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Other Resort Cities Paperback – October 1, 2009
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Menace and mayhem brew beneath the finely crafted surface of these magnetic short stories of American mania and despair. Goldberg draws on his crime-fiction chops (Living Dead Girl, 2002) to portray refugees from failed attempts at middle-class normalcy seeking freedom and revenge in the overdeveloped deserts of the American West. Goldberg's disgruntled characters get up to no good in Palm Springs, Las Vegas, and various gated communities just begging for defilement. A lonely, no-longer-young cocktail waitress struggles to understand her missing Russian adopted daughter. A former sheriff and cancer survivor returns to the strange, toxic, devouring Salton Sea, where he lost his first wife. A man converts his fancy home into a Starbucks after the disappearance of his second wife, and one wonders just how insane he truly is. Goldberg pulls out all the stops in "Mitzvah," a tale about an ersatz rabbi and a temple-centered money- and body-laundering scheme. A divorced father kidnaps his kids; a family is found slain on a mountain. These are eerie, obliquely compassionate, darkly humorous, and ensnaring stories of misery and catharsis. -- Donna Seaman -- Booklist
There's something about a resort vacation that makes you appreciate home. For the characters living in the getaway destinations of Tod Goldberg's latest collection, Other Resort Cities, leaving home is a desperate imperative. A Chicago hit man hides in Las Vegas, where 15 years later he's a respected rabbi of a money-laundering temple. Trouble is, he wants out of all of it--the mafia, faux Judaism and especially Vegas. "Mitzvah" indeed. A cuckolded father abducts his children and ends up squatting in model homes, and another deserted husband converts his gated-community home into a Starbucks. Bad decisions come as naturally to Goldberg's characters as his incisive wit is a natural part of his storytelling. --Time Out Chicago
In his second collection of short fiction, Tod Goldberg delivers ten seductive stories that target the traumatic reality of failed dreams and the struggle to make amends with the past. Each kinetic story pulses and pops with authenticity. Goldberg has not a word misplaced, often times weaving tragedy and beauty with the result of heartbreaking height, similar in style to Mark Richard or Thom Jones. His characters find themselves trapped, whether literally or figuratively - lost in a world where they cannot connect with the projected image of themselves or attain the goal of a satisfied life. In one of the most moving and powerful stories "Walls," Goldberg navigates the fractured childhood of an unspecified number of siblings, using We as the narrator, dissecting their Mother's sexual relationships to ultimate and devastating effects.
Humor plays a big part in Goldberg's prose too, most effectively in "Mitzvah," a Distinguished Story in the new Best American Mystery Stories collection, where Las Vegas mobster Sal Cuperine poses as Rabbi David Cohen, man of the cloth and a man of the gun. Goldberg plays well with juxtaposition, pitting his fractured characters against impossible reality, such as in "Living Room," where a man avoids dealing with the loss of his family by redesigning the living room of his suburban cul-de-sac home to not only look like a Starbucks, but actually be a Starbucks, stocking it with all the authentic amenities - coffee and food, even an a full-time employee; or in "Will" where a prodigal son, in order to receive his inheritance, must set out to meet his dead father's demands of having his ashes spread along the first base line of the Seattle Kingdom, which was demolished years ago.
What are the most impressive, and certainly an indication of a new creative direction for Goldberg, are the stories "Palms Spring" and the title story "Other Resort Cities." In these, we meet Tania, a Las Vegas cocktail waitress, painfully reliving and retelling the story of adopting a Russian child, Natalya, as a means to drastically create a new life for herself. What makes these two stories tent poles of the collection is that they are the first time we see Goldberg explore a single female point-of-view. The storytelling and pacing of these is firmly the work of a mature writer breaking into new and uncharted territory. Goldberg's love for Tania is so palpable that she nearly walks off the page to take our drink order.
Other Resort Cities is home to a tragic population: children and police, drug dealers and teachers, baristas and lawyers, rabbis and gangsters, fuck-ups and failures. Goldberg continues his examination of the human condition, detailing the struggle between a corporeal existence versus an ethereal wane, with each character asking the questions: is this really my reality or have I simply dreamed the whole damn thing? Sadly, though, in "Walls" Goldberg gives us the answer - "there isn't a way for memory to freeze the body like it freezes trauma in place." --NewPages
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Top Customer Reviews
Tod Goldberg's short stories are goddamn insane. They're maniacal. The mind that thought them up is a sick whacko - but I mean that in a good way. Because sick whacko works. His stories scream, "you're a sick whacko too, that's why you're enjoying the hell outta this!" And it's true. I'm not ashamed to say it - my sick whacko mind is all up in simpatico with Goldberg's. His characters, although a bit too closely resembling members of my non-immediate family, are way out there weird. They either do nasty stuff, or have nasty stuff done to them, and the result is we have to witness their down fall, when in reality they should be put on the short bus to long term therapy sessions. To say Goldberg mines the depravity of real life for his surreal and often times uncomfortable subject matter is only too obvious. But is his Rabi really a mobbed up hit man on the lam?
Mondo Nior never tasted this good before - thank you Mr. Goldberg.
Morris, the protagonist of the first story, 'The Salt,' is a retired security officer in his mid-seventies who now lives in Indian Wells with Kim, his wife of seven months. Morris met Kim, a well-to-do widow, a little over a year ago at a cancer treatment center in Palm Springs where both were undergoing chemotherapy. Now, while both are in remission, Morris has learned that he is also suffering the first signs of dementia.
Reading the morning newspaper on the morning of which the story opens, Morris learns that a previously interred body has been found awash in the Salton Sea He drives the north shore to determine whether it might have been that of his first wife Katherine--the woman he still loves--who was legally buried near the shore more than forty years earlier. Because the sea level first rose and is now receding, several bodies that were buried long ago have been recently found floating in the "fetid" sea.
The body wasn't Katherine's, however, and back in Indian Wells that evening with Kim at his side, Morris realizes, in a moment of epiphany, "that this is the memory I want to live out the rest of my years with. A moment of silent perfection when I knew, finally knew, that I'd found a kind of contentment with who I was, who I'd been and what I'd tried so desperately to forget. I'm not surprised, then, when a strong gust of wind picks up from the east and I make out the faint scent of the Salton Sea, pungent and lost and so far, far away.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Having discovered Tod Goldberg with Gangsterland, I liked it enough to look at his past writing. Other Resort Cities is just an amazing collection of short stories, taking us into... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Ken C.
Pleasantly surprised, must read. Loved "Walls" one of my favorites! Didn't know what to expect but it was definitely powerful.Published on September 27, 2012 by Dully