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Nice Big American Baby: Storiesby Judy Budnitz
"While this is a difficult book to pin down or pigeonhole, it isn't a difficult book to marvel at or enjoy. Budnitz traffics in contemporary, global themes....Provocative, disturbing, wry, and just plain fascinating, Nice Big American Baby is some of the best new American short fiction I've read in years."
Synopses & Reviews
A blazingly original, profoundly moving new work of fiction by a writer whose world — and imagination — knows no boundaries. "I don't know what planet Judy Budnitz comes from," said Newsweek on the publication of her fiction debut, Flying Leap, "but I'm happy to have her. Tremendous...funny, dark, adventurous, slanted, and enchanted." These twelve astonishingly inventive stories — which take us into the heart of America and around the globe, from suburban backyards and swimming pools to war-torn streets and fallout shelters — are riveting, seductive, and impossible to forget.
In "Flush," a mammogram prompts a dark comedy of blurred identities between a mother and her two adult daughters. In "Elephant and Boy," a surrogate mother-and-son bond, tinged with the erotic, is formed when a philanthropist attempts to "civilize" a young elephant handler. "Nadia" sounds the depths of a young woman's complex feelings toward a friend?s mail-order bride from Eastern Europe. "Preparedness" — an Orwellian tale in Technicolor — imagines rapture in the wake of imminent apocalypse. And in "Where We Come From," a pregnant woman's many failed attempts to cross the border do not lessen her resolve to give birth on U.S. soil to a "nice big American baby."
Magical, poignant, often transcendent, these are virtuoso modern fables that mine our stores of hidden urges, misunderstandings, and blind passions, inviting us on a voyage through places and times at once deeply familiar and wondrously strange.
"Budnitz (Flying Leap; If I Told You Once) creates her own hybrid brand of stark, dystopian reality in this impressive collection, working an odd jumble of fantastical, historical and contemporary detail into stories that comment obliquely on the current state of human affairs. In 'Where We Come From,' a pregnant woman desperate to have her baby in America goes to great lengths to cross the border, waiting for years to give birth until her son 'fills her completely, his arms fill her arms, his legs fill her legs.' In 'The Kindest Cut,' the narrator discovers an old journal written by a surgeon during a war: blue and gray uniforms and a doctor's surgical techniques suggest the American Civil War, but the story takes a fantastical twist as the surgeon become obsessed with severed limbs. In the disturbing and seemingly futuristic world of 'Sales,' door-to-door salesmen are rounded up and kept in an unlocked pen from which they choose not to escape. Funny and sad at once, it's a kind of twisted love story in which a young woman's attempts to help are rejected: 'The salesmen don't know that I am trying to help them, they yell at me that I'm ruining business, standing in the way of normal commerce. The customer is always right! they scream.' Budnitz's first-person narrators are pitch perfect, helping the reader to see from their perspectives, no matter how odd it might be. These bizarre and masterfully crafted stories will thrill readers of literary fiction who hunger for an innovative American voice. Agent, Darhansoff, Verrill, Feldman. 6-city author tour. (Feb.) Forecast: Budnitz has quietly been making a name for herself, with stories in the New Yorker, Harper's and the Paris Review. This catchily titled collection should bump her up a few more notches." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This is a collection that offers much in the way of both emotion and imagination....Budnitz manages to be both funny and serious, whimsical and substantive: With a wry rap across the knuckles she draws our attention to small and vital things." Washington Post
"Franz Kafka meets Gabriel Garcia Marquez meets Lorrie Moore in this author's second collection of stories....
"O. Henry-winner and novelist Budnitz shows major talent in her creation of a distinctive fictional world, ambiguous and complex." Kirkus Reviews
"Judy Budnitz can make the most fantastic landscapes credible, and the most ordinary events marvelous and strange. These amazing stories remind me a little of Flannery O'Connor, and mostly of no one; once you've read a Budnitz story, you can't mistake her for anybody else." Nell Freudenberger, author of Lucky Girl
"Thank god that Judy Budnitz is Judy Budnitz and no one else, and that no one else is Judy Budnitz. This collection is singular and unforgettable and utterly affecting....Budnitz has a way of investing so much soul in her stories that you buy it all, completely and utterly, and you can't turn the pages fast enough. Judy Budnitz is one of the most consistently brave young writers we have." Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and editor of McSweeney?s
"Budnitz is an engaging and talented storyteller. All 12 of [these] tightly woven tales...subtly draw the reader into their uncanny plotlines....Budnitz's stories are so compelling [because] she inspires you to wonder what her characters will do next, and always manages to send them veering in unpredictable directions." Julia Cosgrove, Time Out New York
"Judy Budnitz is a fabulist, a realist, a dystopianist, a social satirist, a humanist, and a teller of morality tales — sometimes all at once. Her stories defy genre. They are frightening and funny, chilling and sad, utterly unafraid to portray the human animal in all its glorious absurdity. Budnitz is a master of the unexpected, a virtuoso of the strange — and yet she is unfailingly astute in her portrayal of relationships between mothers and daughters, between men and women, between oppressors and the oppressed. These are astoundingly good stories; you will never forget them." Julie Orringer, author of How to Breathe Underwater
"This is fiction that's fierce and true, hilarious and creepy, wise and graceful and occasionally very, very strange. The next time someone tells you the short story is dead, throw this book at them." Daniel Handler ("Lemony Snicket"), author of A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Basic Eight
"Budnitz’s stark, sardonic short stories are structured like fairy tales and tilt toward the macabre....At her best, Budnitz achieves the brilliant creepiness and frisson of Shirley Jackson; and in all her stories, her deadpan tone perfectly embodies the dehumanizing situations she so imaginatively and daringly dramatizes." Booklist
"Nice Big American Baby will take you through the rabbit hole to the other side — Judy Budnitz's side — where something strange, exciting, and unforgettable is sure to happen. The writing here is fearless, mixed with politics and magic, great wit and remarkable skill. Judy Budnitz is breaking new ground. Everyone should be reading this." Hannah Tinti, author of Animal Crackers
"Brilliant, heartbreaking, funny stories, by a writer who is political in the very best sense of that word, meaning: intensely aware of the value of even the least human heart, and that any one person's suffering belongs to us all." George Saunders, author of Civilwarland in Bad Decline
"Judy Budnitz's stories glow. This collection — brilliant, unpretentious and addictive — reconfirms that Budnitz is in a class by herself among today?s young literary writers. She manages what Kafka managed a century earlier: to craft small pockets of the universe both surreal and hilariously absurd, and from this to extract moving reflections into the very real core of our own emotions and fears, this time of family, politics and love. One day some generation of people will have to think of a new name for Budnitz's special brand of storytelling; in the meantime let's be grateful we get it first." Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club
"At her best, Budnitz invents outrageous plots that somehow carry the weight of truth....Some of Budnitz's other blatantly political narratives are less successful." Tom Perrotta, The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Judy Budnitz's stories have appeared in the New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, Story, The Paris Review, The Oxford American, Glimmer Train, Fence, and McSweeney's, and she is the recipient of an O. Henry Award. Flying Leap was a New York Times Notable Book in 1998. Budnitz is also the author of the novel If I Told You Once, which won the Edward Lewis Wallant Award in the United States and was short-listed for the Orange Prize in the United Kingdom. She lives in San Francisco.
Table of Contents
Where We Come From
Elephant and Boy
The Kindest Cut
What Our Readers Are Saying
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