Synopses & Reviews
The title of Christine Schutt's second collection strikes the theme of swiftly passing time that runs through each of the stories. In "The Life of the Palm and the Breast" a woman watches her half-grown children running through the house and wonders: Whose boys are these? Whose life is this? The title story tells of a grandfather who has lived long enough to see his daughter's struggles echoed in his granddaughter and how her unhappiness leads him to unexpectedly feel the weight of his years. In "Darkest of All" a mother's relationship with her sons is wreaked by a repeated cycle of drugs and abusive relationships, the years pass and the pain-and its chosen remedy-remains the same. The narrator in "Winterreise" evokes Thoreau and strives to be heroic in the face of her longtime friend's imminent death, a harsh reminder of the time that is allotted to each of us.
Schutt's indomitable, original talent is once again on full display in each of these deeply informed, intensely realized stories. Many of the narratives take place in a space as small as a house, where the doors are many and what is hidden behind these thin domestic barriers tends towards violence, abusive sex, and mental anguish. Schutt opens these doors in sudden, bold moments that also reveal how the characters are often hopeful, even optimistic. With a style that is at once sensual and spare, dreamlike and deliberate, she exposes the terrible intimacy of the rooms and corridors of our innermost lives.
"National Book Award nominee Schutt (Florida; Nightwork) writes with startling beauty and frustrating restraint in 11 searing stories that reveal less than they artfully decline to reveal. A young American couple living in England find themselves pulled apart by desire for others (she for an unnamed 'girl'; he for no one identified) in 'Young'; in 'Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful,' four college students experiment with drugs and grapple with messy relationships ('[I]n this way it started. She and George. Alice and George. She and Alice and George. She and Alice and George and Sam'). In 'Darkest of All,' a mother with a carefully maintained over-the-counter drug habit visits her troubled son in rehab; later, getting her back rubbed by her younger, less screwed-up son, she longs for the idyllic days of their youth: 'Jean had lifted the wisps of hair from off their baby scalps, marked as the moon, with their stitched plates of bone yet visible, the boys; how often she had thought to break them.' In 'They Turn Their Bodies Into Spears,' a rich octogenarian welcomes his anorexic granddaughter to his island home, witnessing in her the same sadness he saw in her absent mother. Schutt's plots can be thin, but her prose is extraordinary. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Unparalleled etchings of loss and foreboding." --Kirkus Reviews
"No one has been writing more sublimely about heartwreck than Christine
Schutt. Her new collection is terrifyingly precise, profound, and perfect."
-Gary Lutz, author of Stories in the Worst Way and I Looked Alive
"This new book of stories confirms Christine Schutt's brilliant reputation as an important American writer. Like Emily Dickinson, and with the same secretive precision, Schutt unfolds a deeply intimate vision, revealing to us, as only short stories can, bare-boned glimpses into the most private of realms. Each story cuts sharply into an existence, holds it before us, and then departs. We are left with a sense of having witnessed something deeply private and exact--the truth of family, of the tormented anguish of familial love. These are daring, radical stories. Together they form a quietly radical document, as sharp, stunning and tragic as anything I've read in years." --David Means, author of The Secret Goldfish
About the Author
Christine Schutt is the author of the novel Florida
(Northwestern, 2004), a finalist for the 2004 National Book Award for Fiction, and Nightwork
(Dalkey Archive, 2000), a collection of short stories, poet John Ashbery's selection for the best book of 1996 for the Times Literary Supplement.
She lives and teaches in New York City.
Table of Contents
Darkest of All
Do You Think I Am Who I Will Be?
Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful
The Human Season
The Life of the Palm and the Breast
They Turn Their Bodies into Spears
See amid the Winter's Snow
The Blood Jet