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1 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

Shout Her Lovely Name

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Shout Her Lovely Name Cover

ISBN13: 9780547634524
ISBN10: 0547634528
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Excerpt

May

In the beginning, don't talk to your daughter, because anything you say she will refute. Notice that she no longer eats cheese. Yes, cheese: an entire food category goes missing from her diet. She claims cheese is disgusting and that, hello? she has always hated it. Think to yourself . . . Okay, no feta, no Gouda — that's a unique and painless path to individuation; shes not piercing, tattooing, or huffing. Cheese isnt crucial. The less said about cheese the better, though honestly you do remember watching her enjoy Brie on a baguette Friday evenings when the neighbors came over and there was laughter in the house.

Then baguettes go too. 

“White flour isn't healthy,” she says. 

She claims to be so much happier now that shes healthier, now that she doesn't eat cheese, pasta, cookies, meat, peanut butter, avocados, and milk. She tells you all this without smiling. Standing before the open refrigerator like an anthropologist studying the customs of a quaint and backward civilization, she doesn't appear happier. 

When she steps away with only a wedge of yellow bell pepper, say, “Are you sure that's all you want? What about your bones? Your body is growing, now's the time to load up on calcium so you don't end up a lonely old hunchback sweeping the sidewalk in front of your cottage.” Bend over your pretend broom, nod your head, and crook a finger at her.

“Nibble, nibble like a mouse, who is nibbling on my house?” cried the old witch. “Oh, dear Gretel, come in. There is nothing to be frightened of. Come in.” She took Gretel by the hand and led her into her little house. Then good food was set before Gretel, milk and avocado, peanut butter, meat, cookies, pasta, and cheese. 

Your daughter stares up at the kitchen ceiling, her look a stew of disdain and forbearance. “Just so you know, Mom, you're so not the smartest person in the room.” She nibbles her pepper wedge, and you hope none of it gets stuck between her teeth or she will miss half her meal. 

Alone at night, start to Google eating disorder three times. When you finally press enter, you are astonished to see that there are 7,800,000 pages of resources, with headings like Psych Central, Body Distortion, ED Index, Recovery Blog, Celebrities with Anorexia, Alliance for Hope, DSM-IV

Realize an expert is needed and take your daughter to a dietitian. In the elevator on the way up, she stands as far away from you as she possibly can. Her hair, the color of dead grass, hangs over her fierce eyes. “In case you're wondering, I hate you.” 

Remember your daughter is in there somewhere. 

This dietitian, the first of three — recommended by a childless, forty-something friend who sought help in order to lose belly fat — looks at your daughter and sees one of her usual clients. She recommends fourteen hundred calories a day, nonfat dairy, one slice of bread, just one tablespoon of olive oil on salad greens. You didn't know — you thought you were doing the right thing, and you are now relegated to the dunce corner forever by your daughter who is thin as shes always wanted to be. 

The fourteen-year-old part of you — the Teen magazine-subscribing part of you that bleached your dark hair orange with Super Sun-In and hated, absolutely hated, your thighs; the part that sometimes used to eat nothing but a bagel all day so if anyone asked you what you ate, you could answer, A bagel, and feel strong — that part of you thinks your daughter looks good. Your daughter is nearly as thin as a big-eyed Keane girl, as thin as the seventh-grade girls who drift along the halls of her middle school, their binders pressed to their collarbones, their coveted low-rise, destroyed-denim, skinny-fit, size-double-zero jeans grazing their jutting hipbones. 

She is as thin as her friends who brag about being stuffed after their one-carrot lunches. 

“It's crazy, Mom. I'm worried about Beth, Sara, McKenzie, Claire . . .” she says, waving her slice of yellow bell pepper in the air. 

Google eating disorders again. This time click on the link understandingEDs.com.

July

Don't talk to your daughter about food, though this is all she will want to talk to you about. Spaghetti with clam sauce sounds amazing, she'll say, flipping through Gourmet magazine, but when you prepare it, along with a batch of brownies, hoping she'll eat, shell claim shes always detested it. She'll call you an idiot for cooking shit-food you know she loathes. “Guess what, Mom,” she will say with her new vitriol, “I never want to be a chubby-stupid-no-life-fucking-bitch-loser like you.” 

After you slap her, don't cry. Hold your offending palm against your own cheek in a melodramatic gesture of shame and horror that you think you really mean. Feel no satisfaction. When she calls you abusive and threatens to phone child protective services, resist handing her the phone with a wry I dare you smile. Try not to scream back at her. Don't ask her what the hell self-starvation is if not abuse. Be humiliated and embarrassed, but don't make yourself any promises about never stooping that low again. Remind your daughter that spaghetti with clam sauce and brownies was the exact meal she requested for her twelfth birthday, and then quickly leave the room.

Lovely's Twelfth-Birthday Brownies

2 sticks unsalted butter

4 ounces best-quality unsweetened chocolate

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter large baking pan. Melt together butter and chocolate over a very, very low flame or, better yet, in a double boiler. Watch and stir constantly to prevent burning. Turn off heat. Add sugar and stir until granules dissolve. Stir in eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated and the batter shines. Blend in vanilla; fold in the flour and salt until just mixed. Add raspberries. Bake for 30 minutes. The center will be gooey; the edges will have begun to pull away from the sides of the pan. Try your best to wait until the brownies cool before you slice them. Enjoy! 

Later, after you have eaten half the brownies and picked at the crumbling bits stuck to the pan, apologize to your daughter. She will tell you she didn't mean it when she called you chubby. Hug her and feel as if you're clutching a bag of hammers to your chest.

Indications of anorexia nervosa are an obsession with food and an absolute refusal to maintain normal body weight. One of the most frightening aspects of the disorder is that people with anorexia nervosa continue to think they look fat even when they are wasting away. Their nails and hair become brittle, and their skin may become dry and yellow. 

Prepare meals you hope she will eat: buckwheat noodles with shrimp, grilled salmon and quinoa, baked chicken with bulgur, omelets without cheese. When you melt butter in the pan or put olive oil on the salad, try not to let her see. Try to cook when she is away from the kitchen, though suddenly it is her favorite room, the cookbooks her new library. Feel as if you always have a sharp-beaked raven on your shoulder, watching, pecking, deciding not to eat, angry at food, and terribly angry at you. 

Begin to have heated, whispered conversations with your husband — in closets, in the pantry, in bed at night. He wants to sneak cream into the milk carton. He wants to put melted butter in her yogurt. He wants to nourish his little girl. He is terrified.

   

You are angry, resentful, and confused. You want help. You are terrified. 

“She's mean because she's starving,” he says. “How you feel doesn't matter.” 

“Yes, but I have to live in this house too.” 

“How you feel doesn't matter.” 

“Yes, but she used to love me.” 

“This isn't about you.” 

 

Later — after you once again do not have sex — get out of bed, close the bathroom door behind you, close the shower door behind you as well, then cry into a towel for as long as you like. Ask yourself, Is this about me?

September

Take your daughter to the doctor. Learn about orthostatic blood pressure and body mass index. Learn that shes had dizzy spells, that she hasn't had her period for four months. Worry terribly. Feel like a failure: like a chubby-stupid-no-life-fucking-bitch-loser. 

When the pregnant doctor tells your daughter that she needs to gain five pounds, your daughter starts to cry and then to scream that none of you people live in her body, you people have no idea what she needs, you people are rude and she will only listen to herself. You people (you and the doctor and the nurse) huddle together and listen. You don't want to be one of you people, you want to be hugging your frightened, hostile daughter, who sits alone on the examination table. But she won't let you. The doctor gives her a week to gain two pounds and find a therapist or she will be referred to an eating-disorder clinic. You want your daughter to succeed. You want her to stay with you at home, to stay in school, to make new friends, to laugh, to answer her body when she feels hunger. 

You watch your daughter watch the pregnant doctor squeezing between the cabinet and the examination table and you know exactly what your daughter is thinking — Fat, fat, fat. 

Before you leave, the doctor pulls you aside and tells you that your daughter suffers from “disordered eating.” She tells you to assemble a treatment team: doctor, therapist, nutritionist, family therapist.

“You'll need support; you'll need strategies.” 

You've never been on a team before. Ask the obvious question: “Eating disorder versus disordered eating? Whats the difference?” Get no answer. Try to go easy on yourself.

Knowledge about the causes of anorexia nervosa are not fully known and may vary. In an attempt to understand and uncover its origins, scientists have studied the personalities, genetics, environments, and biochemistry of people with these illnesses. Certain common personality traits in persons with anorexia nervosa are low self-esteem, social isolation (which usually occurs after the behavior associated with anorexia nervosa begins), and perfectionism. These people tend to be good students and excellent athletes. It does seem clear (although this may not be recognized by the patient), that focusing on weight loss and food allows the person to ignore problems that are too painful or seem irresolvable. 

Remember, you were always there to listen to painful problems, to help. You kept your house purged of fashion magazines, quit buying the telephone-book-size September Vogue as soon as you gave birth to her. Only glanced at People in the dentists office. So why? How? How did this happen to your family?

Karen Carpenter, Mary-Kate Olsen, Oprah Winfrey, Anne Sexton, Paula Abdul, Sylvia Plath, Princess Diana, Jane Fonda, Audrey Hepburn, Margaux Hemingway, Sally Field, Anna Freud, Elton John, Richard Simmons, Franz Kafka, for Christ's sake

You should never have paid Cinderella to enchant the girls at her fourth-birthday party. Cringe as you remember the shimmering blue acetate gown and the circle of mesmerized girls at Cinderella's knees, their eyes softly closed, tender mouths slackened to moist Os. Cinderella hummed Cinderella's love song; she caked iridescent blue eye shadow on each girl while they all fell in love with her and her particular fantasy. Know in your heart that even though you canceled cable and forbade Barbie to cross your threshold, you are responsible. You have failed her.

After the doctor's appointment, drive to your daughter's favorite Thai restaurant while she weeps beside you and tells you she never imagined she'd be a person with an eating disorder. “If this could happen to me, anything can happen to anyone.” 

Tell her, “Your light will shine. Live strong. We will come through this.” Vague affirmations are suddenly your specialty. 

“I'm scared,” she tells you. 

For the first time in months, you are not scared. You are calm. Your daughter seems pliable, reachable. During the entire car ride, the search for a parking space, and the walk into the restaurant you are filled with hope. And then you are seated for lunch and she studies the menu for eleven minutes, finally ordering only a green papaya salad. Hope flees and this is the moment you begin to eat like a role model. You too order a salad; you also order pho and salmon and custard and tea. Eat slowly, with false joy and frivolity. Show her how much fun eating can be! Look at me, ha-ha, dangling rice noodles from my chopsticks, tilting my head to get it all in my mouth. Yum! Delicious! Wow! Ha-ha! Ha-ha!

Ha

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3girlsmama, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by 3girlsmama)
Natalie Serber's "Shout Her Lovely Name" is such a delight that I read it twice in 2012. With so much to read, it is rare that I ever read anything a second time, but this is truly worth it. Serber's characters are raw and real and beautiful. Meet her characters and be changed. She treats her characters, troubled and challenged as they are, with such compassion that even the most painful stories will fill you with hope.
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lilianxcheng, July 10, 2012 (view all comments by lilianxcheng)
Natalie Serber took me by surprise and sent me on a heartfelt journey of family ties in her debut short story collection, Shout Her Lovely Name. Serber’s prose reads like beautiful poetry, inviting the reader to fill in the story with its clues. Through these eleven character-driven, poignant short stories about mothers and their children, Serber displays versatility, humor, and tears. I am fully enamored with her writing, and pleasantly surprised that this is only her debut.

Writing
Serber experiments with writing structure in her first story about a mother struggling to help her daughter fight an eating disorder while her husband is in denial; it is written almost like an instructional manual combined with a monthly journal. I could imagine a mother documenting her exhausting journey with her anorexic daughter, whom she wants to hold on to. It is one of the brightest highlights, and one that I plan to reread.

Ruby and Nora
Throughout the book, we also encounter recurring characters, Ruby and her daughter Nora. Ruby is a teacher and single mother, and not the best mother since she often leaves Nora home alone while she seduces men for dates and gifts. Nora admires her mother and we see their relationship grow as she becomes an adult through figments. I liked reading their stories because they are the characters I feel most developed. I found myself reading the other stories slightly faster, just so I can meet Ruby and Nora again. Plus, Ruby is kinda funny�"even when she isn’t sober half the time.

“At the stop sign, Ruby tooted her horn, called a final “Bye, Beanie.” Then she turned the wrong way. Nora cried out, “Right, go right!,” but her mother with her terrible sense of direction was gone.”

-page 179 of Shout Her Lovely Name (uncorrected proof)

Oh, and there’s also this artist who has a crush on Nora and spews nonsense like he is the word’s deepest person. I couldn’t help smiling at his behavior.

“And this satire class, it’s so�"lower division. It’s like meta. Self-parody. My next piece is coming from that reductio ad absurdum talk. You know; like the lecture hall and the professorial professor, and you, so coed, and I’m this, like, visionary.”

-page 180 of Shout Her Lovely Name (uncorrected proof)

Ending
Since Shout Her Lovely Name is a collection of stories, it ends with the story Developmental Blah Blah, which I felt was the book’s lowest point. I have to say that this was one of the hardest books for me to finish because Developmental Blah Blah, just felt neverending. Every time I thought the story reaching its denouement I would turn the page to find more and more pages that seem to dwell on the minutiae. The tight, poetic prose I adored in the throughout the book backfired, and I felt the story dragging, pulling my energy down with it. I couldn’t hold my interest in the characters either, forgetting who each one was as soon as they were introduced. Cassie, the mother, sounded like a paranoid train wreck: she feels her husband doesn’t appreciate her, her children are growing up too fast, and she has romantic intentions towards her shrink. Every time I feel like I can grasp Cassie’s character, she loses me on another tangent. Perhaps it was because it was the last story that made me want to race to the end, but I felt Developmental Blah Blah could’ve been better placed towards the beginning; it just ended the novel on a sour note.

In many short story collections, the main problems I run into as a reader is the indistinguishable blur of under-developed characters and awkwardly abrupt endings, both of which were (to my pleasure) not found in Serber’s work. In the short span of a chapter, I could feel these characters beside me and their stories flow with every word. Surprisingly, each story seemed to be obliquely tied to next giving the reading an unexpected transition: a story that ended on a mother giving birth would lead to a story about a mother bringing her newborn son on an airplane, and a girl who liked baking in one story would lead to a scene about buying cupcakes in the next. It made me wonder if there was a hidden agenda in story order. Shout Her Lovely Name is one thought-provoking collection filled with complex, yet flawed characters waiting to be understood. It’s a book I will soon be revisiting.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780547634524
Author:
Serber, Natalie
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH)
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20120631
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
3 b/w images
Pages:
240
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb

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Shout Her Lovely Name Used Hardcover
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Product details 240 pages Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - English 9780547634524 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Serber's intense debut collection would have been better had every story, rather than most of them, traced Ruby Hargrove's evolution from daughter to mother, and her own daughter Nora's reactions to her questionable parenting. After an uneven opening story about a mother and her teenager daughter's eating disorder, we come to 'Ruby Jewel,' about a college girl reluctantly having drinks with her philandering, alcoholic father. As the plot progresses, Ruby gets pregnant, tries to make it work with the baby's father, and is finally abandoned when she changes her mind about adoption. So begins Ruby and Nora's life together, a blur of constant moving and a revolving door of men. Serber deftly puts the spotlight on key moments of Nora's upbringing: an adopted stray cat is thrown out for ruining Ruby's things; Nora's tough schoolgirl friends turn to Ruby for help ; Ruby flirts with Nora's older boyfriend. Serber's adroit turns of phrase and the short story format enhance the emotional intensity of familiar scenarios while keeping them from seeming rote, but the form has its pitfalls. An engaging story about a mother comforting an orphaned baby on a plane splits the book down the middle, and another stand-alone story ends it. Despite those stories' clear thematic ties to the collection as a whole, readers will miss Ruby and Nora." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "An impressive debut, with insightful, sometimes painful truths about the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters."
"Review" by , "From the very first page, this extraordinary collection of short stories grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go. It is filled with poignant, thought-provoking observations on the delicate yet unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters. Serber has given readers a remarkable, heart-felt book to be savored, shared and passed on from one generation to another."
"Review" by , "As its title implies, Natalie Serber's collection Shout Her Lovely Name is a triumphant battle cry of hard-won victory over the stalemate and injuries between mothers and daughters. She leaves the reader amazed at the tenacity, tenderness, and truth of her characters."
"Review" by , "Shout Her Lovely Name joins the ranks of the finest books ever to address relations between daughters and their mothers...equal parts love and sandpaper. I ached for these characters and cried at their hard-earned moments of joy. A book to make you marvel that someone really does understand, to make you grateful that she wrote it all down so fiercely, so tenderly."
"Review" by , "Coming of age is a painful and beautiful experience in Natalie Serber's hands. These are funny and poignant pieces, building a book that feels novelistic in sweep, yet true to the precision and direct aim of the short story. A real pleasure."
"Review" by , "In the complexities of family triumphs and catastrophes, Natalie Serber is always achingly specific. Between mothers and daughters, women and their lovers, she misses nothing, and in all her scenes, the reader feels the true breath of life."
"Review" by , "In the tradition of Lorrie Moore and Tobias Wolff, Natalie Serber's stories uncover the secret hearts of seemingly ordinary people. Funny, heart-felt, and keenly perceptive, this is a book worth shouting about."
"Synopsis" by , A collection of stories about the complicated and powerful ties between mothers and daughters.
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