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Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories Paperback – January 11, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 116 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A finely tuned collection by writer's writer Pearlman combines the best of previous collections (How to Fall; etc.) with austere, polished new work. Pearlman's characters for the most part are stiff-upper-lipped Northeasterners who take what comes and don't grumble: in "The Noncombatant," Richard, a 49-year-old doctor suffering gravely from cancer during the tail end of WWII, rages quietly in his small Cape Cod town as celebrations erupt and memories of the wasted lives of the dead are swept away. A fictional Godolphin, Mass., is the setting for many of the stories, such as "Rules," in which the well-meaning staff at a soup kitchen try not to pry into the lives of the "cheats and crazies, drunks and dealers" who frequent the place. "Hanging Fire" is a perfectly crafted story about a 21-year-old college graduate, Nancy, on the cusp of embarking on life and certain only of her obligation to herself. The tale of retired gastroenterologist Cornelia Fitch in "Self-Reliance" reads like the fulfillment of Nancy's own self-determined trajectory: after a successful career, she determines how she wants to leave this life: with dignity and a wink. This should win new converts for Pearlman. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* There is a vast difference between reading Pearlman’s stories in a magazine or anthology and reading this collection. In settings ranging from unnamed South American countries to the Boston suburbs, from the current day to the last century (e.g., the Russian Revolution, WWII), depictions of people, places, and manners are so perfect that the stories become totally immersive. The characters, always interesting, are limned just as strongly whether female or male, young or old. The Latin American minister of health (called the Cow by her enemies) in “Vaquita” and the old man studying Japanese at age 75 in “Relic and Type” both linger in memory long after the book is closed. Stylistically, the stories are complex in their use of language, with technique incorporated seamlessly to engage and provoke readers. Many describe the lives of Jews who have integrated into the modern world and who examine the resonance of Judaism in their lives. The stories’ disparate lengths are no impediment to these qualities. The shorter “The Story” is just as involving as the longer “Binocular Vision.” Give this wonderful collection to fans of such classic short story writers as Andre Dubus and Alice Munro and novelists like Nicole Krauss. They will thank you. --Ellen Loughran

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Lookout Books; 1St Edition edition (January 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982338295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982338292
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.3 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By aidel on October 21, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My first exposure to the incredibly brilliant Edith Pearlman came in the form of her collection Binocular Vision. I want very much to write a helpful, detailed review but honestly I am nearly speechless in the face of such perfection. This writer sees the world with unfettered, original eyes. Her prose is not only flawless but elegant. Somehow, she has the chutzpah to capture the truth of how unglamorous life really is, while surprises -- so original that your heart skips a beat -- wait on every page. Pearlman is incredibly adept at mastering multiple points of view. Many good writers may do one thing very well and stick to their schtick and write lots of perfectly good stories or novels. Part of Pearlman's genius is that she is as comfortable as an eleven year old as she is at forty, or seventy, or whatever perspective unfolds in the story. She is able to both give the reader a real sense of the complexity of a situation while keeping it simple. When you finish reading (and re-reading) this book, you will put it on your shelf next to Chekhov. In fact, she is better than Chekhov. Nothing I can say will adequately prepare you for the genius of Edith Pearlman. So stop wasting your time on reviews, buy the book, and when it comes, call in sick to work and read. Every story will give you the pleasure of discovering something true. Edith Pearlman, thank you.
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Format: Paperback
I am an avid short fiction reader and subscribe to Paris Review and other literary periodicals, so I am surprised that I have not run across more of her stories in the past. This is a wonderful collection to be nominated for a National Book Award, and these are some of the best short stories from a modern English speaking author in a few years. Her writing is so fluid and wonderful. She enlightens the reader, guides the reader into the story; never seems to thrust the story upon the reader or push the reader. She never writes as if preaching or teaching some lesson, but there are lessons to be learned.

The stories are amazing and fluid, and the reader is quickly, nay instantly taken into the world of the story. I fell in love with characters in moments, which is rare indeed for a short story. I particularly enjoyed 'The Noncombatant'. Though I was hooked with the very first story in the collection: 'Inbound'.

*** All you have to do is read "Tess" and you will be unable to resist reading more of this wonderful work. ***

Not since J.D. Salinger have I found a collection of short fiction this utterly engaging, reflective, and rewarding. I look forward to more of her work in the future. She would have my nod for National Book Award for sure!

Update: Upon reading more about this author I discovered that she has won O. Henry awards, a Pushcart prize, that she is older than I thought (judging by her writing style that is), she has some previous works, and also that she has had stories appear in many periodicals, including Ploughshares. I look forward to reading more of her work.

Update: Pearlman won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. You can Google NY Times Pearlman Award for more on the story. I for one am very pleased with her award, and I still consider this the best of the National Book Award Nominees for 2011.
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I have not read all of the stories yet. I am not reading in order. Alongside other reading I am engaged in, every day I open Binocular Vision randomly, and that is the story I read that day. It takes an act of will to keep it to just one. I have probably read 20 stories (a little more than half) and wish there were hundreds still to read. Each one is a life on the page. They are gems, to describe them using an overused and unoriginal word. But gems they are, in 8 or 10 or 15 pages. In each story more than one time, I am stopped cold in my reading. I have to write sentences in my book journal so I can have those amazing sentences to read again sometime. How did I never discover Pearlman before the publication of this book? Well, now I know who she is and what she can do.
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I've always loved short stories, ranging from horror, science fiction,
to classics like de Maupassant and O'Henry. A great short story
gives you an entire world and entire people in twenty pages or
less. While these stories vary in many ways, from settings in Eastern
Europe, Central America, to suburban Boston, with central characters
ranging from children, teenagers, young men and women, to the old and
dying, the author's confident, almost-gentle prose gives them a
similarity of tone that makes reading them all at once a bit
difficult. I needed to read them all in just a few days because it's
a selection for my book club. This made them blend together, which I
think was unfortunate. Most of the stories have Jewish
cultural references, where family history and assimilation or
secularization are issues. The strengths and weaknesses of the
connections between people are also a recurring theme. The prose is
beautifully crafted yet rarely calls attention to itself.

I recommend these stories, but suggest not reading them all at once,
as I did, but savoring them one at a time, to bring out their distinct
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