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Tales of the New World: Stories Paperback – November 8, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


—A New York Times Editors' Choice
—An O, The Oprah Magazine Book of the Week

"Riveting . . . Unsettling, lavish stories . . . It's a brutal frontier world Murray investigates, one she questions in all its dark detail. . . . The masterpiece is 'Fish,' which could have been a book on its own . . . the kind of discovery that will stick with you for life."—Leigh Newman, O, The Oprah Magazine (Book of the Week)

"[A] singular new collection . . . [In] delicate prose . . . Murray writes of Italian noblemen, African chiefs, Russian prisoners, Australian Aborigines, even Aztec kings; of times and places, horrors and joys; of oceans, deserts, starvation—of quite simply everything—very beautifully, bringing it all close to us, to here, to now."—The New York Times Book Review

"Brilliant . . . Masterly explorations of bitter, terrifying truths."—Boston Globe

"These wayfaring stories hitch a ride with people who launch out past the boundaries of their maps. . . . The collection opens with a fantastic feminist novella called 'Fish' . . . [a] wry, atmospheric story . . . a brilliantly surreal representation of a strong woman's internalized anxities. . . . 'Fish' could find a place between feminist materpieces like The Yellow Wallpaper and Wide Sargasso Sea."—The Washington Post

"At once dark and humorous, Murray’s atmospheric tales enchant the reader with their potent mix of history and legend."—The Daily Beast

"By some force of prose brilliance or act of poetic magic, Murray hypnotizes the reader."—Elle

"Murray’s spirited writing is rooted in humanity and creates a fine sense of the real behind the lore."—Publishers Weekly

"[Murray] is astute about the addictive nature of adventure and the unnerving relationship between the explorer and those he explores."—Kirkus Reviews

"Engrossing . . . Murray dives into this mixture of history and highly-charged fiction with all the writing skills you'd expect from a PEN/Faulkner Award winner. . . . Read this book for its inventive, masterful writing style, for the energy of its voyages, for the quotidian images of horror."—Washington Independent Review of Books

"At once fearlessly blunt and stylishly ethereal . . . Delicately drawn . . . Unique and ambitious . . . [with] a haunting grandeur . . . Each of the tales demonstrates Murray's extraordinary gift for rendering vastly disparate worlds with remarkable persuasiveness and verisimilitude. . . . Tales of the New World spares no blows. Murray's sophisticated prose demands patient, careful reading, and the dark realities that permeate her re-imagining of history present a frankly pessimistic view of the long, reckless journey of so-called civilization. . . . This elegant volume's title seems to refer less to the wilderness of unspoiled territories than to the interior wilderness of the human heart—a destination no less daunting or terrible."—Chapter 16 blog

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat; Original edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802170838
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802170835
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,021,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By J. Harwell on December 16, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was attracted to this book by my personal wanderlust, and I am not disappointed. The danger, joys, and intrigue of intimate journeys with each character fulfills my desire for the dark/light of adventure and exploration. To say that the stories reflect Sabina Murray's lifetime experience of being an "alien" throughout her childhood limits understanding the connections that she builds with these people. Even the ever exhausted Mary of "Fish" becomes famous in her world of prim, class strangled England by writing travel stories that freed women to fantasize and scandalized men. Murray's exposition of a Jim Jones cult member's slow realization of the lethal insanity in Jonestown deeply counters my arms length view of the tragedy. The story tracks the mental path of a cult disciple in a way so personal, so real to counter that "so-far-away" feeling left by the newsmedia's portrayal of that deepest of human tragedies. But, all the stories are not tragedies. "Balboa" jabs machismo in the ribs as the Spanish explorer nearly scares himself to death. The great explorer's deathly spiral of projected fear is broken innocently and joyfully by his unassuming loyal companion.

This is a great book for teaching the personal side of world history. Each story is engaging, exemplary of a historical era, and full of human foibles. The self doubts, weaknesses and struggles bring historical icons out of black and white history into full color. Join the expeditions...you (and your students) will return with vibrant connections to the people that lived history.
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Format: Paperback
I'm delighted to have discovered Sabina Murray's work - her evocations of the solitary natures of her cast of explorers in this new collection of stories sound authentic (even if most of the internal soliloquys of her characters tend to give an impression of uniformity), and I thought she captured the sense of the many situations and far-flung locales in the stories well, from Sakhalin to Victorian London to life on the high seas etc. What I found particularly interesting was how she imaginatively conveyed the many layers of complexities within the characters, their very human self-doubts, foibles and naivete in their circumstances, the sense of dealing with the unknown future they faced and how they made decisions. Murray brings them to life far beyond the singular achievements they each are remembered for in history books.

If I were to quibble though, I'd say that her writing might have evoked more fully the visceral 'presentness' of their situations as they were being experienced - the sense of desperate hardship, the squalor of dirt and smells, the sensation of cold and starvation or dead thirst, the pervasive fear and tenuousness of life on a whale or pirate boat or in the outback. Her drunks were largely well-behaved, all her characters almost too even-keeled and lucid even when raving; it may be Murray's prose but they seemed to share a general overlying sense of equanimity and somehow not enough mania, whimsy, craziness or drift in their musings. Apart from the first story in this collection about Mary Kingsley, Murray's characters were all men who seemed to share a kind of uniformity in temperament, philosophical outlook and character - or perhaps we are to surmise that explorers share those traits?
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