Boston Globe’s “Best Fiction of 2014”
Roxane Gay’s Top Ten Books of the Year
An Amazon Best Short Story Collection of 2014
An iBook Best of 2014
A refreshingly imaginative, daring debut collection of stories which illuminates with audacious wit the complexity of human behavior, as seen through the lens of the natural world.
Told with perfect rhythm and unyielding brutality, these stories expose unsuspecting men and women to the realities of nature, the primal instincts of man, and the dark humor and heartbreak of our struggle to not only thrive, but survive. In “Girl on Girl,” a high school freshman goes to disturbing lengths to help an old friend. An insatiable temptress pursues the one man she can’t have in “Meteorologist Dave Santana.” And in the title story, a long fraught friendship comes undone when three buddies get impossibly lost on a lake it is impossible to get lost on. In Diane Cook’s perilous worlds, the quotidian surface conceals an unexpected surreality that illuminates different facets of our curious, troubling, and bewildering behavior.
Other stories explore situations pulled directly from the wild, imposing on human lives the danger, tension, and precariousness of the natural world: a pack of not-needed boys take refuge in a murky forest and compete against each other for their next meal; an alpha male is pursued through city streets by murderous rivals and desirous women; helpless newborns are snatched by a man who stalks them from their suburban yards. Through these characters Cook asks: What is at the root of our most heartless, selfish impulses? Why are people drawn together in such messy, complicated, needful ways? When the unexpected intrudes upon the routine, what do we discover about ourselves?
As entertaining as it is dangerous, this accomplished collection explores the boundary between the wild and the civilized, where nature acts as a catalyst for human drama and lays bare our vulnerabilities, fears, and desires.
The Lottery and Other Stories, the only one to appear during Shirley Jackson's lifetime, unites "The Lottery" with twenty-four equally unusual short stories. Together they demonstrate Jackson's remarkable range -- from the hilarious to the horrible, the unsettling to the ominous -- and her power as a storyteller.
In sharply evoked settings that range from the wilds of Northern Greece to the beaches of Cape Cod, these intensely dramatic tales in It's Beginning to Hurt chart the metamorphoses of their characters as they fall prey to the full range of human passions. They rise to unexpected heights of decency or stumble into comic or tragic folly. They throw themselves open to lust, longing, and paranoia—always recognizably mirrors of our own conflicted selves.
As James Wood has written, "James Lasdun seems to be one of the secret gardens of English writing . . . When we read him we know what language is for again." This collection of haunting, richly humane pieces is further proof of the powers of an enormously inventive writer.
In fifteen beautifully wrought stories—ranging from occupied Czechoslovakia to California’s Central Valley to the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest—Mark Slouka explores moments in life when our back is to the wall. One of the most forceful American writers of his generation, Slouka captures the depth and emotional range of an array of characters—from a young boy attempting to shield his father from painful memories in "The Hare’s Mask" to a lonely man whose beloved dog inexplicably begins to sprout razor blades from her skin in "Dog."
Whether battling the end of desire, the fact of injustice, or death itself, the men and women in these stories are doing everything possible to tighten their grip on life. In "Crossing," a father hoping to compensate for his failures finds himself facing his past while fording a river with his young son on his back; in "Conception," a young couple frozen by the possible end of their marriage is offered an unexpected way back; in "Half-Life," a proud, aging shut-in finds her resolve tested by an extraordinary visitor determined to shatter her solitude.
Like its title, All That Is Left Is All That Matters consoles us with life’s tender humor and unexpected moments of redemption in the face of heartbreak, tragedy, and dislocation.
Internationally acclaimed for her five brilliant novels, Elizabeth Harrower is also the author of a small body of short fiction. A Few Days in the Country brings together for the first time her stories published in Australian journals in the 1960s and 1970s, along with those from her archives—including ‘Alice’, published for the first time earlier this year in the New Yorker.
Essential reading for Harrower fans, these finely turned pieces show a broader range than the novels, ranging from caustic satires to gentler explorations of friendship.
Elizabeth Harrower is the author of the novels Down in the City, The Long Prospect, The Catherine Wheel and The Watch Tower—all of which have been republished as Text Classics—and In Certain Circles, which was published in 2014 and in early 2015 was a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime. Elizabeth lives in Sydney.
‘Harrower has the disconcerting knack of looking at life and seeing it unadorned.’ Australian Financial Review, Best Books of 2015
‘Vital, vivid stories by a master storyteller.’ Joan London, Age/Sydney Morning Herald, Best Books of 2015
‘One has to think hard of a book in which so much pleasure has been wrenched from so much pain. While the skies are overcast here, what happens on the ground is brightly lit, hilariously cast by lashings of irony and overstatement...This is the work of an activist in disguise as an entertainer.’ John Freeman, Australian
‘Enchanting...That Harrower has, up until recently, been denied a place in the Australian literary canon, is a tragedy—one that can only be remedied by reading her. A Few Days in the Country: And Other Stories is a fantastic place to start.’ Lip Mag
‘Lyrical, insightful and finely tuned.’ Otago Daily Times
‘The range of stories and styles demonstrates Harrower’s extraordinary literary skill...A Few Days in the Country and Other Stories offers no sure-fire formulas, but through its interrogation of characters’ psychological motivations it affords a deeper understanding of human behaviour.’ Australian Book Review
‘[Harrower] reveals an astonishing facility to reveal a world in a few brush strokes.’ West Australian
‘A Few Days in the Country continues [Harrower’s] remarkable literary rejuvenation.’ Australian, Best Books of 2015
In Second World War Poland, a young prisoner closes his eyes and pictures going to bat on a sunlit English cricket ground.
Across the yard of a Victorian poorhouse, a man is too ashamed to acknowledge the son he gave away.
In a 19th-century French village, an old servant understands—suddenly and with awe—the meaning of the Bible story her master is reading to her.
On a summer evening in the Catskills in 1971, a skinny girl steps out of a Chevy with a guitar and with a song that will send shivers through her listeners' skulls.
A few years from now, in Italy, a gifted scientist discovers links between time and the human brain and between her lover's novel and his life.
Throughout the five masterpieces of fiction that make up A Possible Life, exquisitely drawn and unforgettable characters risk their bodies, hearts and minds in pursuit of the manna of human connection. Between soldier and lover, parent and child, servant and master, and artist and muse, important pleasures and pains are born of love, separations and missed opportunities. These interactions—whether successful or not—also affect the long trajectories of characters' lives.
Provocative and profound, Sebastian Faulks's dazzling new novel journeys across continents and centuries not only to entertain with superb old-fashioned storytelling but to show that occasions of understanding between humans are the one thing that defines us—and that those moments, however fluid, are the one thing that endures.
With a classic storyteller's gift for nuance and understanding, and a poet's grace for language, Andrew Sean Greer makes a remarkable debut with How It Was For Me.
The diverse stories of Beautiful Days, Joyce Carol Oates explore the most secret, intimate, and unacknowledged interior lives of characters not unlike ourselves, who assert their independence in acts of bold and often irrevocable defiance.
“Fleuve Bleu” exemplifies the rich sensuousness of Oates’s prose as lovers married to other persons vow to establish, in their intimacy, a ruthlessly honest, truth-telling authenticity missing elsewhere in their complicated lives, with unexpected results.
In “Big Burnt,” set on lushly rendered Lake George, in the Adirondacks, a cunningly manipulative university professor exploits a too-trusting woman in a way she could never have anticipated. In a more experimental but no less intimate mode, “Les beaux jours” examines the ambiguities of an intensely erotic, exploitative relationship between a “master” artist and his adoring young female model. And the tragic “Undocumented Alien” depicts a young African student enrolled in an American university who is suddenly stripped of his student visa and forced to undergo a terrifying test of courage.
In these stories, as elsewhere in her fiction, Joyce Carol Oates exhibits her fascination with the social, psychological, and moral boundaries that govern our behavior—until the hour when they do not.
Ray Bradbury is one of the most celebrated fiction writers of the 20th century. He is the author of such classics as Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Bradbury has once again pulled together a stellar group of stories sure to delight readers young and old, old and new. In One More For The Road we are treated to the best this talented writer has to offer : the eerie and strange, nostalgic and bittersweet, searching and speculative. Here are a father's regrets, a lover's last embrace, a child's dreams of the future 栬l delivered with the trademark Bradbury wit and style.
“[Block] uses language like a jeweled sword glittering as it cuts to the heart.”—Kirkus Reviews
After enduring from afar a seemingly endless series of outside worldwide disasters—including 9/11 and the Asian tsunami—while living in earthquake-prone Los Angeles, a bereft Katrina experiences deep inner longings for some sense of permanence, meaning, and intimacy. A preschool teacher contemplating the unsettling challenges of her mid-life, she finds solace in the company of her dear friend Grace, and conflict in the arms of a narcissistic yoga instructor, Jasper.
In this intertwining series of emotionally charged stories, wistful characters weave together a dance of joy and sorrow, gain and loss, harmony and dissonance. Beautifully written, Quakeland speaks in a deeply stirring female voice to an unspoken sense of universal longing that seems quietly prevalent in these times. It is a brave, poetic work that acknowledges the pain and loss we live with every day, and offers hope—through art and through connection—of something more.
Francesca Lia Block is renowned for her groundbreaking novels and stories, including the best-selling Weetzie Bat—postmodern, magic-realist tales for all ages. Her work transports readers through the harsh landscapes of contemporary life to magic realms of the senses where love is always a saving grace. She lives in Los Angeles.
A magnificent and ambitiously conceived portrait of contemporary life, by a genius of realism
Nine men. Each of them at a different stage in life, each of them away from home, and each of them striving--in the suburbs of Prague, in an overdeveloped Alpine village, beside a Belgian motorway, in a dingy Cyprus hotel--to understand what it means to be alive, here and now. Tracing a dramatic arc from the spring of youth to the winter of old age, the ostensibly separate narratives of All That Man Is aggregate into a picture of a single shared existence, a picture that interrogates the state of modern manhood while bringing to life, unforgettably, the physical and emotional terrain of an increasingly globalized Europe. And so these nine lives form an ingenious and new kind of novel, in which David Szalay expertly plots a dark predicament for the twenty-first-century man.
Dark and disturbing, but also often wickedly and uproariously comic, All That Man Is is notable for the acute psychological penetration Szalay brings to bear on his characters, from the working-class ex-grunt to the pompous college student, the middle-aged loser to the Russian oligarch. Steadily and mercilessly, as this brilliantly conceived book progresses, the protagonist at the center of each chapter is older than the last one, it gets colder out, and All That Man Is gathers exquisite power. Szalay is a writer of supreme gifts--a master of a new kind of realism that vibrates with detail, intelligence, relevance, and devastating pathos.
What's the matter with Sylvie?
Such a pretty girl. Four years old; well loved by her young mother, Grace. But there's something . . . "off " about the child. Her deathly fear of water; her night terrors; most of all, her fixation with a photo of an Irish seaside town called Coldharbour.
"Sylvie, tell me about your picture. Why's it so special, sweetheart?" My heart is racing, but I try to make my voice quite calm.
"That's my seaside, Grace." Very matter-of-fact, as though this should be obvious. "I lived there, Grace. Before."
Grace doesn't know what to do with this revelation—she's barely scraping by as it is. A single mother with no family, Grace works full-time at a London flower shop to support herself and Sylvie. Overwhelmed by her inability to help her daughter, she turns to Adam Winters, a dashing psychology professor with some unusual theories about what might be troubling the child. Together, they travel to seemingly idyllic Coldharbour, hoping to understand Sylvie's mysterious connection to the place. Impossible as it may seem, Grace has to accept that her daughter may be remembering a past life. And not only that: the danger bedeviling Sylvie from her past life is still very much a threat to her in this one.
Margaret Leroy has been celebrated for writing "like a dream," and her previous novels have been praised for their "hypnotic prose" and "sensuously ethereal, subtly electric drama." Now, in Yes, My Darling Daughter, Leroy offers a novel both haunted and haunting—a wonderfully original, deliciously suspenseful story that enthralls from the first page to the very last.
The Victim of Prejudice—Hays’ second novel, first published in 1799—is a powerful indictment of man-made institutions such as the courts and legislative systems which favour persons of wealth and rank. In the novel the metaphor of women’s confinement becomes real as the heroine’s worst nightmares, her horrors and sense of helplessness become a physical reality.
The Victim of Prejudice is of great interest for its strong feminist content, and it is both powerful and moving as a literary work; this edition makes this important late eighteenth-century text again available to a wide readership.
For years, the third moon in the Alphane system was used as a psychiatric hospital. But when war broke out between Earth and the Alphanes, the hospital was left unguarded and the inmates set up their own society, made up of competing factions based around each mental illness. When Earth sends a delegation to take back the colony, they find enclaves of depressives, schizophrenics, paranoiacs, and other mentally ill people coming together to repel what they see as a foreign invasion. Meanwhile, back on Earth, CIA agent Chuck Rittersdorf and his wife Mary are going through a bitter divorce, with Chuck losing everything. But when Chuck is assigned to clandestinely control an android accompanying Mary to the Alphane moon, he sees an opportunity to get his revenge.
Because She Never Asked is a story reminiscent of that reached by the travelers in Patricia Highsmith's Stranger on a Train. The author first writes a piece for the artist Sophie Calle to live out: a young, aspiring, French artist travels to Lisbon and the Azores in pursuit of an older artist whose work she’s in love with. The second part of the story tells what happens between the author and Calle. She eludes, him; he becomes blocked, and suffers physical collapse.
“Something strange happened along the way,” Vila-Matas wrote. “Normally, writers try to pass a work of fiction off as being real. But in Because She Never Asked, the opposite occurred: in order to give meaning to the story of my life, I found that I needed to present it as fiction.”