- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: Coffee House Press; First Edition edition (September 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1566891361
- ISBN-13: 978-1566891363
- Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,921,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Miniatures Hardcover – September 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
"In fact, one does not really need a story so much these days. Every story hangs on the thread, hitches a ride on the hips of all the stories that have come before." With that bon mot, Labiner (Our Sometime Sister) introduces her outrageous second novel, a freewheeling, over-the-top tribute to the prose styles of such literary giants as the Brontë sisters, Proust and Mary Shelley. Labiner's heroine is the precociously intelligent Fern Jacobi, who interrupts her after-college travels in Ireland to work as a housekeeper for a pair of odd writers, Owen and Brigid Lieb. Owen is the more experienced and successful of the two, but his track record with women is a bit shabby-his first wife, Franny, committed suicide despite a successful literary career of her own, and Brigid soon forms an alliance with Jacobi when she feels pressured to come up with her own inaugural writing project. The rather threadbare plot is largely an excuse for Labiner to trot out her main calling card, a brilliantly literate and wildly digressive style full of literary allusions, historical references and clever observations on pop culture. Most of these passages are thought provoking and entertaining, but Labiner does include plenty of overly cute and self-indulgent stretches, along with some conceits that simply don't work. She makes up for her shortcomings, however, by taking readers on a roller-coaster ride through the world of writers, culture, history and literature that is always intriguing and often compelling.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Talented but confused, Fern Jacobi wanders Europe to get away from her troubles with romance, family, and college. In Ireland, she accepts an offer to become housekeeper for eccentric literary legend Owen Lieb and his youthful second (or is it his third?) wife, Brigid. The Lieb house, long vacant, has an unhappy history as the site where Owen's first wife committed suicide following his desertion. Fern, who feels a strange connection to Owen, soon finds herself in alliance with Brigid, who struggles to write while in a fragile mental state. This commonplace plot is undercut by Labiner (Our Sometime Sister), who, via Fern's narrative voice, constantly coaxes readers away from the Liebs to hop on a roller-coaster ride through literary history. Every chapter offers scores of allusions and tributes to prose styles and historical events ranging from Poe, Shelley, and the Bronts to contemporary pop culture. Labiner's envelope-pushing digressions are entertaining but too often overly cute and self-indulgent; still, it's a fun trip while it lasts. For fiction readers who enjoy a bit of experimentation.
Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Some argue that this kind of self-consciousness is the albatross of Labiner's literary generation -- and it's certainly not for everyone -- but she does it with such brio, such constant ingenuity and wit, that it's hard not to be impressed. And I don't want to suggest that "Miniatures" is devoid of conventional, plot-driven interest, either. In fact, Labiner exploits standard Gothic tropes (first wife's mysterious death, isolated house, eerie landscape) to great effect. She does a fascinating feminist rereading of the Hughes/Plath story, altered just enough to give her fictive license. (Franny, the Plath figure, cuts her finger as she's slicing bread, not an onion as in Plath's poem.) And without giving anything away, I'll say that Labiner's attempt to fill in the blanks of this famous relationship is a bold and deeply imaginative one.
The Plath/Hughes relationship, a chapter in literary history that has remained mysterious amid so much interpretation, rumor, novelization, and distortion, is an ideal frame for Labiner's book, which is ultimately an extended meditation on the paradox that fiction reveals truth to us by telling us lies. It is her unique achievement to create a book that constantly reminds us of narrative's inadequacy and yet, in the end, seems profoundly honest.
Labiner deserves a wider audience that she has gotten; she is doing something innovative and remarkable with her writing.