I read this whole collection more or less by accident, as I originally only intended on browsing the book. ZZ Packer's style is well-crafted, her writing flawless; and the stories are vivid, almost like stored memories you're only now recalling. It's a damn fine debut. Recommended By Aubrey W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
With stories in The New Yorker
's debut fiction issue and in The Best American Short Stories, 2000
, and as the winner of a Whiting Writers' Award and a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award, ZZ Packer has already achieved what most writers only dream about-all prior to publication of her first book.
Now, in Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, her impressive range and talent are abundantly evident. Packer dazzles with her command of language-surprising and delighting us with unexpected turns and indelible images, as she takes us into the lives of characters on the periphery, unsure of where they belong. With penetrating insight that belies her youth-she was only nineteen years old when Seventeen magazine printed her first published story-Packer takes us to a Girl Scout camp, where a troupe of black girls are confronted with a group of white girls, whose defining feature turns out to be not their race but their disabilities; to the Million Man March on Washington, where a young man must decide where his allegiance to his father lies; to Japan, where an international group of drifters find themselves starving, unable to find work.
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is a striking debut-fresh, versatile, and captivating. It introduces us to an arresting and unforgettable new American voice.
"Packer's debut collection reminds us that no stylistic tour de force or authorial gamesmanship, or flights of language can ground a story like a well-realized character. This is the old-time religion of storytelling, although Packer's prose supplies plenty of the edge and energy we expect from contemporary fiction." Jean Thompson, The New York Times Book Review
"Highly personal yet socio-politically acute: a debut collection that cuts to the bone of human experience and packs a lasting wallop." Kirkus Reviews
"Packer's handling of race is consistently impressive....But without question Packer's strength is her characters, and when she's at her best she writes like a boxer, capturing everything she needs in rapid-fire sentences." Marc Nebitt, The Washington Post
"The clear-voiced humanity of Packer's characters, mostly black teenage girls, resonates unforgettably through the eight stories of this accomplished debut collection....Packer knows how to keep the tone provocative and tense at the close of each tale, doing justice to the complexity and dignity of the characters and their difficult choices." Publishers Weekly
"The short stories in Drinking Coffee Elsewhere feel refreshingly subtle and unresolved....In the book's more organic pieces, Packer's characters feel inseparable from the messy sociopolitical landscape, feet firmly planted in our world." The Village Voice
"Packer's prose suggests university writing-workshop fiction at its insightful best, full of youthful angst and irreverence, yet polished, professional, and captivating." Brendan Driscoll, Booklist
"Packer's stories, by turns astringent, brutally honest and sometimes funny, offer readers slices of life..." Ayesha Court, USA Today
"What a wonderfully frank, fearless, funny writer ZZ Packer is and how splendidly Drinking Coffee Elsewhere displays those qualities." Margot Livesey, author of Eva Moves the Furniture
"She's a heck of a fine writer of rich, full, psychologically complex stories...and a wry sense of humor..." Stephen Dixon, author of I
”ZZ Packer’s prose is vivid and often comic...Her vision sizzles and fizzes.”John Updike
”A captivating eye for detail...a bold and often thrilling usage of language and style.”San Francisco Chronicle
”This is the old-time religion of storytelling, although Packer’s prose supplies plenty of the edge and energy we expect from contemporary fiction.”The New York Times Book Review
”A true cause for celebration for those of us who feel that fiction exists to crack the world open and again and inspire us with new love for it. Funny, fierce, verbally energetic, deeply compassionateZZ Packer is a wonderful new writer, who somehow manages to indict the species and forgive it all at once.”George Saunders, author of CivilWarLand in Bad Decline
”Acerbic, satirical, hilarious, nuanced, as fiercely unsentimental and deliciously subtle as Jane Austen.”O, The Oprah Magazine
”ZZ Packer writes a short story with more complexity and kindness than most people can muster in their creaking 500-page novels. It is the kind of brilliance for narrative that should make her peers envious and her readers very, very grateful.”Zadie Smith
”Packer casts an eye both humorous and merciless upon her characters, putting them, in the tradition of Flannery O’Connor, to tests of faith, family, friendship, love, and self that can approach almost Biblical dimensions.”Elle
Already an award-winning writer, Packer now shares her long awaited debut collection of stories which has been greeted with acclaim.
Chosen by John Updike as a Today Show Book Club Pick.
Already an award-winning writer, ZZ Packer now shares with us her debut, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere. Her impressive range and talent are abundantly evident: Packer dazzles with her command of language, surprising and delighting us with unexpected turns and indelible images, as she takes us into the lives of characters on the periphery, unsure of where they belong. We meet a Brownie troop of black girls who are confronted with a troop of white girls; a young man who goes with his father to the Million Man March and must decides where his allegiance lies; an international group of drifters in Japan, who are starving, unable to find work; a girl in a Baltimore ghetto who has dreams of the larger world she has seen only on the screens in the television store nearby, where the Lithuanian shopkeeper holds out hope for attaining his own American Dream.
With penetrating insight that belies her youth—she was only nineteen years old when Seventeen magazine printed her first published story—ZZ Packer helps us see the world with a clearer vision. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is a striking performance—fresh, versatile, and captivating. It introduces us to an arresting and unforgettable new voice.
About the Author
A New Yorker debut writer, ZZ Packer has had short stories published in the Best American Short Stories, 2000 (edited by E. L. Doctorow), Harper's, Story magazine, and in the anthology 25 and Under: Fiction, as well as a story read on NPR's "Selected Shorts." A graduate of Yale and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award and a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award. She has held Wallace Stegner and Truman Capote fellowships from Stanford University, where she is currently a Jones Lecturer.
Table of Contents
Every Tongue Shall Confess 29
Our Lady of Peace 49
The Ant of the Self 73
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere 105
Speaking in Tongues 133
Doris Is Coming 211