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Hush Hush: Stories by Steven Barthelme

Hush Hush: Stories

by Steven Barthelme

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This is an uneven, but rather interesting, collection of short (some very short) stories about various quirky folks, cats and relationships. I think his longer stories actually worked better and I felt "Interview" (about a tax lawyer who quits his job, wanders back to Austin, where he went to college, and gets a job as a mechanic), "Bye Bye Brewster" (a surprisingly sweet friendship story between a guy in his 40s and a guy in his 70s, whose lives cross in an apartment complex in Arizona) and "Claire" (Where a man borrows money from his ex/Claire and gets sucked backed into his world of gambling and regret, but he actually wins a lot of money and determines that did not help a thing - he still is sorry he let Claire go) were real standouts. Barthelme is exceptionally good at caring about his characters, and so while they can be rather repugnant, I always kind of felt sorry for them. He writes exceptionally well from the viewpoint of someone who has made a horrible decision and how they stumble through that, both in effects on others and their own lives. They all had a few threads that made them likeable. My biggest complaint about this collection, and why I did not rate it much higher, is the nausea-producing and highly implausable title story "Hush, Hush" about a sexual affair between a father, who ends up being a creepy stalking on top of it all, and his grown daughter (who shows up on his doorstep one day, after a life of him not knowing she existed). That one was weird, and not in a good way, and it just put a whole funk on the book. It almost seemed mislpaced in an otherwise decent collection. Why that one was chosen as the title piece is beyond me. Anyway, I do think Bathleme is well worth watching and enjoying. His dialog, quick-paced stories and characters are usually fun, and human in both good and bad ways, so nice and complex and for the most part, interesting and a joy to read. ( )
1 vote CarolynSchroeder | Apr 23, 2013 |
Quick, light read, though if you've ever read anything by Steven's brother Donald Barthelme you already know the writing style (tone-wise it feels more related to Raymond Carver than Donald). There are 20 efficiently written stories that feel like you're observing lonesome people who travel late at night down winding interstates trying to figure themselves out. There are a pair of longer stories, Claire and Hush Hush that I think work more effectively than the shorter 2 to 3 page stuff. Finally, The whole thing's bookended by stories about child geniuses. ( )
  CK25_00 | Dec 8, 2012 |
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Presents a collection of short stories starring characters who are desperate yet full of hope and longing to connect with others and themselves.

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