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Field Guide To The North American Family Hardcover – October 1, 2007
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“Hallberg inhabits each of his characters completely, and there is some gorgeous image or turn of phrase on almost every page. Especially impressive are the voices of the kids in the story, which feel natural and true . . . A pleasure to read.” —New York Times Book Review
“Evocative of masters of American suburbia such as Updike, Cheever, Salter, and Richard Yates . . . Conjuring a dreamily filmic spell, with shades of American Beauty and The Ice Storm, this is a work that can be approached (and rediscovered) a number of ways, all equally rewarding. It’s an ideal coffee table or bedside companion, to be dipped into for flashes of pleasure.” —The Independent (UK)
“Provocative . . . There’s no denying the author’s way with words . . . There’s virtuosity at work.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"In this stunningly beautiful, cross-referenced exploration of suburban intimacy, the story of two struggling families emerges gradually, achingly—and never the same way twice. Hallberg's prose is lacquered and precise, and the kaleidoscope of collected images forms a shifting, luminous backdrop. A perfect marriage between sculptured form and wondrous content. Read it. Now." —Reif Larsen, author of I Am Radar
“Hallberg has a fine novelist’s grace and sensitivity.” —Kirkus Reviews
"A Field Guide to the North American Family reads like magic, like a private book of spells meant to keep away all the things that have already happened; each word and image matters. It's a gorgeous labyrinth of a book." —Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Garth Risk Hallberg is the author of the novella A Field Guide to the North American Family and was selected by Richard Bausch as one of 2008′s “Best New American Voices.” His short stories have been published, most recently, in Glimmer Train, Canteen, and The Pinch. Essays have appeared in Slate, More Intelligent Life, and the Best of the Web anthology. A 2008 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Fiction, Garth teaches at Fordham University. He’s finishing up his first novel and a story collection. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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There are frequent passages that presage the deftness and empathy that would distinguish Hallberg’s 2015 masterpiece, City on Fire, which has been translated into 17 languages. Here’s the entry headed TRADITION, in which Elizabeth has a memory involving her ex-husband Jack and their children:
“Every year when the kids were small we allowed them to open one gift on Christmas Eve. I’d almost forgotten, until Jack stirred from his seat by the door and announced he’d be right back. He always was a sentimentalist — it was his idea that Gabe might like one of the frosted plastic Christmas trees they sold in the Walgreens across the highway; it was his string of colored lights waxing and waning in the sterile glass of the window . While Jackie continued to half-watch TV and half-watch her sleeping brother, I went t o the window to followJack’s progress across the parking lot. From the fourth floor, the grid of arc lights looked like netted pearls. Each time the Christmas tree dimmed, I could see the winter’s first snow drifted around the curbs, cluttered with rocks and twigs but still faintly aglow. I could see the flicker of the highway through the barricade of trees, and beyond, the violet horizon, the lonely distant glimmer of an airplane climbing toward the clouds, a long-distance liner bound for Europe or California. When he reappeared in the doorway, he was holding a star. It had been his mother’s before it passed to us. Now for the last time it would top the family tree. Then it would pass to our son, if he lived to have a family of his own.”
Sometimes the connection between a narrative and a facing-page photograph is so tenuous that you feel almost any other photograph might have served as well.
The 2007 first edition of this book was issued in a small printing by a not-for-profit publisher. This 2017 Alfred A. Knopf reissue is a handsomely produced paperback with end flaps and a bound-in ribbon bookmark.
Each page presented another angle on the Hungate-Harrison story, a bit of the puzzle explored both with words and a thematically-linked photo. From one page-chapter to the next, the point of view would shift, the tone would adjust. You'll find yourself quietly taking it all in, marvelling at the language and the sheer inventiveness of the whole damn thing.
I was hooked on that alone. Then I sat down and read it. I'm about 3/4 done and have to say that this is unlike anything I've read before. In the video game industry there is a term call "replay value." After you're done with it would you play it again or is the fun gone after once through?
This book has much "reread value." Cool concept executed well.
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