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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing
I haven't read either of Crane's earlier story collections (When the Messenger is Hot and All This Heavenly Glory), but definitely get the sense from the sixteen stories here that she's got her own style, and if you liked either of those collections, you'll like this one too. Not quite sure how to describe or define that style, but her work has appeared in Nerve, The...
Published on April 8, 2008 by A. Ross

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I'm sorry, I want a divorce.
Given how much I liked Crane's earlier books I hope you'll understand it upsets me to say this.

After reading her first collection, I wanted to kiss her sentences. Her second took me a step further: I wanted to marry her sentences and have children with them.

It felt like a progression for Crane, too, building to a novel. I'm not one who thinks a...
Published on June 9, 2008 by B. A Varkentine


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing, April 8, 2008
This review is from: You Must Be This Happy to Enter: Stories (Punk Planet Books) (Paperback)
I haven't read either of Crane's earlier story collections (When the Messenger is Hot and All This Heavenly Glory), but definitely get the sense from the sixteen stories here that she's got her own style, and if you liked either of those collections, you'll like this one too. Not quite sure how to describe or define that style, but her work has appeared in Nerve, The Believer, a McSweeny's anthology, and another anthology called "The Best in Underground Fiction" (among other places), which might help to give a sense of her sensibility. It's somewhat sharp, somewhat sweet, somewhat quirky (ugh, I hate that word), somewhat satirical, somewhat pop culture referencing, and permeates every story. In that sense, it's definitely a collection best read a story at a time, spaced out over a few weeks, otherwise the stories are liable to run together.

Some are basically, one-trick ponies, built on a single premise that can barely sustain the few pages allotted to it. For example, the first story, "My Life is Awesome! And Great!" is a rambling monologue by a woman desperately trying to convince herself of the titular statement, and every sentence of her monologue ends with an upbeat exclamation point. Like this! "Notes For A Story About People With Weird Phobias" is just that -- ten pages outlining a prospective talk show about people scared of strange stuff. In "What Happens When the Mipods Leave Their Milieu," the author of an acclaimed graphic novel about religion is hired by a university and doesn't know how to confront the assumption of irony placed upon his work.

Others are more surreal and correspondingly interesting. One of my favorites is "Clearview," about a normal small town in which everything suddenly appears transparent, clothes, buildings, everything. How that plays out, how people react, and what happens to those who can still see solid objects is really compelling and satirical. Another excellent example is "Donovan's Closet," in which a woman becomes addicted to her new boyfriend's closet. I also quite liked "Blue Girl," about a girl whose forehead becomes a fortune-telling device and the collection's titular story, about a photographer who time-travels to an era when being happy is unlawful, but still manages to find love.

On the whole, I could have lived without some of the more gimmicky stories, but there's an underlying happiness and joy to the stories that is an exceedingly refreshing antidote to the overwritten (oops, I mean carefully crafted) short fiction one tends to find in the mainstream outlets and major publishers. Definitely not everyone's cup of tea, but worth a taste just to see if you like it. Unfortunately, none of the stories are available at the author's web site, but if you poke around a little online you can probably find one or two to sample.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Smart, fun, delightful short stories, January 1, 2010
This review is from: You Must Be This Happy to Enter: Stories (Punk Planet Books) (Paperback)
This statement will be sacrilege to many of you: I do not normally read short stories.

Personal backstory: I discovered Elizabeth Crane, one of my favorite authors, when her first book of short stories, When the Messenger is Hot, was first published. I read a glowing review in Entertainment Weekly and immediately requested it from the library. When I picked it up, I realized it was short stories. I reread the review, and I decided to read it. To this day, it's one of my favorite books. I eagerly read her second collection of stories, All This Heavenly Glory, and I finally got around to reading her third collection, You Must Be This Happy to Enter.

Review: Short story collections are difficult to review. I'll say this: the first story ("My Life is Awesome! And Great!), where each sentence ends in an exclamation mark except for those that end in a question mark, was my favorite. I was laughing ridiculously loudly as I read it on the bus, and I didn't care when I missed my stop. The last story, "The Promise," is my other favorite. It's a book that simultaneously inspires me to write and wows me this writer's talents. It's inspiring without being daunting.

Elizabeth Crane's writing is difficult to describe, and I fear I won't begin to do her justice, but here's my best attempt: she writes brilliantly, simply, subtley and with an amazing rawness. She's smart and cool; she's an impossible combination of high-brow and low-brow. You can tell by her varying styles that she's a McSweeney's writer.

The Short of it: Read it. Even if you don't like short stories. If you do, read it now. The entire collection is less than 200 pages. It won't take long. Then check out When the Messenger Is Hot. If I had as much money as Oprah, I would buy a copy of this book for anyone who wanted one. As it is, a few family members and friends may find a copy heading their way soon.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The word "glad" appears on my forehead, May 27, 2008
This review is from: You Must Be This Happy to Enter: Stories (Punk Planet Books) (Paperback)
Crane's early collection impressed me, and I am so often unimpressed with short-story collections nowadays. So I picked up "Happy" and ended up happy I did. These well-written, erudite and slightly off-key stories add up to a collection that probes the ideas of fate, faith and longing in ways that permit happy (or at least open-ended) endings. "Promise" made me a bit weepy, because all contemporary parents (at least parents of a certain age) feel like that -- we're not going to be our parents, but we are, and yet we're not. The "forehead" story was poignant as well. Her sentences, especially the long ones punctuated buy exclamation points and filled with subordinate clauses, many of which are funny asides, and often veer into unexpected areas, like cheating or noisy neighborhoods, generally are great!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I'm sorry, I want a divorce., June 9, 2008
By 
B. A Varkentine (Seattle, WA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: You Must Be This Happy to Enter: Stories (Punk Planet Books) (Paperback)
Given how much I liked Crane's earlier books I hope you'll understand it upsets me to say this.

After reading her first collection, I wanted to kiss her sentences. Her second took me a step further: I wanted to marry her sentences and have children with them.

It felt like a progression for Crane, too, building to a novel. I'm not one who thinks a writer has to write novels or she is worthless, but that did seem to me to be the direction in which Crane was going.

Most of the best stories here, like "Clearview" and "What Happens When the Mipods Leave Their Milieu," deserve more space than they get. The best characters, like the girl whose forehead becomes a magic 8-ball, certainly do. "Promise" ends the collection on a moving note, but it feels like a first chapter rather than a self-contained story.

Comparing this to Crane's last book is like comparing a night taking in a show at the theater to one channel-zapping around the cable box. Both are very passable ways to spend an evening, but one has more substance.

Even kissable sentences are few and far-between--I only remember one, and it's more of a smutty joke than a beautifully-bagged phrase. Which isn't a bad thing (smutty jokes), but when it's the most memorable line in an Elizabeth Crane book...the thrill is gone, baby.
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5.0 out of 5 stars You'll be even happier once you get inside, March 5, 2008
By 
Jon S. Wesick (Carlsbad, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: You Must Be This Happy to Enter: Stories (Punk Planet Books) (Paperback)
This is a collection of original, hilarious stories. My favorite is "Betty the Zombie" about a woman who gets on a theraputic reality show to deal with her "human flesh eating issues."
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You Must Be This Happy to Enter: Stories (Punk Planet Books)
You Must Be This Happy to Enter: Stories (Punk Planet Books) by Elizabeth Crane (Paperback - December 1, 2007)
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