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Man V. Nature: Stories by Diane Cook
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Man V. Nature: Stories

by Diane Cook

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Showing 5 of 5
Wow. What a debut—a confident, terrifying, stunning book. It's kafkaesque not like The Trial, but like In The Penal Colony. It's like Cormac McCarthy, but set in a world more cruel. Like Hans Christian Andersen, but only the stuff that didn't make it to Disney. ( )
  mrgan | Oct 30, 2017 |
4.6 rounded up.

I bought this book (on Kindle) after really enjoying one of the stories, Flotsam, read on the Selected Shorts podcast. Then I found two more "friends" in the book Moving On (one of my favourite stories in Best American Short Stories 2015) and The Mast Year (also on Selected Shorts). Often dark, frequently bizarre, these are allegorical stories about the deepest human needs and desires. They seem to take place in a world so much like our own, but the rules that govern society have shifted. In chilling story The Not-Needed Forest, boys who are "not needed" are sent to an incinerator, but a few escapees band together in a forest fighting for survival; for me, it occupies the same territory as Lord of the Flies and reminds me of a horrible tale in Robert Hughes' saga of the history of Australia, The Fatal Shore. In Moving On, a newly widowed woman finds herself incarcerated in an institution with others in the same position, and must work through the stages of grief before she can be released. In Flotsam, a woman keeps finding baby clothes in with her washing. Somebody's Baby a man hangs around a woman's house waiting to steal her newborn, and we wonder if she can keep her safe, especially as so many of her neighbours have lost children and are almost non-challent about it.

This is a deeply thought-provoking, highly entertaining collection which reminded me of some of George Saunder's short stories. I liked them better because the questions they pose seem more personal .... ( )
  bibliobibuli | Oct 28, 2016 |
Man V. Nature: Stories by Diane Cook is a fascinating book of short stories – the kind that keep you thinking long after you finish reading. The stories present impossible situations — truly impossible situations that you can’t imagine happening in real life. In “The Not-Needed Forest, a 10 year old boy is told he is “not needed” and is sent off for incineration. Huh? What parents would allow this? Why is it only 10 year old boys who are deemed “not needed”? Why not girls or 12 year old boys? It’s a completely improbable situation, but he waits on the front lawn for the bus and off he goes – how could that possibly happen? The way the characters navigate these strange circumstances makes for really intriguing reading.

In “Moving On” my first thought was that this was an impossible situation that some people might really be drawn to. Our main character is a recent widow, and after a very brief period of mourning, she is sent off to a sort of boot camp for widows and widowers. (Her home and all the belongings she shared with her husband are sold and the proceeds become part of her dowry.) She gets counseling to help her get over the loss of her husband as quickly as possible. She is encouraged to get in shape, learn new hobbies, make new friends, all with an eye towards attracting a new spouse. Her spouse will choose her (and her dowry) from among a batch of profiles and she gets no choice in the matter.

In another favorite, “Somebody’s Baby,” a woman comes home from the hospital with her new baby to find a man lurking in the yard — a man who plans to steal the baby. This is a perfectly normal occurrence; some families lose two, even three babies before the man moves on to other families, but when the new mother suggests protecting their children and fighting back, she is ridiculed and shunned by her neighbors.

I find myself thinking about these stories, even as time passes. What would I do if clothes and trinkets began turning up in my washing machine? Why would a woman become fixated on a perfectly ordinary weatherman? What mother wouldn’t want to retrieve her stolen children? I think that’s really the measure of a book like this — how long do the stories stay with you? How often do you find yourself thinking about them? What new insights have come, weeks down the road? If a book can keep me thinking and questioning, I will definitely be recommending it to my friends, and I will certainly be recommending this one.

My copy of Man V. Nature: Stories was an advanced reader copy, provided free of charge. ( )
  LisaLynne | Jan 29, 2015 |
Strange, magical, funny, haunting. Cook puts together a strong collection of short stories here. All of them were great - quirky and twisted for the most part, but great. I think the weakest might have been The Mast Year about a woman whose good luck attracts hundreds of strangers to her home and without saying too much to give things away, the story takes a turn from there. Fortunately, even that story was pretty good and it was the next to last one. The last one, "The Not Needed Forest" was the kicker.

It's a great one but not for the faint of heart. It's a combination of Lord of the Flies and Alive with something else thrown in. I can't go into more for risk of giving it away. But an awesome story. ( )
  Sean191 | Jan 23, 2015 |
These are dystopian stories of the George Saunders-ish variety — on the rocks? with a twist? — with a different, younger woman's voice. They are funny and scary and horrifying and revealing and entertaining throughout. ( )
1 vote keywestnan | Jan 13, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062333100, Hardcover)

A refreshingly imaginative, daring debut collection of stories which illuminates with audacious wit the complexity of human behavior, as seen through the lens of the natural world.

Told with perfect rhythm and unyielding brutality, these stories expose unsuspecting men and women to the realities of nature, the primal instincts of man, and the dark humor and heartbreak of our struggle to not only thrive, but survive. In “Girl on Girl,” a high school freshman goes to disturbing lengths to help an old friend. An insatiable temptress pursues the one man she can’t have in “Meteorologist Dave Santana.” And in the title story, a long fraught friendship comes undone when three buddies get impossibly lost on a lake it is impossible to get lost on. In Diane Cook’s perilous worlds, the quotidian surface conceals an unexpected surreality that illuminates different facets of our curious, troubling, and bewildering behavior.

Other stories explore situations pulled directly from the wild, imposing on human lives the danger, tension, and precariousness of the natural world: a pack of not-needed boys take refuge in a murky forest and compete against each other for their next meal; an alpha male is pursued through city streets by murderous rivals and desirous women; helpless newborns are snatched by a man who stalks them from their suburban yards. Through these characters Cook asks: What is at the root of our most heartless, selfish impulses? Why are people drawn together in such messy, complicated, needful ways? When the unexpected intrudes upon the routine, what do we discover about ourselves?

As entertaining as it is dangerous, this accomplished collection explores the boundary between the wild and the civilized, where nature acts as a catalyst for human drama and lays bare our vulnerabilities, fears, and desires.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:35 -0400)

"A refreshingly imaginative, daring debut collection of stories which illuminates with audacious wit the complexity of human behavior, as seen through the lens of the natural world. Told with perfect rhythm and unyielding brutality, these stories expose unsuspecting men and women to the realities of nature, the primal instincts of man, and the dark humor and heartbreak of our struggle to not only thrive, but survive. In "Girl on Girl," a high school freshman goes to disturbing lengths to help an old friend. An insatiable temptress pursues the one man she can't have in "Meteorologist Dave Santana." And in the title story, a long fraught friendship comes undone when three buddies get impossibly lost on a lake it is impossible to get lost on. In Diane Cook's perilous worlds, the quotidian surface conceals an unexpected surreality that illuminates different facets of our curious, troubling, and bewildering behavior. Other stories explore situations pulled directly from the wild, imposing on human lives the danger, tension, and precariousness of the natural world: a pack of not-needed boys take refuge in a murky forest and compete against each other for their next meal; an alpha male is pursued through city streets by murderous rivals and desirous women; helpless newborns are snatched by a man who stalks them from their suburban yards. Through these characters Cook asks: What is at the root of our most heartless, selfish impulses? Why are people drawn together in such messy, complicated, needful ways? When the unexpected intrudes upon the routine, what do we discover about ourselves? As entertaining as it is dangerous, this accomplished collection explores the boundary between the wild and the civilized, where nature acts as a catalyst for human drama and lays bare our vulnerabilities, fears, and desires"-- "A daring debut collection of short stories which illuminates with audacious wit the complexity of human behavior, as seen through the lens of the natural world"--… (more)

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