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Bummer: And Other Storiesby Janice Shapiro
Synopses & Reviews
The women featured in these stories have one thing in common: They're having a terrible day.
There's the housewife so entranced by the pristine order of her neighbor's belongings that she can't stop herself from breaking into their home. There's the mother easing her young son through the trauma of a murder, suddenly confronted with the reappearance of his father. There's the vulnerable middle-aged woman stuck in a coffee-chain job alongside snotty college kids, the talent manager supervising a corral of misguided young stars, and the spiky-haired artist who literally dumps her slacker fiancé — from a moving car — and moves angrily through Vegas, hitting the bars and casinos before engaging in an ill-advised fling with a sleazy player named Ramon.
Janice Shapiro has created a cast of utterly distinct outsiders, yet her earthy warmth and asymmetrical humor so suffuse the stories that they surge with a collective voice, and the reader's experience is that of getting to know a group of close-knit but independent friends. Shapiro's gift for pitch-perfect dialogue — along with her instinctual ease in writing about such fraught topics as commercial sex, death, and the everyday tragedies of growing older — makes her voice one to be relished: tough-minded, sardonic, intimate, and free.
"Shapiro's narrow debut collection starts off great but becomes unfortunately repetitive. The title story tracks a 21-year-old punk rocker carrying the child of a junkie she met at an underground rock show. They've decided to marry in Vegas, but when he gets cold feet, she finds comfort in the arms of a suave high-roller who, misunderstanding the situation, pays her for the pleasure. The story is solid and nicely balanced, but in subsequent stories, the narrators, all female, suffer from strikingly similar problems that boil down to being caught between good-girl hopes and bad-girl instincts. (For instance, in five of these 11 stories, the female narrator is mistaken for a prostitute or prostitutes herself.) The writing itself is generally strong (except in 'Small,' a tediously naughty take on Snow White) and has moments of beauty, as in the melancholic, restrained 'Death and Disaster,' where a grieving woman accidentally kills her neighbor's bird. Shapiro is clearly capable of writing about more than tragic punk princesses, and, hopefully, her next book will build on that promise. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Shapiro's writing is crisp, refreshing and affecting — highly recommended." Kirkus Reviews
"Shapiro's debut short story collection features women, young and middle aged, forced to tackle a gamut of realities, from unrequited love and desire to mortality and transgressions....engaging and clever portraits of characters dealing with life's troubling side effects." Booklist
About the Author
Janice Shapiro's stories have been published in the North American Review, the Santa Monica Review, and the Seattle Review. A screenwriter, she cowrote the cult film Dead Beat. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, son, and dog.
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