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You Are Not a Stranger Here: Stories by Adam…

You Are Not a Stranger Here: Stories (2002)

by Adam Haslett (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
I enjoyed this well-written collection of stories dealing with difficult topics of the heart and mind. I was bothered, however, by the fact that about half of the stories dealt with gay men/boys coming to terms with their identity while the other half dealt with mental illness as though the two were the same thing. Not! ( )
  RebaRelishesReading | Jun 27, 2014 |
I was so surprised not to love this book. Haslett tends to go for sudden endings or last minute surprise twists that (in my opinion) don't work--the only ending I liked was that of "Devotion." "Notes to my Biographer" was brilliant right up to that final sentence. I wish he had put more thought into choosing titles, too. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 4, 2014 |
A collection of short stories. Reminiscent of Amy Bloom. Should be read in small doses. A critical darling and picked by the Today show too! ( )
  hayduke | Apr 3, 2013 |

When We Talk About Mental Disorders in Fiction
When I listen to music, I've found, I alternate between two kinds of favorite musicians. I love bands with multiple voices, who alternate the lead, who create music with tight harmonies- Barenaked Ladies, the Weepies, Slow Club. Or I love male singers who who are better writers than singers: Bruce Springsteen, James McMurtry, to a lesser extent Jackson Browne.

It's my preference, and it leaves me blind to the value of plenty of other performers. Most female soloists, especially pop singers who hit the high notes, do nothing for me. I'm sure it's often pretty, but if I can't sing along, I'm just not that interested in sitting through more than a song or two.

So when I read, I'm usually on the lookout for a few things. In one of the books I'm reading now, Adam Haslett's You Are Not a Stranger Here, I get many of the things I most enjoy- short stories, deftly drawn people, a variety of settings.

What I'm missing- what has me stalled about 30 pages from the end- is a variety of characters pressing against the boundaries of themselves. Haslett's characters are all pressed against the same boundary; they are a slew of people in the midst of mental health crises, and we either learn that nothing can be done to help this person, or we learn that the one in crisis is really the sane one.

Here's the thing about mental disorders- I don't understand them. Sure, I joke about my quirks- ADD with workaholic OCD, but I know (or I think I know) that I am painfully normal. The challenge of great art is to take us to a place that we can hardly imagine and make it understandable- Lolita, Lord of the Flies, As I Lay Dying. And as much as Haslett captures the tone of mania and the tone of depression (I recognize those people, those voices), he does not bring me to a point of understanding, beyond the certainty that something is wrong. Maybe that's the point and I'm missing it, but I remain uncompelled by all be the best stories of unstoppable forces and immovable objects.

It's interesting how much how I read influences my enjoyment. I started Stranger months ago, reading a few pages in bed each night. Then, because I was finally hooked enough to not be able to put it down, the lack of variety sapped my enthusiasm. I kept waiting for another change of pace, like the story "Divination," a blend of magical realism and parental shame that felt like an homage to the JD Salinger story "Teddy." ( )
  jscape2000 | Jan 4, 2013 |
“And what a beautiful season of suffering it has been.”

Wow, I must really be drawn to the dark-side. Did something happen to me in the womb?
This collection of stories, deals with depression, the dying, the mentally ill, the suicidal, all the usual downer suspects and you know what? I loved it. It is beautifully written and heartfelt, following these lost souls as they grapple for a foothold or give up completely.
It’s a stunning debut and the author really seems to have a deep understanding of these sad but universal issues. Highly recommended. ( )
3 vote msf59 | May 7, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Haslett, AdamAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Janzon, LeifTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Det hadde jeg glemt, sier Hester. Du trodde jo at bøker og fakta kunne redde deg. De har ikke holdt hva de lovet, har de vel?
Han hadde aldri vært religiøs, men empati hadde fått den plassen i ham som tro kunne ha i andre.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385720726, Paperback)

In his debut story collection, You Are Not a Stranger Here, Adam Haslett drags into the light subjects often left in the cellar. Most of his stories are told from the viewpoint of the mentally ill (though one, "The Good Doctor," shows us madness from a caregiver's perspective). The rest of the stories deal with closeted homosexuality: boys who are just learning their identity, men who have never come to terms with it. Haslett is an enormously compassionate writer, and shows a lovely, plain-written acuity about his people. His writing is a convincing inside job--he never romanticizes or oversimplifies. In "The Volunteer," an old woman at a care facility is haunted by the voice of an ancestress named Hester: "For more than two decades, Elizabeth Maynard has done exactly as she is told and the voice of Hester, which has cost her so much, comes only quietly and intermittently. It is a negative sort of achievement, she thinks, to have spent a life warding something off."

Haslett has a gift for writing quietly about sensational topics: men cruising each other in the park at night; an abusive, self-hating relationship between two adolescent boys. The stories can get a bit too fancy: the writer can't resist the ironic twist or the surprise ending. Still, this is a beautifully written collection that's as heartfelt as it is intelligent. --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:50 -0400)

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