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Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events: Stories Paperback – March 20, 2012
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“The first thing you notice reading the stories in Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events is the author’s extraordinary range--of expertise, technique, imagination and wit. There doesn’t seem to be much Kevin Moffett can’t do.” (Richard Russo)
“Kevin Moffett’s stories are stealth heartbreakers, as well as wonders of sly detail and perfect tone. He’s writing some of the best short fiction around.” (Sam Lipsyte)
“These stories are as enormously funny as they are enormously sad. Moffett deals in wisdom, humor, and sympathy with extraordinary fluency; the results are always as unsettling as they are reassuring. And this seems to me about as close as you can come to writing the truth about life.” (Chris Adrian)
“Humor is too often heartless, sheer cleverness lacking content. Kevin Moffett is a member of that delightful minority that takes up the ordinary to reveal the extraordinary. These stories are funny, insightful, and reveal, but never strive for, true depth.” (Alice Sebold)
“Moffett’s work is melancholy and funny at the same time. . . . Language soars in unexpected directions. . . . This collection will leave readers grateful to have encountered characters who are as odd as they are, as sad as they may be, and as stupidly hopeful.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Marvelous stories.” (Vanity Fair)
“One of the most delightful collections in recent memory. . . . It’s rare to see as bright a star as Moffett on the literary scene. With this lovely collection, he is one to watch.” (The Rumpus)
From the Back Cover
Propelled by a multitude of idiosyncratic voices, the stories in Kevin Moffett's Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events are tragic in their conception and comic in their execution. Moffett casts light on characters in transitional states, stalled and puzzled. In "In the Pines," a Civil War reenactor visits an elderly woman recently relocated to a retirement home. In "Border to Border," an immigrant working at an amusement park faces a disconcerting choice when he loses one of his dental crowns. In "First Marriage," a honeymooning couple is stalled in Arizona by the stink of dead animal in their rental car. Even as they bumble and disappoint their way through these stories, these characters elicit from us a sympathy—even a self-identification—that is something much stronger than pity. The result is an unsettling and unforgettable collection. Written with penetrating insight into our motivations and fears, Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events is a wise, funny, and haunting book that signals the emergence of a trailblazing talent.
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Top customer reviews
The 9 stories in the collection are:
1. Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events - 34 pp - A story that thoroughly deserved its place in the Best American Short Stories of 2010 collection. A writer has to deal with the enraging fact this his father, in retirement starts to dabble with writing and ends up publishing some very powerful stories in literary journals. The way the story portrays the son's jealousy and annoyance over this is marvelous. But this turn of events, particularly the stories the father is publishing, forces the son to reexamine memories of his mother's death and reconsider his assumption that his mother's passing had little effect on the father.
2. Buzzers - 20 pp - A young man goes to Europe to study architecture just as he learns his ill father has died.
3. In the Pines - 27 pp - A lonely widow lives in a retirement home that looks out a on a Civil War battlefield. Because she can't find any suitable male companionship, she begins to imagine conversations with a solider from the war.
4. First Marriage - 26 pp - A newly married couple transporting a man's car to Florida get delayed while their cars get deodorized by mechanics because a snake had crawled into and died.
5. Border to Border- 25 pp - An Estonian immigrant who works at an Epcot Center-like amusement park called Small World swallows the crown of his tooth. Without health insurance to pay for new dental work, his taste of freedom in the new world means having to deal with the gross prospect of fishing the crown out when it comes out the other end of him. A gross premise, but a charming portrait of an innocent surrounded by people not as principled as he.
6. Lugo in Normal Time - 22 pp - An alcoholic tries, not very successfully, to connect with his ex-wife and teenaged daughter.
7. English Made Easy - 27 pp - A story that blew me away when I first read it in the literary journal American Short Fiction. A young mother has to deal with the death of her husband, who passed away when she was pregnant. Her days are filled with dealing with a pushy sister-in-law who is excessive in her efforts to keep her brother's memory alive and a neighbor with Alzheimer's who almost provides a model for the young widow on how to move past painful memories. Per usual in a Moffett he mixes all this poignant, heartfelt stuff with quirky situations - here a brother-in-law who got into trouble for having sex with a puppet.
8. The Big Finish - 22 pp - A man who does bird shows on a cruise ship has to deal with an amorous boys and a pair of birds who talk to him, mostly letting him know how much they preferred their previous trainer.
9. One Dog Year - 21 pp - A sick and elderly John D. Rockefeller spends his last days overlooking the beach with his manservant and the doctor he's paying a hefty sum to keep him alive so he can reach his goal of living to 100. He realizes a life spent saving and planning for the future left little opportunity to savor the moment - but now he wants to begin doing that, as a stunt pilot offers to give him a ride in his plane.
Other than the consistent density of the writing, this anthology is held together by the focus on the feelings of the characters. Even those with most unusual aspects generate the emotions common to all humans. If there is a theme shared among them, it is an underlying sadness in their lives of which they generally are not very aware. For most, there are hints that their futures may be every bit as bleak.
However, the overall effect of this collection is not depressing. There is a lot of wry humor. Each story has at least a few sentences and paragraphs of language so delightful that I was forced to stop and re-read them.
The first story, from which the collection receives its title, was my least favorite but it served as an adequate introduction to the author. From there, I mostly enjoyed each story more than the previous ones and finished the book feeling quite satisfied.
specific, if hard to describe, tone. While the tones vary from one story to another, they're all in the same mood. The people in these stories are constrained by forces that are hard to perceive, that must be taken as existing, from communicating clearly, from behaving and relating to others as they wish, or from working through terrible grief. Even the amusing ones have a somber, cautious quality. Strange things happen, people behave unaccountably, perhaps unable to control themselves, but life goes on.
The one I'm finding most memorable and humorous is
about a lonely woman who's just moved into assisted living overlooking
a Civil War battlefield, and a civil war re-enactor in uniform
approaches her several times on her patio and stays zanily in
character, and she goes along, accepting the situation as a metaphor
for her life and relationships. It's never acknowledged in the story
until the very end, and then only obliquely, that this is what is going on.
The language rarely calls attention to itself with excessive
cleverness, and it's an extremely easy and fast read. Each story can be read
very carefully in half an hour or less, and the whole book therefore could be
read in one sitting, if one could take that much of that tone. I love the
tiny worlds of short stories and the brief commitment one has to make. I can't
say that these are brilliant or powerful, but they're interesting and worth reading.