Synopses & Reviews
A provocative collection of short fiction by award-winning writer, director, and playwright Neil LaBute, who "continues to probe the fascinating dark side of individualism" (The New Yorker
on The Shape of Things
Neil LaBute is best known for his controversial films In the Company of Men, which was a winner of a New York Critics' Circle Award for Best First Feature and the Filmmakers' Trophy at Sundance, and Your Friends & Neighbors, and his plays The Mercy Seat and The Shape of Things, which he also adapted for the screen. Now, in his debut collection of stories, he brings to the page his cutting humor and compelling take on the shadowy terrain of the human heart.
Seductive and disturbing, the stories in Seconds of Pleasure are not for the faint of heart. Each potent and pithy tale finds men and women exploiting or at the mercy of the hidden fault lines that separate them: a woman leaves her family at their vacation home after discovering her husband in a compromising situation in "Time Share"; a generous dancer rescues a man stranded in the parking lot of a strip club in "Open All Night"; a middle-aged man obsesses over a scab on the calf of a pretty young girl in "Boo-Boo"; and a vain Hollywood actor gets his comeuppance in "Soft Target."
Infused with LaBute's trademark wit and black humor, the stories vivisect human relations in a way that is at once intimate, brutal, and unsettlingly familiar. In Seconds of Pleasure, Neil LaBute unleashes his imagination in stories that offer unflinching insight into our very human shortcomings and impure urges with shocking candor.
"In a steady stream of movies (Friends and Neighbors, etc.) and plays (The Mercy Seat, etc.), LaBute has honed his singular ability to depict self-interested, acid-tongued and deeply flawed characters. In this debut collection, he applies his fierce, disturbing energy to 20 short stories. Not surprisingly, echoes of his screen and stage characters populate these pages men and women engaging in adulterous affairs, voyeuristic fantasies, doomed interactions. The playwright's rapid-fire dialogue vividly captures provocative moments of conflict in some stories; others employ first-person, free-associative monologues ('She's been going at it, this talking stuff, I mean, for around three hours straight, seriously, without a pause, and it's really getting me down. I almost feel sad inside, or lonely....'). LaBute is a master at crafting shocking situations and nasty characters, but this ungenerous view of the human heart can make for a dark and brutal read. In 'Ravishing,' the narrator describes an encounter with a prostitute that ends with the making of a snuff film. In 'Maraschino,' a woman knowingly but incomprehensibly seduces her drunk ex-stepfather. Sharp dialogue and grim imagination aside, LaBute's microfictions rarely delve below the surface to offer insight into the nature of the human condition; the collection as a whole feels a little sadistic, the act of reading it a kind of complicated masochism. Agent, Suzanne Gluck. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Traveling the same rocky emotional terrain as the late short-story master Andre Dubus, Labute's smart, edgy offering delivers pleasures well beyond the time frame his title suggests." Booklist
"LaBute's whiplash command of the ironic distance between his heroes' self-excusing blather...is so uncanny that every story stings....Only a sadist, or a masochist, would read this poisoned volume through at a sitting. But...doesn't that include us all?" Kirkus Reviews
"All in all, expect the unexpected as some simple truths are revealed during these seconds of pleasure. Terse and potent with sharp, realistic dialog, these stories reflect LaBute's harsh and often unnerving view of human nature. Recommended." Library Journal
"[The stories] will end badly, we know, and that's what makes each dark tale as irresistible as good gossip. Fallibility and weakness, LaBute has demonstrated once again, have their own allure." Meg Thomann, Black Book
"Each of the twenty short stories in Seconds of Pleasure
, LaBute's prose fiction debut, revisits the discomforting territory of his dramatic work, and its formal concern to show, rather than tell. Some are highly confessional first-person narratives, others free indirect ramblings....Seconds of Pleasure
is an uneven collection, and some of the shortest stories read like sketches for screen treatment." Andrew van der Vlies, The Times Literary Supplement
(read the entire Times Literary Supplement
LaBute's short fiction, including some of the stories in Seconds of Pleasure, has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Bazaar, Playboy, Zoetrope: All Story, and The New York Times Magazine, among others.
In his debut collection of stories, filmmaker LaBute brings to the page his cutting humor and compelling take on the shadowy terrain of the human heart. Seductive and disturbing, the stories in Seconds of Pleasure are not for the faint of heart.
Table of Contents
A Second of Pleasure
Look at Her
Open All Night
Some do it Naturally