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The Conference on Beautiful Moments (Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction)

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0801885181
ISBN-10: 0801885183
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Burgin, author of 11 books (including The Spirit of Returns) and publisher of Boulevard, dwells on the violence, and the humor, of misconnection in impressive detail. In "Mayor Bat," a man picks up a drunken woman at a bar, takes her home, and proceeds to humiliate and terrorize her because she is "addicted to humiliation," and he must change her behavior. "The Second Floor" features another sociopath in the form of a man obsessed by a young girl in a Philadelphia park, Abby, whom he probably killed; the second girl he picks up and takes home learns to look and act like Abby to please her keeper. In "Vivian and Sid Break Up," Vivian does the leaving after 13 years, but feels galled by the prospect of Sid's dating another woman. The narrator of "Robert and His Wife" is a lonely man who befriends the charismatic Robert at a literary meeting, but finds double dating his fabulous ex-wife. The title story, set at a Florida conference on beauty that grows increasingly more confessional and bizarre, concludes this astute exploration-touched with satire-of emotional vacancy and its attendant brutality.
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From Booklist

Burgin skates along the edge of realism and dark fantasy in fiction so supremely well made that all manner of fancy and menace is readily ingested. Founder and editor of Boulevard, a professor, a Pushcart Prize regular, and the author of a dozen books, including The Identity Club (2005), Burgin is sophisticated, versatile, and receptive to the strange amalgams of voluntary and involuntary behavior that add up to our polymorphous nature. Each short story in his sixth collection pairs opposites and swerves in unpredictable directions. Sometimes disaster is averted, as in the tricky, ultimately charming "Vivian and Sid Break Up," or repressed, as in the masterfully creepy "The Second Floor," a story about a young prostitute and a seemingly timid rich man. In another, an aging and presumptive movie star seduces her wimpy biographer and snubs her handsome butler. In another, a journalist infiltrates a conference ostensibly concerned with aesthetics that has morphed into something monstrous, a devolvement in keeping with Burgin's wily humor and sure sense of the fine line between the absurd and the malignant, the droll and the consequential. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (November 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801885183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801885181
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,676,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
While many readers may find Richard Burgin's work disturbing, there is no doubt he is a master storyteller. Each word and phrase is carefully crafted and compels the reader forward. Often the endings do not seem to resolve much, rather they seem to hurl you into darkness, spinning and twirling, disoriented, and awash in loneliness, with an eerie sense of "it's not over yet." But if you are confident enough to regain your footing and if you appreciate the glow of exquisite writing, then don't deny yourself these stories.

Women in particular may have a hard time finding Burgin palatable, as his work is often about male strangeness, lurking emotional twists, and implied violence. But for those women wanting to explore the dark psyche of disturbed men, and the motives of female characters who interact with them, it can be eye-popping and intellectually stimulating.

Even trying to review Burgin's work can be daunting. The stories vary widely in content. The characters are complex. And the endings often leave you feeling uneasy. (Maybe that's why there aren't many reviews here on Amazon. I'd love to hear from others.) Bottom line, however, this is superb writing. Don't miss out. I echo Floyd Skloot; it's no wonder he won five Pushcart Prizes.

An excellent review by Julia Gordon-Bramer of Burgin's other recent short story collection "The Identity Club" can be found online at nighttimes.
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