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Fools: Stories by Joan Silber

Fools: Stories (edition 2014)

by Joan Silber (Author)

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866209,558 (3.71)15
Title:Fools: Stories
Authors:Joan Silber (Author)
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2014), Edition: Reprint, 256 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

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Fools: Stories by Joan Silber



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What happens when principles are confronted with real life? How much are people willing to sacrifice for an ideology, and how much are they willing to sacrifice ideology for an easier life? Who are the fools, the people standing up for what they believe in no matter what, or the people who compromise their ideals to get along with family, with lovers, with society?

Favourite stories: Fools and Two Opinions. Underwhelmed by Better, it could've been its title. Intrigued by the sympathetic depictions of terrible men, especially since this is a relatively recent book. ( )
  kitzyl | Aug 16, 2018 |
Well crafted and well-written but not especially moving. I liked the linked element, in which the character of one story shows up in another in a sideways kinds of way (as the child of a main character, or the grown-up version of a previous young character, etc). ( )
  dcmr | Jul 4, 2017 |
I may need to add another star.

I loved these stories - lightly interconnected but each one could stand on its own. When is it wise to be a fool for something - for love, for ideals, for money?

Beautiful and thought provoking. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
As in her wonderful collection Ideas of Heaven, Joan Silber again creates a loosely connected 'ring of stories.' Characters from one tale drop into another decades later, sometimes as a mere mention, sometimes as an older but perhaps no wiser self. But what connects them all is a sense of loss, a search for meaning, and a link to the spirit of anarchy. And, of course, the lingering concern that one has been played for a fool.

The title story, first in the collection, sets the tone and establishes the framework. It's the 1920s, and Vera, born and raised in India by missionary parents, and her husband Joe are living in a beach house with a group of fellow anarchists whose main goal is to save Sacco and Vanzetti from the death penalty. Despite their earnestness, hypocrisy abounds--and lives begin to change. No one ends up following the expected path. One of the story's main characters is Dorothy Day, who later became a founder of the Catholic Worker movement.

In the course of "Fools," we learn that one of the wild young things, Betsy, left her husband Norman and ran off with an older speakeasy owner to run a hotel in Palm Beach. The second story, "The Hanging Fruit," focuses on their ne'er-do-well son, Rudy, who flees to Paris after several damaging escapades, only to be made a fool of again. One of his Parisian girlfriends reappears fifty years later in the collection's final story, "Buying and Selling," with an American friend, who happens to be one of Vera's daughters. Vera's older daughter, Louise, narrates "Two Opinions." Her father Joe was the only one of the original anarchists who stuck to his ideals; but the question is, was it really the right thing to do? And how has it affect her life? "Better" tells the story of Marcus, a newly-single gay man spending a weekend with friends and reminiscing about his former partner. He picks up an old book--which just happens to be a memoir written by Betsy's ex-husband. In "Going Too Far' we meet Gerard, the son of an employee at the Palm Beach hotel. He's searching for something, he's not quite sure what, but he recognizes a similar spirit in Adinah. It's only after they marry and become parents that he realizes that their spiritual destinies lie in different directions.

I'm not sure this description gives a very good sense of Silber's loosely connected collection, so let me quote a blurb from the back cover by Jim Shepard that does it much better:

"Fools is a wonderfully winning exploration of impetuousness in all of its appealing and appalling forms, and its deftly interconnected stories are devoted to those dreamers who act rashly and out of their better natures, who never quit asking the world, Can't you do better than that?--a question certain to become increasingly urgent as this twenty-first century progresses."

Silber is a wonderfully perceptive writer who creates characters that are simultaneously unique and familiar. Although I still think Ideas of Heaven is her best collection, Fools is also highly recommended. ( )
1 vote Cariola | Jan 11, 2014 |
Recommended by Ann Patchett. When people write collections of linked stories, this is what they aspire to. The stories are connected only tangentially - usually the main character of one story is a relative of a character in a previous story - and each story feels complete. Set in New York, Florida, California, and Paris.

Everyone thought Joe was the bolder of us, but no one knows how a couple fits together. The twists in that knot. ("Fools," 25)

Dorothy had no cagey feminine practicality. She was more like a prophet, helpless to resist telling what she saw. ("Fools," 41)

There are fewer secrets in the world than people think. ("Fools," 51)

Why did I think my freedom was in making things up? ("The Hanging Fruit," 78)

What made me think I could fool anyone ever? ("The Hanging Fruit," 79)

I saw then that I was going to keep getting worse. Already I was someone I wouldn't want to sit next to. The number of activities beneath me was getting less and less. ("The Hanging Fruit," 104)

Their whole lives, they'd never thought they were fools and now they were, in front of everyone. ("The Hanging Fruit," 113)

But I fooled them all by being happy. ("Two Opinions," 126)

I was a person who'd guessed right about what was essential. I had what I wanted. How many people have that? ("Two Opinions," 127)

Marcus wondered how many years he would spend acting out Nico's old habits, just to keep him around. ("Better," 169)

How long had those people trained themselves to do such a thing? When had they decided to be better than they ever thought they wanted to be? ("Better," 179)

I didn't have what Adinah had, a capacity for devotion and a thirst to soar, an instinct for flight. ("Going Too Far," 210)

In what life could I have ended up as a pilgrim? When could I have been someone who walked all that far, miles and miles, to visit innocence in the form of a place? ("Going Too Far," 221)

She could tell the story in a way that didn't make her look entirely foolish. Or she could keep it to herself. ("Buying and Selling," 255) ( )
  JennyArch | Nov 23, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393088707, Hardcover)

A dazzling new collection of interconnected stories by the National Book Award finalist.

When is it wise to be a fool for something? What makes people want to be better than they are? From New York to India to Paris, from the Catholic Worker movement to Occupy Wall Street, the characters in Joan Silber’s dazzling new story cycle tackle this question head-on.

Vera, the shy, anarchist daughter of missionary parents, leaves her family for love and activism in New York. A generation later, her own doubting daughter insists on the truth of being of two minds, even in marriage. The adulterous son of a Florida hotel owner steals money from his family and departs for Paris, where he takes up with a young woman and finds himself outsmarted in turn. Fools ponders the circle of winners and losers, dupers and duped, and the price we pay for our beliefs.

Fools is a luminous, intelligent, and rewarding work of fiction from the author for whom the Boston Globe said, "No other writer can make a few small decisions ripple across the globe, and across time, with more subtlety and power."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:49 -0400)

This collection of interconnected stories begins with the anarchist daughter of missionaries in Manhattan who runs away to be an activist and ends with a wealthy young adulterer in Paris who is outsmarted by the object of his desire.

(summary from another edition)

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