Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Pearlman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pearlman. Show all posts

01 July, 2015

Edith Pearlman, "The Little Wife"

First published in 2008, "The Little Wife," is about dying and aging. Max (Maurice) and Gail fly to Maine to be with their old friend, Fox, who is dying of cancer. The two men had been college roommates and life long friends despite their varied upbringings. Max, poor, Jewish, and Fox, wealthy and Protestant. The only thing they ever had in common was music. Interwoven with the families coming together in rural Maine are issues about Hebrew rules, death and dying, and friendship, tolerance and understanding.

"The Little Wife" is included in Pearlman's collection Binocular Vision.

FAVORITE LINES:
"Someone in your larger cohort has to die first."

"Somebody has to be the last."

"Someone in the smaller cohort has to die first, too."

"Helping one man die--it is the work of many persons."

20 September, 2014

Edith Pearlman, "Fishwater"

Lance narrates "Fishwater" in first person. He's twenty and lives with his "Aunt" Toby, sixty, who writes "fictohistoriographia" in which she writes about historical events enhanced with her fabrications, embellishments and imaginations, she declares, "I concoct...but only to illuminate!"

"Fishwater" tells of love, The Holocaust, writing and publishing, imagination and family seamlessly woven into a wonderfully inventive story that takes twists and turns revealing details.


"Fishwater" is a fantastic story and is in the current issue of Ploughshares, Fall 2014.

31 March, 2013

Edith Pearlman, "Honeydew"

Alice Toomey, headmistress of a girls' school, deals with an anorexic high-school junior who wrecks some havoc in Alice's duties and easy running of the school. My favorite thing about this story, well
two things, are the complex dual lives everyone has and the scientific information about the Coccidae, a beetle. Their way of eating and excreting sap at the rate of many times their weight every hour is amazing but not as much as the fact that "...nomads still eat it-relish it. It is called honeydew."

Emily, the intelligent anorexic, is fascinated by insects. Her mother, Ghiselle, looks like a gazelle. Alice in her heavy Celtic look differs from Emily's svelte mother. Emily's father is a physician and anatomy instructor and keeps a cool head about Emily's disease. "Emily must find her own way to continue to live." Her mother, "We can chain her to a bed and ram food down her throat."

Several other secrets I won't reveal show and remind us that we never know what other people think nor do we ever really know what goes on in their private lives, behind closed doors.

"Honeydew" was first published, at their solicitation, in Orion magazine and subsequently selected for inclusion in the 2012 Best American Short Stories.

16 December, 2012

Edith Pearlman, "The Story"

First published in 2002 in the Alaska Quarterly Review and subsequently included in her collection, Binocular Vision, "The Story" is again, in my opinion, a masterpiece. In just a few pages, Pearlman creates believable people and hones in on deep and complex characteristics of four personalities with their emotional baggage and histories.

Two couples meet for dinner once a year. Their children were married three years prior and live in Santa Fe while the parents all still live in Massachusetts. Lucienne and Harry had both been high school teachers while Justin was a psychiatrist and Judith "could have passed for a British governess." The evening progresses with some interesting facts about the town and the restaurant and its likelihood of not succeeding. We find out a few details about Miriam, Lucienne and Harry's daughter and the son of Justin and Judith.

Harry thinks that this is the evening his wife will tell her story. He knows her well and explains how she waits for "the turning point in a growing intimacy." He is correct; she tells her story. The Nazis took her father away and nearly also her brother. Then, and somehow Pearlman has made this believable, after a bit of discussion about the death of Judith's father and Lucienne's mother, Justin asks Lucienne what her father died of and where. He, the so-called compassionate psychiatrist with his "practiced empathy." This story more than any I can think of explores our obliviousness and self-centeredness as human beings. I suppose one could argue that Justin was cruel and asked the question deliberately. I think he was not really listening and didn't digest what he had been told because he was at dinner only tolerably.

12 December, 2012

Edith Pearlman, "Binocular Vision"

Ten old narrator finally picks up her father's binoculars that he'd received as a gift. She starts watching the Simons who live in the apartment building across from their building. She's able to see most of the rooms of the Simons's house. The narrator watches Mrs. Simons during the day. Mrs. Simon is fastidious. The narrator also watches for Mr. Simon arrival home in the evenings. There is a definite routine throughout the evening. However, when the winter break is over and school starts again, the ten-year old narrator only looks in on them with her father's binoculars once in a while. One morning in February the police arrive and ask her father to step outside with them. When he returns he tells the narrator that Mr. Al Simon killed himself the night before. We find out that it was not a married couple but a mother and son and that the mother also "thought" she was his wife. All sorts of issues there.

This is a fabulous story and quite complex. My favorite thing about it is that it brings back to me that feeling one has as a youngster when something that you thought and believed is completely upended and in an instant you learn something and you are not the same naive youngster as before. One doesn't realize how complex until towards the end. It also has suspense. Darkness is mentioned and the idea of looking at things large and small.

It is only five pages long and is written in first person POV. "Binocular Vision" is the title of the collection as well. It was first published in 1993 in Boston Globe Magazine.

07 December, 2012

Edith Pearlman, "The Coat"

The story jumps right into a conversation between Roland and Sonya as they stand on the Pont Neuf just after WWII. They work for the Joint Distribution Committee which supports and assists displaced Jews. They return to New York and sublet an apartment. Sonya finds a fur coat in the wardrobe, tries it on, assuming the role of the missing owner. She also buys men's slacks for herself. The coat comes to symbolize lost people, people who've disappeared, people who have died, people who have been murdered, etc. and even at one point, for a few minutes, Roland. She also purchases "it" a scarf.

The story is just ten pages long, written in 3rd person POV. It was published in 2004 in the Idaho Review. Once again, Pearlman shows just why short stories are important and universal. In just ten pages we learn and feel experiences far different from our own in time and place as well as watch a woman do the same. By focusing inward short stories share outwards. It is the finding and caring and loving of a coat through which we sense the events of WWII and its aftermath for a man and woman in their fifties and sixties in Paris and New York.

Edith Pearlman just won the Harold U. Ribalow Prize which was announced in Manhattan at the Hadassah House this week.

LINKS:
LA Times announces Pearlman wins prize
Star News Online announces Pearlman winner
Idaho Review


17 August, 2012

Edith Pearlman, "Grossie"

Grossie, so nicknamed by her coworkers, is a forty-seven year old unmarried woman who goes regularly to visit her aged aunt Selma. Grossie's life is pretty much routine until her aunt dies and to fill her time, Grossie decides to take some drawing classes. About herself she learns that it is really the looking that interests her and specifically looking at her newly widowed boss, Gabriel. Grossie had in the past shown respect to one of her co-workers by not calling her by the nickname Itchy but this all changes when Itchy appears to be having an affair with Gabriel. As well, Grossie "looked" at Gabriel with Itchy and in her imagination she flayed him with the knowledge she'd learned about muscles and bones in the anatomy books for her drawing classes.

"Grossie" is the first story in the Antioch Review, Summer 2012 issue. Edith Pearlman has won many awards and I really like her collection Binocular Vision.

07 November, 2011

Edith Pearlman, "The Noncombatant"

The fourth story in Pearlman's collection, Binocular Vision, is called "The Noncombatant" and was first published in 1992 in the Alaska Quarterly Review.

Richard, aged forty-nine, is waiting for WWII to end so that he can begin the cobalt treatment to fight his cancer. The story follows Richard's slight improvements as the Asian part of the war ends during July and August 1945.

He and his wife, Catherine, have three unnamed daughters, ages eight, six and three. Richard's brother's children are also not named.I find this interesting and in a subtle way enhances the themes of the story, death, war, sickness, yet with hope and the opposition and balance of these. In the past, children were often not named until they reached a certain age because so many children died.

They rent a summer cottage from widowed Mrs. Hazelton who stays in the shed out back while she leases her house to them. Mrs. Hazelton makes several appearances throughout the story and she seems to represent the alone-ness we experience in dying and sickness and Richard says that as happy as he is with his life, he'd give it up if he could remain alive.

Woven into a network of meaning is the senselessness of war and the dual aspects of every complex issue. The story begins with this idea when Richard's daughter actually wants the war to continue so that she--when she grows up--can be a nurse on the battlefield. And, the story, near the end, illustrates the complexity again when Catherine, although the war is now almost over, finds the dropping of the bombs so horrible and she and Richard discuss the concept of "killing to cure" and Richard tells her "The bombs may end the war and save lives."

The story is written in third-person point-of-view and the distance feels pretty much equal throughout the story. Yet, once again, another fabulous story by Edith Pearlman. I read it three times and loved it more each time. I could continue writing about it but this blog is not meant to be exhaustive but serves as more of a record and reminder of what I've read.

LINK:

Pearlman reads, NPR

04 November, 2011

Edith Pearlman, "Settlers"

"Settlers" was first published in 1986 and subsequently included in her collection Binocular Vision. Peter, a sixty something retired school teacher, is like an adopted uncle or grandfather to Meg and Jack and their three kids.

Pearlman weaves Judaism, Charles Dickens, immigration, affirmative action, Maimonides, Mendel and elitism into a fabulous story. It is really nice the way so many rich details can be included without feeling stuffed or pretentious or overdone and the story is only 10 pages long!

Lookout Books, press, BUY Binocular Vision
Edith Pearlman's web page
Wikipedia page about Pearlman
New York Times review, probably only available for a short time
National Book Foundation page
John F. Blair Publisher page
Sarabande Books
link to Sarabande for How to Fall
Facebook page for Lookout Books

02 November, 2011

Edith Pearlman, "Day of Awe"

Robert--Bob to his son--travels to Central America to visit Lex and Jaime. The soon to be adopted boy, Jaime, is developmentally behind. Lex, social worker, plans to adopt Jaime which will require his staying in the country for about six more months. Robert calls Lex's work womanish yet he does, sort of, attempt to speak Spanish yet curses his time wasted. Throughout the story, Robert insults, but never out loud, Lex's homosexuality and chosen profession. He even manages to insult his young granddaughter.

Robert also manages, while he's proud of his granddaughter in Beverly Hills, Maureen Mulloy, insults her by calling her name a "washerwoman's name." Also, Lex disrespects his father by insisting on calling him, first of all, by his first name but then shortening it to Bob which Robert tells us he's only just now become accustomed but he has not become accustomed to Lex's homosexuality and he apparently never will. Robert is cantankerous and judgmental. The entire story skirts just above the discension between father and son, and probably mother as well. The little she's mentioned she sounds as judgmental.

There's also the difference between the ancient Jewish customs and culture and religion and here in a Jew-less country, Lex is going to invent a birthday for Jaime as well as his age illustrating the gap between children of Israel, 3,000 years of history and a young boy being sort of re-created. Robert is an investment consultant whose two grown children have probably not taken his advice or consultation.

Ultimately, I think the story is about a father's lack of approval or respect for his children and their life choices and life styles and how children move forward and try to live as they choose suffering, some more than others, the slings and arrows from our parents. And, finally maybe the story is also about how children ignore what they need to in order to continue to love their parents--forge ahead and put the pain behind but never forget. Lex calls his parents by their first names and I didn't detect any other outwardly act of rebellion from Lex.

"Day of Awe" was originally published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Volume 13(1&2) titled as "To Reach this Season" and Pearlman has had nine other stories published in AQR.

So far the stories in this collection are just outstanding and I'm really enjoying them.

LINKS:
Lookout Books, press, BUY Binocular Vision
Edith Pearlman's web page
Wikipedia page about Pearlman
New York Times review, probably only available for a short time
National Book Foundation page
John F. Blair Publisher page
Sarabande Books
link to Sarabande for How to Fall
Facebook page for Lookout Books

30 October, 2011

Edith Pearlman, "Self-Reliance"

I read "Self-Reliance" and the next morning, the Daily Literary Quote of the day was from Umberto Eco. "I would define the poetic effect as the capacity that a text displays for continuing to generate different readings, without ever being completely consumed." He says exactly what I was thinking and feeling about "Self-Reliance." I've read it three times and each time it is different and remains new and fresh. How does a story a person has just read, remain mysterious? "Self-Reliance" is a fabulous story and cannot believe I skipped over it in my 2006 Best American Short Story volume. I don't always, in fact, hardly ever, read every story in an anthology so it was my loss until now.

It is only a few pages long and in a not very close--which might account for the lingering mysteriousness of it--3rd person point of view with a few shifts. "Self-Reliance" also reminds me how almost every subject has already been written about but that it is the style, form, and voice that make such a difference.

The story was first published in Lake Effect journal, then selected for Best American Short Story in 2006 and is now included in the anthology Binocular Vision.


LINKS:
Lookout Books, press, BUY Binocular Vision
Edith Pearlman's web page
Wikipedia page about Pearlman
New York Times review, probably only available for a short time
National Book Foundation page
John F. Blair Publisher page
Sarabande Books
link to Sarabande for How to Fall
Facebook page for Lookout Books
Lake Effect Journal page

07 October, 2011

Edith Pearlman, "Inbound"

"Inbound" on the surface is about a family of four, Sophie, 7, Lilly 2, Joanna and Ken, the parents. They are on a trip to Harvard where Joanna and Ken had gone to school. They are now university professors in Minnesota. One daughter is a prodigy and the younger daughter has Downs Syndrome. For a few minutes, on their stroll through town, Sophie is separated from her parents and younger sister. She foresees her future and is reunited with her family in the subway and life goes on unbeknownst to anyone else the revelations Sophie experienced. The trope of inbound, outbound and co-extending subway trains is a metaphor for the two girls. Each one is on her own path, together yet separate, together yet pointing in opposite directions, yet always parallel, either level or vertical. "They would know each other forward and backward. They would run side by side like subway tracks, inbound and outbound. Coextensive."

The story, on first read, seems simple and not complex. A family travels, one child is momentarily separated, some frenetic searching, then relief. However, on second read, the richness and complexity of emotional attachments in families becomes apparent. Juxtaposition of a mentally challenged child and a mental prodigy sets up a natural dichotomy in which to study family, parental as well as sibling, dynamics.

FAVORITE LINES:
"Lily didn't clarify; she softened things and made them sticky. Sophie and each parent had been separate individuals before Lily came. Now all four melted together like gumdrops left on a windowsill."

LINKS:
Pearlman's web page
Wikipedia page about Pearlman
New York Times review of Binocular Vision in which "Inbound" is included
PEN / Malamud Award 2011 goes to Pearlman
Lookout Books Press page, publisher of Binocular Vision
John F. Blair Publisher
The Story Prize page
review of Pearlman by Charles E. May
Grub Street Daily blog, Q&A