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Shakespeare's Kitchen: Stories Paperback – April 1, 2008

3.7 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. What began as seven interrelated short stories published in The New Yorker (including the O'Henry Prize-winning "The Reverse Bug") is now a full-length collection of thirteen?the first major work of fiction in 20 years from the acclaimed author of Her First American. Filled with all the pomp and depressed glory of a modern-day Great Gatsby, each installment delivers an entertaining glimpse into the dysfunctional lives of a group of hoity-toity Connecticut think tank intellectuals as they philosophize over wine and cheese, fall in and out of love and go about their daily lives with reckless abandon. Most of the action takes place (or is retold, properly discussed and drunkenly digested) in the kitchen of the institute's director, Leslie Shakespeare, while Leslie's wife alternatively entertains and lambastes their friends. Although the plot centers on nothing more than everyday comings and goings, Segal gives readers a peek into the sausage factory of daily routine, in which humdrum-but-necessary minutia belie the intrigue and angst stirred up in her self-absorbed characters' internal monologues. When stacked together, these vignettes are hilarious and telling. Segal exhibits a rare insight into the human character that is at once humbling and shamelessly enjoyable to behold.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Most claims that the stories of a collection are "interrelated" seem intended to sway short story-phobic readers into thinking that they're getting a novel; most such claims are false. Segal's latest, however, her first major work of fiction since Her First American (1985), delivers such a continuum that one wonders how well some of these stories work out of sequence, even despite their New Yorker pedigree. The story treats Ilka Weisz, who accepts a position at a think tank called the Concordance Institute, and her struggle to form a new family out of friends and coworkers (in particular the director, Leslie Shakespeare, and his wife, Eliza). Her entry into the claustrophobic academic setting, combined with Segal's wonderfully funny power washing of conversational dynamics, is a perfect way to explore the roles we play and the truths and lies we tell ourselves about ourselves. Yes, at some level it's a comedy of manners set in academia, but given the light touch with which Segal shares her immense powers of observation--and the darker presence of death, which reminds us that cocktail hour must someday end--that's entirely forgivable. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 225 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595583467
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595583468
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,074,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Shakespeare's Kitchen is an anthology of thirteen interconnected short stories, seven of which have previously appeared in "The New Yorker", about the yearning for friendship and the development - and loss - of closeness. Author and award-winner Lore Segal reveals the world of Ilka Weisz, who has accepted a junior position at a Connecticut think tank at the cost of departing her beloved circle of New York friends. As she comes to know her new acquaintances through a series of memorable dinner parties, afternoon picnics, and Sunday brunches, she experiences the outsider's loneliness among people as well the delight of cultivating familiar companionship, the wonderment of love, and the shock or even bizarre behavior in the wake of losing a fellow human being to death. An emotional saga of interpersonal relationships as a barometer of the human condition.
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I feel like I missed the boat. When I started this book I was charmed by the witty writing, and astute observations Segal presents about relationships and how we move through life. That said, something happened halfway through and I found myself nearly numb with apathy. Frankly, I struggled to finish. Clearly I'm in the minority, and I have absolutely no quips with the author's gift for writing. I just found myself reading about cold snobby intellectuals feeling, well, cold.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the best book I have read this summer. It is a perfect mix of good writing, wit, and captivating plot. Segal had me laughing out loud quite a few times but also had me contemplating her words long after I finished a chapter. Don't let the "short story" part scare you off. All are interrelated and reads like a complete novel. Highly reccomended.
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Lore Segal is one of those uber-cerebral obscure writers beloved in literary circles but almost utterly unknown to the masses, even when this much-anticipated novel was shortlisted for the 2008 Pulitzer.

What began as an ongoing series of short stories in The New Yorker about an east coast academic chronicling her years spent at a Connecticut think tank and mingling in that rarefied atmosphere finally evolved into a novel, broken into thick chunks of time spanning several decades. The stories center around Ilka, the protagonist, and the many days and evenings she spends with the institute's director, Leslie Shakespeare, and his wife Eliza. Philosophy, literature, minor academic intrigues and rivalries are drilled down to the banal, proving that no matter how smart you and the people you surround yourself with are, life plays out pretty much the same way for us all: you talk, drink, eat, gossip, love, betray and die.

It's an interesting exercise in minutiae, I think, and the dialogue is compelling. It took a little while to get going in a particular direction, but when it did I was intrigued, particularly by the way things develop between Ilka and the Shakespeares. It's very much a minimalist, snapshot take on things so if the reader looks for a fully-fleshed out cast of characters they will likely be disappointed. I didn't develop any particular affection for any of the characters, but I don't think that was the author's intent anyway. I did enjoy it. The skill is definitely in the detail and observation of day-to-day existence in this little society of intellectuals who end up being just people, after all.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book because a reviewer for the New York Times loved it, and because I enjoyed the writer's other books. The writing was very good and some of the insights impressive. I enjoyed the main character and would have liked to learn even more about her, but I grew tired of the background characters. They were always the same, no matter what was going on around them. One, Eliza, was especially tiresome and meanspirited. Yes, a tragedy had happened to her, but I never figured out how it had affected her beyond the barest details.
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Format: Hardcover
A wonderful collection of conversations among friends, lovers, co-workers and family about the dyanmics the life, love, loss and relationships. Although sprinkled with humor, Ms. Segal sucessfully gives the reader lessons on how we are each changed by the relationships we have and the people we love. An "adventure' into the loves, losses and daily routines of her characters.

An enjoyable book. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Often, the impressively depressing characters of this book deliver anything but happiness or humor to the reader. I am not receptive to such continually depressing story telling; but, enjoyed the characters' doldrums as Segal included a looming tale of intricate love between two of the main characters - where neither party seems to know nor acknowledge love of the other.

Although claimed to be a string of short stories, this is a chronological interconnected group of stories focusing mainly on the life of Ilka whose work as a teacher for foreign students at Concordance University leads to many uncommon events.

Small town U.S.A. hosts the campus for Concordance. The faculty, like most people, seem plainly regular. But, like anyone, they become eccentrically weird as the reader begins to learn more about their nuances and idiosyncracies. But, this faculty is no less professorially bizarre than any other faculty.

Having studied in an atmosphere (and time) like that of this book, I endeavored to see if her professor Cohn was like my English humbugging Professor Knight. Yeah, kind of. Same for the other professors and administrators of this novel.

Viennese-born Ilka manages to find lovers and husbands among the town's fray. She raises a daughter whose impressionable youth is molded in the naive town, and ultimately leads a discrete and less-than-honorable lifestyle during the last 70 or more pages of the book. Small town U.S.A. has good people do bad things - this is not something monopolized by the urban dwellers.

Written in 2007, this book has chapters which read like cuttings of e-mails. Plots move at accelerated paces with ADHD-like descriptions. The last 20 pages literally encompass 10-15 years of Ilka's life, if not more.
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