A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You: Stories

A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You: Stories

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by Amy Bloom
     
 

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Amy Bloom was nominated for a National Book Award for her first collection, Come to Me, and her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Story, Antaeus, and other magazines, and in The Best American Short Stories and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. In her new collection, she enhances her reputation as a true artistSee more details below

Overview

Amy Bloom was nominated for a National Book Award for her first collection, Come to Me, and her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Story, Antaeus, and other magazines, and in The Best American Short Stories and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. In her new collection, she enhances her reputation as a true artist of the form.

Here are characters confronted with tragedy, perplexed by emotions, and challenged to endure whatever modern life may have in store. A loving mother accompanies her daughter in her journey to become a man, and discovers a new, hopeful love. A stepmother and stepson meet again after fifteen years and a devastating mistake, and rediscover their familial affection for each other. And in "The Story," a widow bent on seducing another woman's husband constructs and deconstructs her story until she has "made the best and happiest ending" possible "in this world."


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
A collection of short stories from award-winning writer Bloom. Our booksellers found the "subject matter too bizarre," but still found the "writing good."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Some of the power of her fiction (Love Invents Us, etc.) comes from Bloom's mastery of the writing craft; more arises from the empathy for human frailty exhibited by this author, who also works as a psychotherapist. Here, eight stories shed insight on the healing properties of love, experienced through unexpected epiphanies, ardent sacrifices and impulsive acts of forgiveness. Two tales concern a black man, Lionel, who one shameful night long ago slept with his white stepmother, Julia. In "Night Visions," Julia attempts to heal Lionel's guilt with kindness: "I love you past speech," she says, as maternal earth-mother rather than temptress. But in "Light into Dark," set six years and Lionel's two divorces later, he still carries "a knot in his heart,'' so Julia succors Lionel's stepson instead. The narrator in "Stars at Elbow and Foot," the collection's most outstanding story, has lost her baby at birth. Her sardonic voice charts depthless despair, until she opens her heart to a stunted, armless little boy who's even more cynical about life and emotionally guarded about commitment than she is. Another suffering character is the teenaged narrator of "Hold Tight," furious that her smart, talented, beautiful mother is dying of cancer, bitter that her own youth is vanishing at the same time. Here, too, there is a quiet healing, administered by her bereaved father. The protagonist of the title story is a single mother who shepherds her cherished daughter through the teenager's keenly desired sex-change operation, and finds her own heart healing in the process. And even when the will to endure is merely a day-by-day triumph over despair, as in "The Story," Bloom invests her tales with numinous insights. 13-city author tour. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Bloom, a practicing psychotherapist, brings great insight into human emotion in this, her third, book (after Love Invents Us). Here, varieties of love are explored to great effect. In the title story, a mother assists as her beloved child becomes a female-to-male transsexual. Two stories explore relationships between adult men and their vividly rendered widowed stepmothers. Each of the stories in the collection contains unexpected scenes that deliver poignant moments of pure pleasure. Particularly moving is "Stars at Elbow and Foot," in which a woman tries to cope with the death of her newborn baby and forms a relationship with an armless orphan. This beautiful book will warm the hearts of its readers; recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/00.]--Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
School Library Journal
Some of the power of her fiction (Love Invents Us, etc.) comes from Bloom's mastery of the writing craft; more arises from the empathy for human frailty exhibited by this author, who also works as a psychotherapist. Here, eight stories shed insight on the healing properties of love, experienced through unexpected epiphanies, ardent sacrifices and impulsive acts of forgiveness. Two tales concern a black man, Lionel, who one shameful night long ago slept with his white stepmother, Julia. In "Night Visions," Julia attempts to heal Lionel's guilt with kindness: "I love you past speech," she says, as maternal earth-mother rather than temptress. But in "Light into Dark," set six years and Lionel's two divorces later, he still carries "a knot in his heart,'' so Julia succors Lionel's stepson instead. The narrator in "Stars at Elbow and Foot," the collection's most outstanding story, has lost her baby at birth. Her sardonic voice charts depthless despair, until she opens her heart to a stunted, armless little boy who's even more cynical about life and emotionally guarded about commitment than she is. Another suffering character is the teenaged narrator of "Hold Tight," furious that her smart, talented, beautiful mother is dying of cancer, bitter that her own youth is vanishing at the same time. Here, too, there is a quiet healing, administered by her bereaved father. The protagonist of the title story is a single mother who shepherds her cherished daughter through the teenager's keenly desired sex-change operation, and finds her own heart healing in the process. And even when the will to endure is merely a day-by-day triumph over despair, as in "The Story," Bloom invests her tales with numinous insights. 13-city author tour. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
The New Yorker
Amy Bloom gets more meaning into individual sentences than most authors manage in whole books.
Publishers Weekly
Some of the power of her fiction comes from Bloom's mastery of the writing craft; more arises from the empathy for human frailty. . . Bloom invests her tales with numerous insights.
Megan Harlan
...witty, whip-smart and deeply moving...as Bloom offers quirky, searching analyses of how people adapt to life-transforming change, her writing is anything but clinical...Bloom's tales are an exotic variety, blossoming with humor, empathy and insight.
Entertainment Weekly
Sandy Asirvatham
Bloom transcends psychological voyeurism to create fully human characters whose struggles resonate-even among readers whose emotional and familial lives are mundane in comparison.
&$151;Time Out New York
Marla Abramson
In her follow-up to Come to Me, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, Bloom creates a collection of heartbreakingly honest reflections on the healing powers of love. Each of the eight stories explores love in difficult times: a mother watching as her little girl Jessie becomes Jess the boy; a woman recovering from cancer as her husband and her best friend discover new depths to their friendship; a man visiting his stepmother years after they had a one-night stand. Although some story lines seem implausible, Bloom makes them believable. She never explains or apologizes for her characters. Her powerful writing and sharp observations capture tension in a single glance or spoken word.
Lambda Book Report
(Amy Bloom) is a master of the short story.
Lambda Book Report
Kirkus Reviews
A second collection of eight gritty, wisecracking, rudely contemporary urban stories from the Connecticut psychotherapist and highly praised author (Come to Me, 1993; Love Invents Us, 1997). Bloom specializes in relationships threatened by their participants' retreats into their own interiors or destroyed by enigmatic acts of both God and wayward mortals. Her characters are sharp-witted, imperturbably bitchy (often Jewish) (mostly) women who say things like "Happy Day of Atonement" and "straight men are for putting up sheetrock." And, in her most fully imagined pieces, she briskly pulls rugs out from under people crazy enough to think their lives are ordered and secure. There's the title story's single mother who meekly accepts accumulating evidence that her tomboyish daughter was meant to be a boy—and makes arrangements for the "gender surgery" that will alter her own life just as radically. There's also the rootless black man of the paired stories "Night Vision" and "Light into Dark," whose single teenaged sexual experience with his white stepmother reshapes his life into a futile quest for commitment and self-respect. Even more affecting are the adulterous narrator of "The Gates Are Closing," wryly monitoring her married lover's gradual surrender to the ravages of Parkinson's; the bereaved mother who finds through a Pediatric Volunteer Program an unlikely focus for her frustrated instinctual love (in "Stars at Elbow and Foot"); and especially the unconventional triangle of the superb "Rowing to Eden," an icily compact story that accomplishes, in scarcely 20 pages, repleteandresonant characterizations of a dispassionate cancer victim, her helplessly sweet and attentive husband, and the lesbian friend whose selfless love for them both breeds in her a strength beyond their understanding. Bloom's precisely observed, rhetorically nervy stories sometimes strain our credulity—but they burrow unerringly into her people's damaged hearts and worried minds with intensity every bit as compassionate as it is clinical.

From the Publisher
“Exotic intimacies color [these] sharply wrought stories…. Ms. Bloom writes warmly and astutely, with arresting precision.”–The New York Times

“With consummate skill and good grace, Bloom shows how people are capable of almost anything, and why.”–San Francisco Chronicle

“Beautiful.... Bloom is a deft observer and penetrating chronicler of life’s dramas.”–The Miami Herald

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307417855
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/08/2009
Series:
Vintage Contemporaries
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
538,841
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

A BLIND MAN CAN SEE How MUCH I LOVE YOU

Jane Spencer collects pictures of slim young men. In the bottom drawer of her desk, between swatches of silk and old business cards for Spencer Interiors, she has two photos of James Dean, one of a deeply wistful Jeremy Irons in Brideshead, arm in arm with the boy holding the teddy bear, a sepia print of Rudolph Valentino in 1923, without burnoose or eyeliner, B. D. Wong's glossies as Song Liling and as his own lithe, androgynous self, and Robert Mapplethorpe slipping sweetly out of his jeans in 1972. She has a pictorial history of Kevin Bacon, master of the transition from elfin boy to good-looking man without adding bulk or facial hair.

The summer Jessie Spencer turned five, she played Capture the Flag every day with the big boys, the almost-six-year-olds who'd gone to kindergarten a year late. Jane never worried, even in passing, about Jesse's IQ or her eye-hand coordination or her social skills. Jesse and Jane were a mutual admiration society of two smart, strong, blue-eyed women, one five and one thirty-five, both good skaters and good singers and good storytellers. Jane didn't mention all this to the other mothers at play group, who would have said it was the same between them and their daughters when Jane could see it was not, and she didn't mention it to her own sweet, anxious mother, who would have taken it, understandably, as a reproach. Jane didn't even mention this closeness to the pediatrician, keeper of every mother's secret fears and wishes, but it sang her to sleep at night. Jane's reputation as the play group's good listener was undeserved; the mothers talked about their knock-kneed girls and backward boys and Jane smiled and her eyes followed Jesse. She watched her and thought, That smile! Those lashes! How brave! How determined!

Jane sometimes worried that Jessie was too much of a tomboy, like Sarah and Mellie, even faster runners and more brutal partisans; it was nothing to them to make a smaller boy cry by yanking up his underpants, or to grind sand into the scalp of the girl who hogged the tire swing. These two didn't cry, not even when Mellie cut her lip on the edge of the teeter-totter, not even when Sarah got a splinter the size of a matchstick. But Sarah and Mellie, in their overalls and dirty baseball jerseys, never had the boys' heartless prankishness, the little devils dancing in the blacks of their eyes. Jessie had exactly that, and the other kids knew she wasn't a tomboy, never strained to be one of the boys. There was no teasing, no bullying line drawn in the sand. Jane knew that one day soon, in the cove behind John Lyman School, the boys would pull out their penises and demonstrate to Jessie that she could not pee standing up, and it would be terrible for Jessie. Jane was wrong. Jessie watched the boys and practiced at home, making a funnel with both hands and a baggie. When Andrew and Franklin went to pee on the far side of the rhododendron, Jessie came too, unzipping and pushing her hips forward until there was, if not a fine spray, a decent dribble. The boys thought nothing of it until first grade, and when they did and the teacher pushed Jessie firmly into the girls' bathroom, she walked home at recess, horrified by the life ahead, and Jane could not coax her back for a week.

It was worse when Jane took her to get a simple navy blue jumper for a friend's wedding. Jane held it out, pleased that she'd found something in Jessie's favorite color without a ruffle or a speck of lace, and Jessie stared at it as if her mother had gone mad, wailing in rage and embarrassment until Jane drove her to Macy's for a boy's navy blazer with gray pants and dared the salesperson to comment. They compromised on patent leather loafers and a white turtleneck. People at the wedding thought only that Jane was her fashionable self and Jessie adorable. Very Kristy McNichol, the bride's mother said. Driving home, Jane knew that she had managed not to see it, as you manage not to see that your neighbor's new baby has your husband's eyes and nose, until one day you run into them at the supermarket and you cannot help but see. Jessie slept the whole way home, smears of buttercream on the white turtleneck, rose petals falling from her blazer pocket, and Jane cried from Storrs to Durham. She had appreciated and pitied her mother and adored her father, a short, dapper man who cartwheeled through the living room at her request and told his own Brooklyn version of Grimm's Fairy Tales at bedtime. She had liked Jessie's handsome father enough to think of marrying him until he was revealed to have a wife in Eau Claire and bad debts in five states. It did not seem possible that the great joke God would play on her was to take the love of her life, a wonderfully improved piece of Jane, and say, Oops. Looks like a girl but it's a boy! Sorry Adjust accordingly. It took Jane all of Jessie's childhood to figure out what the adjustment might be and to save fifty thousand dollars to pay for it.


From the Hardcover edition.

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What People are saying about this

Rosellen Brown
The highest compliment i can pay a writer is to say that her work is Chekhovian - which is to say that its fine, fierce intelligence is matched by its compassion.
Ruth Coughlin
I feel as though before discovering Amy Bloom, I was lost, and now I'm found.
—Detroit News
Phyllis Rose
Amy Bloom writes about love in prose as pure and polished as river-washed stone. And such is her wisdom that, in reading about a woman who has done nothing I ever did, I felt I was reading about myself.
Dorothy Allison
Amy Bloom writes about love and desire with more visceral power than anyone i know.
Jane Hamilton
Amy Bloom's masterful stories take place at the point where love and desire collide with convention. At once achingly funny and heartbreaking, these stories live on long past the print and the page.
Michael Cunningham
Amy Bloom is possessed of great subtlety and rock-solid integrity. Her stories crackle with subvert revelation. She is compassionate writer who, more important, loves the world too much to sentamentalize it.
Julia Dahl
A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You is another collection of not-to-be-missed stories by one of America's most talented writers.
Robert Stone
Amy Bloom's work takes ordinary lives under examination and discovers the strange elements that render no life ordinary. Her characters and situations give the sense of things happening for the first time to inimitable individuals.
Alice Adams
I had a wonderful time reading Amy Bloom's stories. They're as fresh as paint, and full of surprises, skill and wit.

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