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Vaquita and Other Stories

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When asked to describe her short stories, Edith Pearlman replied that they are stories about people in peculiar circumstances aching to Do The Right Thing. She elaborated with the same wit and intimacy that make her stories a delight to read:

“Before I was a writer I was a reader; and reading remains a necessary activity, occupying several joyous hours of every day. I like novels, essays, and biographies; but most of all I like the short story: narrative at its most confiding.

“My own work, and particularly the stories in Vaquita, aims at a similar intimacy between writer and reader. My imagined reader wants to know who loves whom, who drinks what, and, mostly, who answers to what summons. Thank Heavens for Spike Lee! Before his movies writers and critics had to natter about moral stances; now I can say with a more tripping tongue that my characters are people in peculiar circumstances, aching to Do The Right Thing if only they can figure out what The Right Thing is. If not, they’ll at least Do Their Own Right Thing Right.

“And I’m drawn to heat: sweltering Central American cities; a steamy soup kitchen; Jerusalem in midsummer; the rekindled passion of an old historian; the steady fire of terminal pain. I like solitaires, oddities, charlatans, and children. My characters are secretive; in almost every story somebody harbors a hidden love, dread, regret, or the memory of an insult awaiting revenge.

“When I stop writing stories I plan to write letters, short and then shorter. My mother could put three sentences onto a postcard and make the recipient think he’d read a novel. I’m working towards a similar compression.”

From Publishers Weekly

Oct 07, 1996 – Set in locales as varied as a Boston soup kitchen and a nameless wartorn Central American country, the 15 stories in this debut collection gently delineate the interior lives of their thoughtful protagonists as they grapple with jealousy, longing, mortality and the desire to do good in a complicated world. Some of the tales are dark and fanciful, even creepy; others remain firmly entrenched in the everyday realities of middle-class life. What ties them together is the author's narrative restraint. Pearlman puts her characters through their paces, remaining always at a respectful distance. Mixing a dash of foreboding with a coolly observant eye, the stories share a matte texture in which the occasional bright turn of phrase sparkles all the more brightly: a worried mother, reunited with her lost child, takes relief "like an injection." An old man looks out a library window "so narrow that he like shooting from it." While Pearlman's use of language is often deft, many of these tales are disappointingly slight. Time and again, she piques the reader's curiosity by affording us a glimpse of a character's inner life, but then she lets the curtain fall much too soon.
Vaquita and Other Stories
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Fiction & Literature
  • Published: Nov 15, 1996
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Seller: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Print Length: 208 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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