Lovely and lyrical—a celebration of language and another virtuoso performance from a writer who does indeed deserve to be...

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BINOCULAR VISION

NEW & SELECTED STORIES

Elegant, lapidary stories that beg Ann Patchett’s question in the introduction: “Why isn’t Edith Pearlman famous?”

Pearlman (Love Among the Greats, 2002, etc.) is a master of the form, without doubt, though, like V.S. Pritchett, with whom she shares several points in common, there is nothing at all flashy about her fictions. Her stories are lush, at least as compared to the aridities of all those Raymond Carver–inspired tales of the last quarter-century, and they range the world in search of reports about the human condition. Often Pearlman writes of misplaced and displaced people, whether Jewish refugees from World War II–era Europe or characters who aren’t comfortable inside their own skins; often her characters can barely communicate, mistrustful of and limited by language (“On the fourth Thursday in August the youngest grandchild at last deigned to speak the language she had long understood, and demanded, in grammatical English, to be taken with the other kids to a traveling carnival”); it’s not uncommon for one of Pearlman’s players to be reaching for a dictionary somewhere along the way. Pearlman’s characters, too, are often layered in symbolism without being mere ciphers, as with the protagonist of “The Noncombatant,” a note-perfect evocation of the moment Americans on the home front learn that the war in the Pacific has ended—which does not mean, not by any stretch, that the goddess Eris has left the earth (“He felt his dying staunched by her wrath, her passionate unsubmissiveness”). Most of these stories are earnest, often even grim, though Pearlman is not without a sense of humor that mostly manifests in giving taunting names (“the Sisters Scrabble and the geezer”) to some of her foils. But humor is not what these stories are about; instead, Pearlman favors the startling moral problem (what should we think of a travel writer who does not travel, but invents places?) and the poetic meditation on family history and the passage of time.

Lovely and lyrical—a celebration of language and another virtuoso performance from a writer who does indeed deserve to be better known.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-9823382-9-2

Page Count: 375

Publisher: Lookout Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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Stunningly original and altogether arresting.

WOMEN TALKING

An exquisite critique of patriarchal culture from the author of All My Puny Sorrows (2014).

The Molotschna Colony is a fundamentalist Mennonite community in South America. For a period of years, almost all the women and girls have awakened to find themselves bloodied and bruised, with no memories of what might have happened in the night. At first, they assumed that, in their weakness, they were attracting demons to their beds. Then they learn that, in fact, they have been drugged and raped repeatedly by men of the colony. It’s only when one woman, Salome, attacks the accused that outside authorities are called—for the men’s protection. While the rest of the men are away in the city, arranging for bail, a group of women gather to decide how they will live after this monstrous betrayal. The title means what it says: This novel is an account of two days of discussion, and it is riveting and revelatory. The cast of characters is small, confined to two families, but it includes teenage girls and grandmothers and an assortment of women in between. The youngest form an almost indistinguishable dyad, but the others emerge from the formlessness their culture tries to enforce through behavior, dress, and hairstyle as real and vividly compelling characters. Shocked by the abuse they have endured at the hands of the men to whom they are supposed to entrust not only their bodies, but also their souls, these women embark on a conversation that encompasses all the big questions of Christian theology and Western philosophy—a ladies-only Council of Nicea, Plato’s Symposium with instant coffee instead of wine. This surely is not the first time that these women are thinking for themselves, but it might be the first time they are questioning the male-dominated system that endangered them and their children, and it is clearly the first time they are working through the practical ramifications of what they know and what they truly believe. It’s true that the narrator is a man, but that’s of necessity. These women are illiterate and therefore incapable of recording their thoughts without his sympathetic assistance.

Stunningly original and altogether arresting.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-258-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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