- Paperback: 206 pages
- Publisher: MG Press (October 23, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1480172774
- ISBN-13: 978-1480172777
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,004,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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This Jealous Earth: Stories Paperback – October 23, 2012
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
In these tautly constructed, psychologically acute, and elegantly written stories, Scott Carpenter offers his reader dispatches from that strange realm we call everyday life. By turns sad, funny, tender, and alarming, *This Jealous Earth* examines the nuanced turns and shifts of human events and feelings that imbue the ordinary with the extraordinary.
—Siri Hustvedt, author of *What I Loved*, and *The Summer Without Men.*
The 16 tales that form Carpenter’s agreeable debut collection thread together the familiar and the bizarre, and while not every story hits its intended mark, the volume offers enough surprise to remain engaging throughout. The coming-of-age “Donny Donny,” full of petty theft, x-ray specs, and dangerous neighbors, is charmingly nostalgic, while the meta-fictional correspondence between a man and a utility company’s customer service representative, in “Sincerely Yours,” adds humor and absurdity. Overall, Carpenter achieves the greatest success in two stories concerning animals. “The Tender Knife” finds a man facing sadness and terror while culling his koi pond. And in “Field Notes,” a vacationing boy collects scorpions as his parents’ marriage crumbles. Carpenter sprinkles the collection with several flash fiction compositions, and these concise bursts of prose, particularly “The Phrasebook” and “Future Perfect,” spark interest.
"Carpenter, though he usually writes in the third person, is very skilled at writing accurately in the voice of many, very different characters. He shifts easily from a shoplifting upper-class stay-at-home mother to an awkward middle-aged tourist from Ohio lost in a European museum to a little girl distressed about the imminent loss of her older brother. He works to match language and syntax to each character’s unique situation; this is clear in the very successful third section of the book. In “The Death Button,” a dark yet hilarious piece about an English major in love with his roommate, the narrator is selling his plasma to make money. He describes the seemingly alcoholic homeless man next to him at the center as “a stunt double for Walt Whitman—except that his nose was veined with purple and the beard was clotted with what appeared to be bits of partially digested fettuccine.” Carpenter takes full advantage of his narrator’s literary knowledge, to the delight of the story’s readers.
The pleasantly sarcastic tone of the narrator (seen in phrases such as “a generous burp of which he shared” and “vomitous eruptions”) further aids the reader in picturing this intelligent, insecure yet awkwardly cocky, and slightly, *cleverly* caricatured, hipster of a college student.
Generally Carpenter’s writing is clear and delightful. I was especially tickled by one sentence that is, yet again, in “The Death Button”: “The closet served as an echo chamber, the louvers leading to the lovers, tuning me in to their amplified antics while I lay half-enclosed in the hollow under my desk like some mournful crustacean.”
-A.K. Mayhew, The Rumpus
About the Author
Scott Dominic Carpenter was born in Minneapolis but grew up on the move. After proving himself ill-suited to mining, factory work, and other forms of hard labor, he took refuge in libraries and classrooms, many of them in Madison, Wisconsin. He teaches French literature and critical theory at Carleton College (MN), but in addition to his scholarly work, he commits fiction, examples of which have appeared in venues like Chamber Four, Ducts, Midwestern Gothic, The MacGuffin, Prime Number and Spilling Ink. A Pushcart Prize nominee and a semi-finalist for the MVP Competition from New Rivers Press, he will soon release a debut novel (Theory of Remainders, Winter Goose Publishing). He can be found online at http://www.sdcarpenter.com.
Top customer reviews
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My favorites were The Tender Knife and The Visit. He does a great job of keeping the reader guessing what exactly is going to happen in The Tender Knife. And in The Visit his descriptive writing comes alive.
This Jealous Earth is worth every penny. The cover artwork is unique and thought provoking. The book is beautifully bound and it reads wonderfully.
I have a hard time writing reviews for short story collections. I try to consider each story on an individual basis, but also review the collection as a whole. In general, I feel the form makes it difficult to have any sort of deep connection. However, this collection of short stories has been the exception rather than the rule!
There's no doubt that the writing itself is excellent. This is a writer who is skilled at his craft. Some of the subject matter made me uncomfortable - ESPECIALLY the first story, "The Tender Knife." I almost had to skip it entirely because of the gruesome nature of what the main character had to do.
I'll make mention of a few that really struck a chord with me ... "Foundering" is one of the shortest in this collection, but clearly illustrates how quickly time moves while comparing a long-term relationship to a long voyage by sea. "Field Notes" recalls a family trip told from a child's perspective, observing the tension between his parents while gaining self-confidence as an explorer. I liked the humor of "Sincerely Yours," where a lonely man writes scathing correspondence to a billing collector, but looks forward to receiving the replies, hoping for a human connection.
Each has its own exceptional qualities but overall this is an outstanding and well written collection of short stories. I would enjoy seeing the author's other work.
All in all a fantastic debut from this new up and coming publisher. Their journals have proven to showcase top notch talent time and time again and if this is the start of the talent they aim to showcase with their new press venture, I am excited to see where they go from here.
I loved the theme of the book - how all the stories focused on the characters little decisions - and not necessarily the do or die stuff - the little things that can go either way, but ultimately end up defining the kind of person you are. And Carpenter came at it from all different angles too - the stories contained people on the entire spectrum of life experiences. It was something I could really sink my teeth into, but it was light enough to not get bogged down with itself.
As far as negatives go, sure, a couple of the endings to the stories were too neat or too happy, but that's really the only bad thing I could say about it. I actually stayed up later than I usually do on a couple nights, because I kept telling my self "Just one more story."