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Amor and Psycho: Storiesby Carolyn Cooke
Synopses & Reviews
From the highly acclaimed author of Daughters of the Revolution and The Bostons (winner of the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for fiction) comes a lyrical, visceral collection of short stories about sex and scars, waste and promise, with an eclectic cast of characters spanning generations and cultures.
In "Francis Bacon," an aspiring writer crafts sexual fantasies for an Upper East Side mogul. In "The Snake," a restless psychologist sheds one existence after another, continuously restarting her life. In "The Boundary," a resident artist on a Native American reservation connects with a charismatic, deeply troubled teenager. In the surreal "She Bites," a man builds a doghouse as his wife slowly transforms. In "Opal Is Evidence," a woman and her ten-year-old daughter, who suffers from a brain tumor, house-sit at the yurt of marijuana farmers. In "The New Skin," a man literally unpeeled by horrific burns gradually recovers. And in the transcendent, three-part title story, two close friends confront cancer and suicide. Cooke's searing tapestry, peopled by characters who disappear and reemerge throughout the collection, explores lives ruled by illness, ritual, desire, and angst. At once philosophical and compulsively readable, Amor and Psycho dives into our dark spaces, confronting the poetry and brutality of human existence.
"Psyche, rechristened Psycho by high school 'witchy girls,' is the star of the local poetry slam team. Psycho is smart, funny, and maybe a little psychic, and though she's been known to adjust facts 'for realistic effect,' as the narrator tells us, she is instantly likable. Which makes it hard not to miss her when her story morphs into those of two other women in her town, a foggy place up the coast from San Francisco where 'poetry is a blood sport.' In her second story collection (after The Bostons), Cooke delivers tales of cancer; bosses who stop paying their employees; a teacher and her Native American charge, both with boundary issues; an ambitious young writer who works for a Hustler-like magazine; and a mysterious culture, the Mezima-Wa. Cooke's stories twist and turn, playing games with language. They don't stop where you think they will (or, sometimes, where you think they should), and even when they disappoint (as in 'She Bites,' a note-perfect reckoning between man and contractor, form and function, that turns into magical realism 101), they leave you with something: shards of phrases; a lifetime of attitudes conveyed in a word or an aside; or odd, perfect details that stick in your mind. Agent: Laurie Fox, Linda Chester Literary Agency." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Carolyn Cooke is the author of the highly acclaimed Daughters of the Revolution and The Bostons. Her short stories have appeared in AGNI, Gargoyle, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Best American Short Stories, and The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories. Her nonfiction has appeared in The Nation, Contemporary Literary Criticism, and New California Writing 2011. A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council, she teaches at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.
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