Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Book of Other People Paperback – January 2, 2008
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. "The instruction was simple: make somebody up," explains novelist Smith in her introduction to this marvelous compendium of 23 distinct, pungent stories that attack the question of "character" from all angles. From David Mitchell's hilarious rendering of one menopausal woman's fantasy internet love-affair to ZZ Packer's heart-wrenching Jewish guy-black girl romance, each story is, as Smith puts it, "its own thing entirely." There are moments of prosaic precision (Andrew O'Hagan's eerily incisive "Gordon" is introduced "in the talcum-powdered air of the bathroom muttering calculations and strange moral sums about the cause of Hamlet's unhappiness"), but this volume is more than a showcase for deft prose and quirky souls. Toby Litt's lovely, lyrical "Monster," for example, playfully upends notions of personhood, as does Dave Eggers' surprising "Theo," a moving tale of a mountain who falls in love. Also on hand are a number of wonderful graphic shorts: Daniel Clowe shrewdly explores an insufferable critic's solipsistic lapses, Nick Hornby's "A Writing Life" gives a knowing wink with a series of writer bios and mock headshots, and "Jordan Wellington Lint" by Chris Ware cleverly chronicles the first 13 years of its hero's life. With so much to savor-the sensuality of Adam Thirlwell's "Nigora," the knowingness of George Saunder's "Puppy"-this anthology will sate even the most famished short story fan. Sales benefit Eggers's nonprofit literary organization 826 NYC.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"...But just when you're ready to howl in frustration at the anthologification of the book world-I've seen the best minds of my generation, live blogging about recipes that inspire them-along comes The Book of Other People...Other People collects 23 pieces by a who's who of 21st-century geniuses and wunderkinds, from Dave Eggers to Edwidge Dandicat...Smith sent her contributors just one instruction: Make somebody up."
-The Boston Globe
"Whether they are old-fashioned narratives, playful improvisations or comic- strip-like tales told in pictures, these stories force us to re-evaluate that old chestnut "Character is destiny." They remind us that an individual's life is itself a narrative with a beginning, a middle and at least the intimations of an end. And they showcase the many time-honored techniques that writers use to limn their characters' predicaments, from straight-up ventriloquism to the use of unreliable narrators to a "Rashomon"-like splitting of perspectives."
-Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"From its strange, graphic-novelesque cover-an array of cartoonish sketches of odd-looking faces in profile, stacked like ladder rungs-to its uncommonly eye- catching lineup of contributors, "The Book of Other People," a 2008 paperback from Penguin Books, is extraordinary."
"If you only read one book, make it this dazzling selection of short stories..."
-Eve Magazine UK
"...Some of the wittiest and wisest stories you'll read all year..."
"Character provides the thematic key to these stories, all new to this collection, from some of our finest younger contemporary fiction writers.
Editor and contributor Smith (On Beauty, 2005, etc.) invited 22 other authors, many of them (like her) better known for novels than short fiction, to write a story inspired by the creation of a character. "The instruction was simple," she writes in her introduction, "make somebody up." Yet the stories correspond to no consensus about the role of character in fiction, or a return to realism, or the responsibility of fiction to mirror society. To the contrary, what Smith believes the stories show is that "there are as many ways to create 'character' (or deny the possibility of 'character') as there are writers." The title of each story comes from the name of a character or type ("The Monster") with the selections sequenced alphabetically. Many of the writers, including Smith, come from the McSweeney's and/or Believer literary circle (Dave Eggers, Vendela Vida, Heidi Julavits, Chris Ware, Nick Hornby et al.) and most of the contributions range from the short to the very short (Toby Litt's "The Monster" is a four-page paragraph). With proceeds benefiting 826 New York (a nonprofit organization for the inspiration and development of student writing), none of the writers were paid for their work, with the results sometimes more playful (and occasionally slighter) than one has come to expect from them. Jonathan Lethem's Dickensian titled "Perkus Tooth" offers a hilarious dismissal of rock critics. A.L. Kennedy's "Frank" provides an existential parable about a man who isn't who he thinks he is. Though many of the stories have a first-person perspective, the narrator is rarely the title character, and some of the challenge for the reader can be determining whom a story is really about. In Colm T-ib"n's "Donal Webster," the name of the title character is never even mentioned, leaving the reader to guess who is addressing whom.
While the quality inevitably varies, the spirit of the anthology is that reading should be fun rather than work. -Kirkus Reviews
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
For me, the concept of the book was what really won me over. The stories themselves were decent, some better than others. "Puppy," by George Saunders, is a story about a dog that manages to bring together two opposite families, making you sympathize with both. David Mitchell's "Judith Castle" was an interesting take on how internet dating can become just plain sad. And Vendela Vida's "Soleil" gives you just a glimpse inside a love triangle that leaves you begging for more information. I was slightly disappointed with two of my favorite authors, Jonathan Safran Foer (again, another story about immigrants in America) and Nick Hornby (Posy Simmond's illustrations were good, though, just not the idea of an author progressing through life and constantly changing his image).
All in all this a interesting piece of literature, but don't except any sense of cohesion connecting the stories, or for them all to be of the same quality.
There are 23 contributing authors, from the United States, England, Ireland, Haiti and further afield, and the vastly different stories showcase their different styles of character development and description. Editor Zadie Smith is herself the author of three books, and also contributes a story for this anthology.
I thought that some of the stories were absolutely brilliant, but quite frankly, I didn't understand quite a few of them, and one or two were way beyond my limited comprehension skills. I have no doubt that fans of great literature will enjoy this book more than I did, but it's only fair that I warn the casual reader that it isn't always easy sailing.
The first story, "Judith Castle" by David Mitchell of the UK is by far my favorite - a tale of love and loss that certainly isn't all it appears to be at the beginning of the story. This one belongs in my "brilliant" category. There are also two stories done in graphic format, and some that aren't about human characters.
For the sake of simplicity, I list below the stories in two categories - "Stories for Everybody" and "Stories for the Literati"
Stories for Everybody:
1. Judith Castle, by David Mitchell
2. Justin M. Damiano, by Daniel Clowes
3. Gideon, by ZZ Packer
4. Hanwell Snr, by Zadie Smith
5. J. Johnson, by Nick Hornsby & Posy Simmonds
6. Lélé, by Edwidge Danticat
7. The Liar, by Aleksandar Hemon
8. Judge Gladys Parks-Schultz, by Heidi Julavits
9. Soliel, by Vendela Vida
10. Roy Spivey, by Miranda July
11. Cindy Stubenstock, by A. M. Homes
12. Theo, by Dave Eggers
Stories for the Literati:
1. Frank, by A.L. Kennedy
2. Gordon, by Andrew O'Hagan
3. Jordan Wellington Lint, by C. Ware
4. Magda Mandela, by Hari Kunzru
5. The Monster, by Toby Litt
6. Nigora, by Adam Thirlwell
7. Puppy, by George Saunders
8. Rhoda, by Jonathan Safran Foer
9. Perkus Tooth, by Jonathan Lethem
10. Donal Webster, by Colm Tóibín
11. Newton Wicks, by Andrew Sean Greer
I would recommend this book to students of literature, who will enjoy analyzing each author's method of character development, and to people far more literate than myself. I also applaud the editor for organizing this project for a good cause.
Amanda Richards, March 16, 2008