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Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry: Stories Hardcover – December 22, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Ten finely delineated tales featuring protagonists entangled in less-than-ideal romantic scenarios constitute this year's winner of the Grace Paley Prize. The best stories feature women caught up in liaisons with men either much younger or older. In "Quality of Life," a 26-year-old woman begins seeing a wealthy man more than double her age, Mr. Fulger, who takes her out infrequently and presses money on her, which she takes because it "made her life more easeful." She dates other men her age, but can't seem to stop seeing Mr. Fulger, whose solicitousness eventually has unexpected consequences. In the title story, the granddaughter of a late, famous artist becomes involved with a young artist who may be playing her to obtain the precious notebooks bequeathed to her. Teetering on the brink of self-possession, Sneed's protagonists aren't sure they trust themselves, such as the 55-year old narrator of "By the Way" who can't admit to her much younger lover her fears of faltering memory and mortality. Sneed writes with the care of a fine stylist and the heart of a sympathetic reader. (Nov.) (c)
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From Booklist

Sneed’s first collection was awarded the Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction, an honor clearly deserved given the lucidity of her style, the depth of her perception, and her supple mix of wit, frankness, and compassion. Beautifully interiorized, her provocative stories explore unbalanced relationships, particularly between men and women of differing ages. Sneed also has a rare gift for convincingly articulating the sensations and emotions of sex. A tale of “monstrous rationality” dramatizes a soul-killing arrangement between an elusive older man and a young woman, while a 55-year-old woman, a dancer, in love with a 35-year-old man, confronts the avalanche of fears age delivers. The volatile chemistry of fame and envy stokes the finely textured title story, which portrays a disaffected young woman confounded by the complications following the death of her grandfather, a renowned artist; a delectably unsettling tale about a successful screenwriter at her high-school reunion; and a masterfully counterintuitive story about an English professor and a movie star and his bodyguard. With a surprisingly futuristic and funny closing story, this is an exceptionally smart, connective, and moving collection. --Donna Seaman
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 152 pages
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press (December 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558498583
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558498587
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,872,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Without any question, Christine Sneed writes exquisite and delicate prose that is here to stay. Her work has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories and is Pen/O.Henry award winning. Aside from the countless accolades this collection merits and has received, "Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry," is a necessary read for anyone who demands fully realized and flawed character, and the beauty of tenuous love that springs up from untimely collision. The questions of age and appropriateness help guide love, readiness to be hurt, and maturity in the work. Between well-crafted scene, Sneed ruminates in the narrative with a prose density that is dutifully managed and rarely seen in recent contemporary works. Her meditation on character is lucid and primary to the reading experience. Structurally, this density and commitment to her characters is story load-bearing. This is a collection of ten stories that tests the capacity for any one person to let love in when the situation is not something someone might consider super-top-notch...You only need read "Twelve +Twelve" to know if you personally have ever loved hard and hurt. This is not love reinvented, as it is love realized, through an original and captivating viewfinder.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Christine Sneed is a true original. Each of the stories in this collection hooked me in the first paragraph and never let go. In many collections all the stories seem to have a similar voice, but the opposite is true here: each is its own different world, inhabited by its own distinctive characters in compelling situations. A beautiful book by a beautiful writer.
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Format: Hardcover
Having never been much for short stories, I was hesitant to begin reading Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry. Yet, this collection by Christine Sneed has changed my mind. The stories were engrossing. They were not necessarily OBVIOUS, with clear points or morals, but rather provided brief encounters with each of the story lines. As a mother to a toddler, it can be difficult to focus and/or remember what I wrote. I loved that the format catered to my stage in life, while pulling me in. I give it 4/5 though, because two of the last three stories lost me.
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Format: Paperback
Christine Sneed puts the male-female relationship under her microscope, and comes up with a wry, warm, and witty set of short stories. Ms. Sneed sees so very, very well, like an eagle, never blinks, and she never doesn't tell the truth, what more could you want in a friend (or author)? Examples:

"Instead, people were talking heatedly into mobile phones or looking down at their feet as they trudged, these unloved husbands and crash-dieters and stubborn musicians and disbarred lawyers who all huddled in on themselves because among their other hardships, winter hadn't yet ended and at this near-unendurable point, they just couldn't look each other in the face." P 32

"...and was also at the end of a long, tense separation from a job and a marriage she had grown tired of, a separation that she had wanted but her husband had not." P 118

"Also noticeable, and never discussed with anyone but the operator, is an alarming number of citizens' dissatisfaction with their sex lives. Because pornography merchants and psychotherapists have been outlawed, people find they have no one to turn to relief, other than to their partners who mostly express mortification the moment sexual matters are alluded to. The population appears to have transmogrified into a collective of guilty masturbators, the birth rate in perilous decline as couples increasingly sleep in separate beds, sex awarded solely on special occasions - birthdays, anniversaries, after tree-planting ceremonies and the dedications of new office buildings. P 150
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I must admit that I've never been a big reader of short fiction. It's not that I'm not interested in the genre, and it's not that I don't cherish a really beautifully executed short story. I think it's just that outside of reading them for college classes, I don't seek out short stories. Like most readers these days, I'm drawn to the longer narrative, the familiarity of the same characters painted on page after page of a long story. Perhaps it's laziness, but I enjoy not having to reimagine a new world, characters, and situation every ten or twenty pages. It's easier to continue lingering in a world of the familiar with the novel.

How much Christine Sneed's book has changed my opinion of what a short story collection can accomplish. This book was so engrossing, so easily addicting, that I found myself very quickly slipping into the world of each of the new characters. This book made me nearly miss my train stop one morning. Sneed's characters speak so uniquely and confessionally that they easily take form and start leading the reader into their worlds. Within one or two pages of each new story I found myself quickly acclimating to the new climate of the story and feeling the tug of believable, human, and understandable tension. While all of the voices in "Portraits" are female, I was so astounded at how different they each were--young, menopausal, insecure, frustrated, hopeful to a fault--and how relatable. I'm in my late twenties, trying to find a career path, new to love and relationships, and I found it so interesting that I felt such a connection to the protagonist in the story, "By the Way." Even though she's in her late fifties, divorced, close to wrapping up her career as a dance teacher, this woman's voice reached out deeply into my own experience.
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