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Other titles in the John Simmons Short Fiction Awards series:
Whose World Is This? (John Simmons Short Fiction Award)by Lee Montgomery
Synopses & Reviews
Montgomery's characters blow drugs and boys, advise friends who are dying of AIDS about pennies in penny loafers, write letters to Caroline Kennedy, and fall in love with movie stars. Some lose themselves to ambivalence while contemplating motherhood; others find themselves soothed when, after hearing of the sudden death of a dear friend they seduce a stranger.
In the story "We Americans," a woman abandoned by her husband grows so vulnerable, she internalizes TV news tragedies by developing hives in the shapes of foreign countries. In the title story, Hannah, a speed freak working the graveyard shift in a nursing home, falls in love with a quadriplegic who void of feelings in his limbs, feel things she cannot. In "Avalanche", an editor to movie stars in Beverly Hills struggles with how to reconcile her own story with the fairy-tale endings of celebrity culture.
Tender, poignant, and at times hilarious, the women in Whose World Is This? turn common notions of love, compassion, and tradition upside down as they show us how vulnerability, although dangerous, is what makes life astonishingly beautiful and reality strangely unreal.
"Memoirist and Tin House executive editor Montgomery (The Things Between Us) makes her fiction debut with this wise, heart-wrenching short story collection, winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award. Concerned largely with the emotional and physical pain of modern life, one representative tale, 'Arts and Crafts of American WASPs,' finds a childless young wife considering motherhood through memory, an ovulation kit and her own mom's detritus: 'My mother has sent me her life in boxes and pieces of old wood and I study these like artifacts.' The capacity for self-defeat comes beautifully to life in the title story, about a young woman dealing with average twenty-something issues ('doing a lot of drugs, trying to find God, trying to figure out how many men I could make love me') who unexpectedly falls in love with a paralyzed man: 'we'd lie in bed facing each other in darkness... and he would tell me how it would feel if it could happen.' Montgomery is a realist with a talent for stringing together perfectly captured moments such as this, evoking Lori Moore or Antonya Nelson with a skillful balance of the beautiful and the grotesque, graced with glints of humor. Though her morose introspection can overwhelm, Montgomery more than makes up for a lack of cheer or action through her characters' lived-in authenticity. A quick, inspired read, this collection bodes well for Montgomery's future in fiction." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Lee Montgomery's surprising stories capture moments in women's lives when, pushed to the edge, they teeter between the complete bewilderment of loss and the lurking possibility of found. These are not stories about diets, designer jeans, and bad boyfriends; these are stories that dismantle the fabric of conventions to reveal the raw interior worlds of women who have come of age on the heels of Betty Crocker and in the hem of Betty Friedan.
About the Author
Lee Montgomery is the author of The Things between Us: A Memoir. She lives in Portland, Oregon, where she is the editorial director of Tin House Books and the executive editor of Tin House magazine.
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