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The Secret Goldfish: Stories
Synopses & Reviews
It is a less and less well-kept secret that David Means is one of our best fiction writers. In the past few years he has won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and received critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. Readers familiar with Means's electrifying work will recognize the vision at play in The Secret Goldfish — a trio of erotically charged kids go on a crime spree in Michigan; a goldfish bears witness to the demise of a Connecticut marriage; an extremely unlucky man is stalked by lightning — but this new work is funnier, more generous, and bigger in its reach.
Each story stands on its own, and yet linked together they produce a quintessentially American experience — not the stars-and-stripes-on-the-bumper-sticker kind, but the stoned-and-bored-and-looking-for-trouble kind. Means's writing is shot through with emotion and beauty. A subversive humor — and an almost religious fervor — drives these stories, and Means's miraculously precise observations bring them to life.
Eileen Battersby of the Irish Times wrote, "The roll-call of honor, from Eudora Welty to John Cheever, John Updike, William Maxwell, to Richard Ford, Tobias Wolff, and Annie Proulx is long and rich. Just when it seems that things could get no better, along comes David Means." This is a brilliant lineage, and yet David Means writes like no one but himself.
"The characters in this imaginative and penetrating story collection — a man hounded by lightning strikes, a driver blown off the Mackinac bridge, a pianist whose fingers stop working, a woman who slaughters her boyfriend after ambiguous consultations with Jesus and the devil, a bog man roused from his shallow grave — are beset by bolts from the blue. Sometimes the victims and sometimes the perpetrators of calamity, they struggle to extract meaning — and the occasional glimpses of grace and beauty — from the chaos and brutality that disrupt their lives. Means, author of the acclaimed story collection Assorted Fire Events, probes a broad range of social registers, from junkies and criminals festering in the postindustrial decay of northern Michigan's iron range to the chilly adulteries of the artsy New York haute bourgeoisie, linking them into a bleak, sometimes apocalyptic panorama of the precariousness of life in a country that 'could eat anything, absolutely anything, up.' His uncompromising vision rarely indulges anything more comforting than harsh poetic epiphanies, inexplicable moments of clarity gleaned from random encounters with destruction; the story 'Michigan Death Trip,' a litany of demise from nonnatural causes, is emblematic of the book's sensibility. But every so often, as with the titular goldfish who endures, and even prevails, when his tank is neglected by a family in the throes of divorce, a happy ending slips through. Agent, Andrew Wylie. 5-city author tour. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A]chingly intelligent." The New York Times
"Means is a courageous writer, intelligent and funny and humane...[T]he pleasure in reading The Secret Goldfish is tremendous." Donald Antrim
"Though less flashy, they cut at least as close to the bone as Means's more obvious tours de force. Black/bleak comedies of moral and spiritual breakdown." Kirkus Reviews
"In each of these stories, Means reveals the truth of our lives the way great art always has — by making us see the world as it painfully is, not as our comfortable habits hide it from us. David Means is a brilliant new master of the short story who fully understands and respects the form's power." Milkwaukee Journal Sentinel
From the Los Angeles Times Book Prize-winning author of Assorted Fire Events comes an extraordinary story collection.
About the Author
David Means's previous book, Assorted Fire Events, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's magazine, Esquire, McSweeney's, and numerous other publications. His work was included in The Best American Mystery Stories 2001. Born and raised in Michigan, he lives in Nyack, New York.
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