Another Marvelous Thing

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Overview

Another Marvelous Thing is perfect for anyone who knows firsthand that opposites actually do attract. These spare and unsentimental stories display how two very different people — a tough-minded and tenderhearted woman and an urbane, old-fashioned older man — fall in love despite their differences, get married, and give birth to a child.

A collection of stories about love and privacy that are serious, funny, tender and alive with ...

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Overview

Another Marvelous Thing is perfect for anyone who knows firsthand that opposites actually do attract. These spare and unsentimental stories display how two very different people — a tough-minded and tenderhearted woman and an urbane, old-fashioned older man — fall in love despite their differences, get married, and give birth to a child.

A collection of stories about love and privacy that are serious, funny, tender and alive with elegance and spirit.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In her deceptively simple, witty style, Colwin Happy All the Time, Family Happiness continues to write with perception about the bliss and pain of people in love. Her protagonists in these eight linked stories are Josephine Billy Delielle and Francis Clemens, both intelligent achievers happily married to their respective spouses, who fall into an unlikely but tender affair when they meet in the offices of the highbrow journal to which they both contribute articles on economics. Billy is young, sloppy, often grumpy, unsentimental, determinedly minimalist in her tastes in food and clothing. Francis is older, sophisticated, urbane, committed to neatness and routine. The stories depict some of the same events told from their differing points of view; despite passion and familiarity, each discovers the essential unknowableness of the other. Both know the relationship will have to end, but the ache of parting is ameliorated for Billy by the consolidation of her marriage through the birth of a baby. Billy and Francis are somewhat improbable as lovers, and Colwin studs the text with too many pithy apothegms about the indelible effects of a love affair, but there are many moments in this slim volume when the reader is touched and moved. March 31
Library Journal
Here is another treat for admirers of Colwin's Happy All the Time. As before, she traces the subtleties of love, both married and adulterous; but this time she adds another marvelous thingthe birth of a baby. The book consists of eight linked stories five of which appeared in the New Yorker tracing the course of a love affair between professional associates, each married to someone else. It sparkles with Colwin's customary wit, delicacy, and intelligence. Polly Warren, formerly with Southern Methodist Univ. in Paris
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060958947
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/28/2001
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 611,899
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Laurie Colwin

Laurie Colwin is the author of five novels: Happy All the Time; Family Happiness; Goodbye Without Leaving; Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object; and A Big Storm Knocked It Over; three collections of short stories: Passion and Affect, Another Marvelous Thing, and The Lone Pilgrim; and two collections of essays: Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. She died in 1992.

Biography

Born in Manhattan, Laurie Colwin grew up in Long Island, Chicago, and Philadelphia, but it was the middle and upper-class city dwellers of New York City that proved fertile ground for her short stories and novels.

Colwin was the editor of her high school newspaper, then attended Bard College in upstate New York, the Sorbonne in Paris, the New School for Social Research and Columbia University in New York City before establishing a successful career in publishing. She started with Sanford Greenberger International Publishers and eventually worked with a string of leading publishers, including Putnam, Pantheon, Viking Press and E. P. Dutton. Although she had a satisfying career as an editor, Colwin nurtured her writing style during these years as well, and in 1977, she left the publishing world and devoted herself entirely to writing.

One of Colwin's first short stories was published in The New Yorker in 1969, and she followed this early success with stories in Cosmopolitan, Playboy, Redbook, Mademoiselle and Harper's. Her first book of stories, Passion and Affect (1974), proved her talent as a writer -- the Los Angeles Times cheered that she had "single-handedly revitalized the short story." In 1977, Colwin won an O. Henry Award for short fiction for the story The Lone Pilgrim, which was later the title of a collection of 14 stories released in 1981. By the time her final book of short stories, Another Marvelous Thing, hit the stands in 1986, Colwin's readers and critics were hooked on her ability to examine troubled relationships with a refreshing clarity and sensitivity.

In between publishing short stories, Colwin delivered a number of unforgettable novels. Her first novel, Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object (1975), tells the touching story of a widow's attempts to cope with a life she never imagined. She soon released her second novel, Happy All the Time (1978), which critics and readers loved for the amusing portrayal of the love lives of middle and upper-class men and women. Newsweek said of the book, "the successful depiction of happiness is rare enough to qualify Colwin's novel as daring experimental fiction." Her third novel, Family Happiness (1982), deftly explores the nuances of an extra-marital affair, and Goodbye Without Leaving (1990) is a hilarious look at a woman baring her rock-and-roll soul.

Food and its rituals play a precious role in Colwin's life and career; given her talent for exploring the comic, vulnerable side of humanity in her fiction, it's no surprise that her non-fiction does the same. She wrote regular columns for Gourmet magazine -- insightful and soothing articles and recipes that celebrate the joys of cooking for one or many. More essays and recipes were published in the book Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen (1988). Part memoir, part cookbook, Home Cooking is full of honest and downright funny essays with titles such as "Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant," "Repulsive Dinners: A Memoir" and "Stuffed Breast of Veal: A Bad Idea."

In October 1992, Laurie Colwin suffered a fatal heart attack in her home in Manhattan at the young age of 48. She is survived by her husband and daughter, as well as millions of devoted readers who have been missing her sparkling wit ever since. Her last two books were published posthumously in 1993. More Home Cooking, her second book of culinary essays, continues Colwin's passion for discovering what makes good food great. A Big Storm Knocked It Over, her final novel, once again attempts to unravel the comic mysteries of human relationships.

Ultimately, Colwin wrote both fiction and non-fiction in a quest to get at the core of humanity – to understand love wherever it existed, recognize the humor in humans, and to give readers something they might not have realized they were missing: a happy ending.

Good To Know

A talented chef, Colwin cooked for student protesters occupying campus buildings during the 1968 uprisings at Columbia University, and later volunteered as a cook for the Coalition for the Homeless and the Antonio Olivieri Shelter for Homeless Women.

Among her achievements as an editor, Colwin discovered author Fran Liebowitz while at Dutton, and she edited and translated works by Isaac Bashevis Singer, winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize in Literature.

From fan and fellow columnist Nancy Pate's touching tribute to Colwin:

"None of us had ever met Colwin except through her writing. But we felt as if we knew her from those stories.

"We knew that she liked animals and small children, quilts and pretty plates, family and friends, men who were good dancers and good kissers.

"We knew that she loved music, from classical greats like Boccherini and Brahms, to rock 'n' roll legends like the Everly Brothers and Jerry Lee Lewis. She knew all the words to the Crystals' 'He's a Rebel.'

She loved to read, and to cook."

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    1. Date of Birth:
      June 14, 1944
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      October 25, 1992
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Bard College; M.A., Columbia University

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



My Mistress



My wife is precise, elegant, and well-dressed, but the sloppiness of my mistress knows few bounds. Apparently I am not the sort of man who acquires a stylish mistress — the mistresses in French movies who rendezvous at the cafés in expensive hotels and take their cigarette cases out of alligator handbags, or meet their lovers on bridges wearing dashing capes. My mistress greets me in a pair of worn corduroy trousers, once green and now no color at all, a gray sweater, an old shirt of her younger brother's which has a frayed collar, and a pair of very old, broken shoes with tassels, the backs of which are held together with electrical tape. The first time I saw these shoes I found them remarkable.

"What are those?" I said. "Why do you wear them?"

My mistress is a serious, often glum person, who likes to put as little inflection into a sentence as she can.

"They used to be quite nice," she said. I wore them out. Now I use them for slippers. They are my house shoes."

This person's name is Josephine Delielle, nicknamed Billy. I am Francis Clemens, and no one but my mistress calls me Frank. The first time we went to bed, my mistress fixed me with an indifferent stare and said: "Isn't this nice. In bed with Frank and Billy."

My constant image of Billy is of her pushing her hair off her forehead with an expression of exasperation on her face. She frowns easily, often looks puzzled, and is frequently irritated. In movies men have mistresses who soothe and petthem, who are consoling, passionate, and ornamental. But I have a mistress who is mostly grumpy. Traditional things mean nothing to her. She does not flirt, cajole, or wear fancy underwear. She has taken to referring to me as her "little bit of fluff," or she calls me her mistress, as in the sentence: "Before you became my mistress I led a blameless life."

But in spite of this I am secure in her affections. I know she loves me — not that she would ever come right out and tell me. She prefers the oblique line of approach. She may say something like: "Being in love with you is making me a nervous wreck."

Here is a typical encounter. It is between two and three o'clock in the afternoon. I arrive and ring the doorbell. The Delielles, who seem to have a lot of money, live in a duplex apartment in an old town house. Billy opens the door. There I am, an older man in my tweed coat. My hands are cold. I'd like to get them underneath her ratty sweater. She looks me up and down. She gives me her edition of a smile — a repressed smile that is half smirk, half grin.

Sometimes she gets her coat and we go for a bracing walk. Sometimes we go upstairs to her study. Billy is an economic historian who teaches two classes at the business school. She writes for a couple of highbrow journals. Her husband, Grey, is the resident economics genius at a think tank. They are one of those clashing couples, or at least they sound like one. I am no slouch either. For years I was an investment banker, and now I consult from my own home. I too write for a couple of highbrow journals. We have much in common, my mistress and I, or so it looks.

Billy's study is untidy. She likes to spread her papers out. Since her surroundings mean nothing to her, her work place is bare of ornament, a cheerless, dreary little space.

"What have you been doing all day?" she says.

I tell her. Breakfast with my wife, Vera; newspaper reading after Vera has gone to work; an hour or so on the telephone with clients; a walk to my local bookstore; more telephoning; a quick sandwich; her.

"You and I ought to go out to lunch some day," she says. "One should always take one's mistress out for lunch. We could go dutch, thereby taking both mistresses at once."

"I try to take you for lunch," I say. "But you don't like to be taken out for lunch."

"Huh," utters Billy. She stares at her bookcase as if looking for a misplaced volume and then she may give me a look that might translate into something tender such as: "If I gave you a couple of dollars, would you take your clothes off?"

Instead, I take her into my arms. Her words are my signal that Grey is out of town. Often he is not, and then I merely get to kiss my mistress which makes us both dizzy. To kiss her and know that we can go forward to what Billy tonelessly refers to as "the rapturous consummation" reminds me that in relief is joy.

After kissing for a few minutes, Billy closes the study door and we practically throw ourselves at one another. After the rapturous consummation has been achieved, during which I can look upon a mistress recognizable as such to me, my mistress will turn to me and in a voice full of the attempt to stifle emotion say something like: "Sometimes I don't understand how I got so fond of a beat-up old person such as you."

These are the joys adulterous love brings to me.

Billy is indifferent to a great many things: clothes, food, home decor. She wears neither perfume nor cologne. She uses what is used on infants: baby powder and Ivory soap. She hates to cook and will never present me with an interesting postcoital snack. Her snacking habits are those, I have often remarked, of a dyspeptic nineteenth-century English clubman. Billy will get up and present me with a mug of cold tea, a plate of hard wheat biscuits, or a squirt of tepid soda from the siphon on her desk...

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2004

    Great book, wrong description

    This is a lovely, subtle, ironic collection of connected short stories. This is just to point out that your publisher's description is incorrect. The lovers in the story do not get married and have a child. I won't spoil it by revealing the actual ending, but that's not it.

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