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The Paris Review Book of People with…

The Paris Review Book of People with Problems

by The Paris Review

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I tell my students they need to get their characters up a creek and then take away the paddle, add some rapids and a hurricane or two. In other words, for fiction to work, people have to have problems.

And here's a fine collection of them. There are 17 stories here, originally published in the Paris Review between 1974 and 2004.

All the stories are good, some, are excellent. One of the superb ones is Annie Proulx's The Wamsutter Wolf. Here Buddy, a young man wandering aimlessly through life moves into a trailer park next to a drunken pack of misfits led by the bully who tortured him in school. The stories are dark for the most part, and none more so than Malinda McCollum's The Fifth Wall, and its junkie mother.

One of the surprises for me was Elizabeth Gilbert's The Famous Torn and Restored Lit Cigarette Trick. Clever, nearly farcical, the ending is nonetheless deeply touching - an indication of her talent.

My favorite was Denis Johnson's Train Dreams, which drew me in as few short stories ever have and left me feeling as though I'd read an entire novel in under sixty pages. The longest story in the collection, and perhaps more rightly called a novella, it was stunningly crafted, beautifully imagined and profoundly moving.

The last story, by Charlie Smith, is perhaps the weakest. The characters take a river trip. They have a paddle, but they also have some deep psychoses, a gun and some very dark fantasies. It felt a wee bit contrived and self-conscious.

Other stories are by Charles Baxter, Joanna Scott, Mary Robison, Rick Bass and Norman Rush. All are good. This is both a solid addition to any library, and a master class for writers. ( )
  Laurenbdavis | May 16, 2014 |
Good stories, all, but the introduction by Stephin Merritt alone makes this worth reading. ( )
  ben_h | Apr 6, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312422415, Paperback)

The Paris Review asks: who hasn’t survived a tax audit, a snowstorm, a break-up, or presided over a murder?

The next addictively clever Paris Review anthology is not a self-help manual; rather it is a wicked elaboration on the human effort to overcome--and instigate--trouble. Throughout these pages you will find men plagued with guilt, women burdened by history, scientists bound by passion, mothers fogged with delusion, and lovers vexed with jealousy. In the theme that encompasses every life, no protagonist--or reader!--is exempt.

Among those to appear:
- Annie Proulx
- Andre Dubus
- Norman Rush
- Charles Baxter
- Wells Tower
- Julie Orringer
- Elizabeth Gilbert
- Ben Okri
- Rick Bass

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:05 -0400)

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