgeon, who's already spent time in one of his prison's, to either perform a risky surgery and save his life or suffer the consequences.

7. Flesh Remains Flesh: Horror and taxidermy.

8. Less than Perfect: A fantasizing loser believes he finally has the opportunity to take advantage of his job as a grocery store "detective".

9. A Hole With Two Ends: (notable) Even if you have good intentions, don't mess with wild-life unless you know what you're doing.

10. The Smallness of the Action (highly disturbing) A new mom, losing her identity, becomes unhinged and takes it out on her baby.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Lawrence on November 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I picked this up because (1) I adored The Crimson Petal and the White and (2)I liked the title and jacket cover! Seriously, though, I just started it yesterday evening and reading the first story realized I was with a writer who knew what he was doing. A genuine ability to create characters that are both unusual yet enormously relatable. Not exactly sci-fi but it hovers a few feet above the terra firma...in a good way.
---Have now finished the book. Note to American fiction writers: THIS is how you write short stories. Even when the situations are odd or upsetting the writing and characterizations in VBLE are gorgeous. Really, really talented, just the gold standard for short fiction.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Richard LeComte VINE VOICE on March 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a delightful collection of short stories. Faber has a light touch, even when dealing with death, disease, homelessness and out and out boorishness (the geek who chooses video games over a girl and real connections). He's especially good at looking at middle-age male crises: a dad who wakes up from a coma to find himself a stranger in his own house; a dad who finds a brief moment of happiness when he looks at his wife and kids; and the 66 guys who head to Indonesia for a particularly unusual sexual experience. And as for the video-game geek, I'm still mad at him. This volume is worth picking up and keeping so you can revisit a few of the stories, which may turn out to be among your favorites.
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