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Where the God of Love Hangs Out: Fiction Hardcover – January 12, 2010

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Editorial Reviews Review

A Letter from Author Amy Bloom

Short Is Good
I have loved short stories since I was a girl reading Hawthorne and Poe. Melville was a little sophisticated for me; I had to wait until I was a sulky teenager to love “Bartleby the Scrivener,” and then I took to walking around the house murmuring “I would prefer not to.” My father, a Melville admirer, begged for mercy. At the same time that I was reading the great American 19th century short story, I was also discovering my father’s library of pre- and post-World War II wits. Dorothy Parker was not just the funny, brittle woman at the Algonquin Table; she knew sadness and self-deception from the inside out and she could put it on the page with painful, personal frankness and not a bit of self-preserving paint or pretense. Her sentences are wry, but they bleed (“The Big Blonde”). I read S.J. Perelman, the Jewish smart-aleck of “Westward Ha!” and Robert Benchley, the urbane gentleman who could keep his head and his martini, even on an ice floe. (“Drinking makes such fools of people, and people are such fools to begin with, it’s just compounding a felony.”) I read odd, funny, sometimes disturbing James Thurber and used his “In the Catbird Seat” to plan my comeuppance of my high school principal.

The great pleasure for me in writing short stories is the fierce, elegant challenge. Writing short stories requires Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart and some help from Gregory Hines. We are the cat burglars of the business: in and out in a relatively short time, quietly dressed (not for us the grand gaudiness of 600 pages and a riff on our favorite kind of breakfast cereal) to accomplish something shocking—and lasting—without throwing around the furniture.

Flannery O’Connor (a reliable source when appreciating the short story) wrote that short stories deliver “the experience of surprise”. The surprise, I think, is that so few pages can contain so much, that what is taken to be a prism turns out to be not only a window, but a door, as well.

If you’re an American reader, you can love short stories the way other Americans love baseball; this is our game, people! We have more than two hundred years of know-how and knack, of creativity. Of the folksy and the hip, of traditional yarn-spinning and innovative flourishes. Of men and women, of war and loss and love, with a few ghosts and many roads not taken. And in all of that, you will find some of the funniest and most heartbreaking fiction, ever. (You could take a break right now and go find Parker’s “The Waltz” and Carver’s “Cathedral”.)

Short stories have no net. The writer cannot take a leisurely sixty pages to get things moving, or make a side trip onto a barely related subject, or slack off in the last forty pages. Everything is right now, right here, in the reader’s grasp and mind’s eye. The writer has 20 to thirty pages to entice, seduce, enter and alter the reader. For me, the short story is the depth of a novel, the breadth of a poem and, as you come to the last few paragraphs, the experience of surprise.

From Publishers Weekly

Bloom's latest collection (after novel Away) looks at love in many forms through a keenly perceptive lens. Two sets of stories that read much like novellas form the book's soul; the first of which revolves around two couples—William and Isabel, Clare and Charles—and begins with Clare and William falling into an affair that endures divorces, remarriage and illness. Bloom has an unsettling insight into her character's minds: Clare's self-disgust is often reflected in her thoughts about William, demonstrating the complexity of their attraction as their comfort with each other grows, until she finally accepts the beauty of what they have—albeit too late. The second set of stories, featuring Lionel and Julia, is more complicated; the death of Lionel's father propels Lionel and Julia together in a night of grief, remarkable (and icky) mostly because Julia is Lionel's stepmother and his father's widow. As years go by, it is unclear whether Lionel's difficulties are due to that indiscretion, but watching Bloom work Lionel, Julia and her son through the rocky aftermath is a delight. The four stand-alone stories, while nice, have a hard time measuring up against the more immersive interlinked material, which, really, is quite sublime. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (January 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400063574
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400063574
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,189,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

AMY BLOOM is the author of two novels and two collections of short stories, one a nominee for the National Book Award and the other a National Book Critics Circle Award nominee. Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, and numerous anthologies here and abroad. She has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, Slate, and Salon, among many other publications, and has won a National Magazine Award. Her first book of nonfiction, Normal: Transsexual CEOs, Crossdressing Cops, and Hermaphrodites with Attitude, is an exploration of the varieties of gender. A practicing psychotherapist, she lives in Connecticut and teaches at Yale University. Multiple Audie®; Award winner Barbara Rosenblat has been named a "Voice of the Twentieth Century" by AudioFile magazine. The New York Times writes,"Watch Ms. Rosenblat work...and you get the sense that even an Oscar winner might not be able to pull this off." She created the role of "Mrs. Medlock" in the Tony®; Award-winning Broadway musical The Secret Garden.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Amy Bloom is a great writer. Period. She, in this reviewer's opinion, is perfection. Every word is just right, every character someone you could know. And one feels privileged having been allowed to breach the forcefield of her imagination.

WHERE THE GOD OF LOVE HANGS OUT is an often funny, always awe-inspiring journey into the lives of very different American families who experience the common traumas of life, such as aging and death. Throughout the eras, we see these families growing up and growing apart, falling in love, cheating, and learning to live with --- and without --- one another. Every moment is authentic, genuine and utterly unique. Bloom's quiet mastery of her craft takes us into the heart of a group of human beings who will feel like members of your own family by the time the last page is turned.

One such group is best friends Claire and William. William is an overweight bon vivant with a penchant for cigars, comfort foods and said best friend. Although they are married to kind, attractive and doting people, their attraction to each other gets the best of them, and they launch a full-fledged infidelity attack during a late-night movie viewing. Their affair continues for some time, despite both of them having what seems like very loving marriages. Eventually, they extricate themselves from their marriages and come together only to find out that happily isn't really ever after. Do they deserve what they get? Is there any hope for a relationship created on lies and deception? There are no judgments here, no aspersions cast --- Bloom just offers the emotional parameters that define their choices and allows the reader to make their own decisions about the consequences.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Karen Hardcastle on February 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I love Amy Bloom and as such own all of her previous books. So I was a little annoyed when I realized that three of stories in this book had been previously published in Come to Me and Even a Blind Man can See How Much I Love You. I understand collecting things previously published in magazines, but in other books makes me nuts. I buy a lot of books and don't need to buy anything twice. That being said - the stories are lovely - managing to convey romance, regret and a sense of the miracle of life all at once. If you haven't already read her other collections this one is certainly worth it.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By valibrarian on January 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Amy Bloom reached the bestseller list with her novel "Away", the strange but fascinating tale of a young Jewish woman 100 years ago who decides to cross a continent alone in search of her missing daughter. This new book is a collection of short stories that are linked by several sets of characters. In that regard, this collection resembles "Olive Kitteridge", the pulitzer prize winner from Elizabeth Strout. It's similar writing insofar as Amy Bloom has the complete skill set- beautiful style, deep and memorable characters, brilliant exploration of human relationships. Warning, these stories involve intense situations of loss, love, longing, and survival, and it is too much to absorb at one sitting- the book should be read over several days in small doses. It's also not for fans of Patterson or Dan Brown, because you have to get very involved in it and go slow. But it is very rewarding. I would definitely read whatever Bloom puts out. Bloom teaches creative writing at Yale University.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C. Green on April 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Amy Bloom's Where the God of Love Hangs Out clearly aims to be a series of meditations on unusual instances of love. It examines the bearers of that love, their relationships to each other and to small but widely varying peripheral casts, and does its best to make no judgments, to present them to us and make way for our own assessment. As a treatment of the subject of love in all its agony and splendor etc., the stories are an impressive success. But as a series of engrossing and moving tales, they are far less so.

The book is divided into two primary sequences of stories chronicling two rather unusual couples, punctuated by several shorter stand-alone pieces. Characters are often well developed and detailed, and the manifestations of love are, of course, interesting and compelling in their own way. But where Bloom falls short is in her efforts to make them likable, to draw us in and force us to invest ourselves in their troubles and triumphs.

The first sequence follows William and Clare, aging extramarital lovers whose respective spouses are more suited for each other than for them. The second follows Lionel and Julia, a stepmother/stepson pair brought together by a connection that I never entirely bought into. These relationships are ambitious in scope, and occasionally they do ring true enough to move the reader, but a great deal of time is spent on circumstances surrounding the love, so that almost no attention is paid to the love itself. The characters that result are often hollow and bare, in spite of the careful effort on the part of the author to flesh them out and make them come alive for us.
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