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The Bigness of the World
     

The Bigness of the World

5.0 1
by Lori Ostlund
 

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In Lori Ostlund’s debut collection people seeking escape from situations at home venture out into a world that they find is just as complicated and troubled as the one they left behind.

In prose highlighted by both satire and poignant observation, Ostlund offers characters that represent a different sort of everyman—men and women who poke fun at

Overview

In Lori Ostlund’s debut collection people seeking escape from situations at home venture out into a world that they find is just as complicated and troubled as the one they left behind.

In prose highlighted by both satire and poignant observation, Ostlund offers characters that represent a different sort of everyman—men and women who poke fun at ideological rigidity while holding fast to good grammar and manners, people seeking connections in a world that seems increasingly foreign. In “Upon Completion of Baldness” a young woman shaves her head for a part in a movie in Hong Kong that will help her escape life with her lover in Albuquerque. The precocious narrator of “All Boy” finds comfort when he is locked in a closet by a babysitter. In “Dr. Deneau’s Punishment” a math teacher leaving New York for Minnesota as a means of punishing himself engages in an unsettling method of discipline. A lesbian couple whose relationship is disintegrating flees to the Moroccan desert in “The Children beneath the Seat.” And in “Idyllic Little Bali” a group of Americans gathers around a pool in Java to discuss their brushes with fame and ends up witnessing a man’s fatal flight from his wife.

In the eleven stories in The Bigness of the World we see that wherever you are in the world, where you came from is never far away.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The Bigness of the World is simply a stunning collection—every story jewel-crafted and resonant. I read stories to meet people I do not know and have not imagined, but even in that context Lori Ostlund’s people are unique. I begin by thinking that I know these characters or have known them. And then somewhere along the way, they shape-shift and startle me. Over and over again I find myself looking at the world from a fresh perspective—this sharp-eyed, compassionate writer’s rendering of the world I thought I knew. This is a book to remake our imaginary landscape—the kind of book I not only recommend, I advocate. Read this, I want to tell people. You need these stories. You do."—Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina and Trash

"These sly stories are funny and unpredictable and graced with priceless details you'll carry with you long after the last page is turned. Whether charting the loneliness of youth, or tracing the emotional upheavals of lovers abroad, Ostlund proves to be a wise, charming, and irresistible guide."—Eric Puchner, author of Music Through the Floor: Stories

"Witty and sharp, Ostlund has crafted eleven surprising and often very funny tales that remind us just how vast the world really is."—Booklist

"Ostlund’s artful prose is playfully complex and illuminating, evocative and unsentimental. . . . Each piece is sublime."—Publishers Weekly

"The Bigness of the World wastes no time in establishing Ostlund as one of the new front-runners in Bay Area short fiction."—San Francisco Magazine

"Insights that arrive too late fill these resonant tales--of abandoned lovers, neglected children, and travelers in foreign lands."—Coastal Living

"Lori Ostlund told an interviewer that short stories have always come natural to her. These precise explorations of longing and loss show that she is already a master of that demanding form."—Magill Book Reviews

"The characters in Ostlund's book are a picky breed, which is not to say they are unlikeable - to the contrary, they are so well-defined that the reader cannot help but find companionship in their annoyances, their frustrations, their search for meaning in a disparate world . . . The Bigness of the World is an impressive first collection, and I am excited to see what Lori Ostlund does next."—Kasey Pfab, The Corresponder

author of Bastard Out of Carolina and Trash - Dorothy Allison

The Bigness of the World is simply a stunning collection—every story jewel-crafted and resonant. I read stories to meet people I do not know and have not imagined, but even in that context Lori Ostlund’s people are unique. I begin by thinking that I know these characters or have known them. And then somewhere along the way, they shape-shift and startle me. Over and over again I find myself looking at the world from a fresh perspective—this sharp-eyed, compassionate writer’s rendering of the world I thought I knew. This is a book to remake our imaginary landscape—the kind of book I not only recommend, I advocate. Read this, I want to tell people. You need these stories. You do.

author of Music Through the Floor: Stories - Eric Puchner

These sly stories are funny and unpredictable and graced with priceless details you'll carry with you long after the last page is turned. Whether charting the loneliness of youth, or tracing the emotional upheavals of lovers abroad, Ostlund proves to be a wise, charming, and irresistible guide.

Booklist

Witty and sharp, Ostlund has crafted eleven surprising and often very funny tales that remind us just how vast the world really is.

Magill Book Reviews

Lori Ostlund told an interviewer that short stories have always come natural to her. These precise explorations of longing and loss show that she is already a master of that demanding form.

Coastal Living

Insights that arrive too late fill these resonant tales—of abandoned lovers, neglected children, and travelers in foreign lands.

San Francisco Magazine

The Bigness of the World wastes no time in establishing Ostlund as one of the new front-runners in Bay Area short fiction.

The Corresponder - Kasey Pfab

The characters in Ostlund's book are a picky breed, which is not to say they are unlikeable - to the contrary, they are so well-defined that the reader cannot help but find companionship in their annoyances, their frustrations, their search for meaning in a disparate world . . . The Bigness of the World is an impressive first collection, and I am excited to see what Lori Ostlund does next.

Publishers Weekly
Ostlund’s remarkable debut collection deftly navigates the treacherous shoals of decaying relationships in which the protagonists often escape to faraway lands in order to find themselves, or, at the very least, their partners. Fate, for the globe-trotting teacher-entrepreneur of “And Down We Went,” takes the form of an untimely bird dropping; in “Bed Death,” it is a Malay waitress who casually takes a sip of orange juice from the narrator’s glass. Ostlund’s artful prose is playfully complex and illuminating, evocative and unsentimental, as in “Upon the Completion of Baldness,” in which the narrator’s girlfriend returns home from a trip completely bald. Remarks the narrator, “the chilly desert air seemed to startle her as though, in that moment, she realized that there was a price to be paid for having no hair, and while I still said nothing, I was happy to see her suffer just a bit.” A specific disenchantment inhabits these stories—the disenchantment of the uncompromising romantic confronted with the evaporative nature of love. Each piece is sublime. (Oct.)
author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Empire Falls - Richard Russo
“Heartbreaking and wonderful.”
Roxane Gay
"There is no book I am happier to see getting a second life."
Star Tribune
The Bigness of the World brings to mind the work of Flannery O'Connor and other Southern Gothic writers such as William Faulkner, Truman Capote and Carson McCullers...Like O'Connor, Ostlund enables us to step back from everyday life's banalities and see how completely we are estranged from each other—and connected to each other.”
author of Bastard Out of Carolina and Trash Dorothy Allison
The Bigness of the World is simply a stunning collection—every story jewel-crafted and resonant…This is a book to remake our imaginary landscape—the kind of book I not only recommend, I advocate. Read this, I want to tell people. You need these stories. You do.”
Pank Roxane Gay
“Ostlund wields language in terribly complex ways building exceptional sentences, long and swollen with nuance and history, creating narratives that take the long way around. Each story holds a certain very smart wit that endears.”
San Francisco Chronicle
"Ostlund, whose work has been included in the Best American and also PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, is a writer to watch. She constantly delights the reader with the subtlety of her insights as well as the carefulness of her prose, as we find that beneath the comic observations of cultural misunderstanding, or a couple's quirky habits, lies a genuine melancholy—and the sense that while there is absurdity in reticence, there is sadness in it too."
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2015-11-05
The world is both terrifyingly huge and unbelievably small for the cast of characters in this debut collection from Ostlund (After the Parade, 2015). The men and women who populate Ostlund's stories are uncomfortable, formal, particular people. They have, as we all do, many secrets and believe, as we all do, that they will be able to keep them. They often go very far away from home only to see what should have been plainly obvious all along. They have theories about the world around them and observe it keenly, but none of these qualities can save them from life's disappointments and anguishes. In every story, no matter where it opens or in what direction it moves, it's always already too late. In "Dr. Daneau's Punishment," a brilliant and severe mathematics instructor attempts to navigate a school full of dull-witted boys and student-coddling but cannot be saved from himself. A group of drunken expats encounters a troubled man who is about to abandon his wife, with devastating consequences, in "Idyllic Little Bali." Two stories—"Talking Fowl with My Father" and "And Down We Went"—use framing devices of birds and being defecated upon by birds respectively as a way of examining the pain of loss. And in the title story, a brother and sister on the cusp of coming-of-age learn about the width, breadth, and fickleness of the world from their peculiar nanny. But despite these stories' pervasive, powerful sadness, which always requires reflection and pause at each of their closings, their flawless execution—all tenderness, dark humor, and full realization—compels the reader onward. Ostlund will certainly soon be marking her place among writers like Michelle Huneven, Shirley Jackson, Alice Munro, Dorothy Allison, and Karen Joy Fowler—masters of their own devastating, immersive universes. An achingly beautiful collection as unpredictable and resonant as life itself.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780820336886
Publisher:
University of Georgia Press
Publication date:
10/01/2010
Series:
Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction Series , #70
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
232
Sales rank:
1,182,037
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Lori Ostlund’s first collection of stories, The Bigness of the World, received the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the California Book Award for First Fiction, and the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award. It was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, was a Lambda finalist, and was named a Notable Book by The Short Story Prize. Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories and The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, among other publications. In 2009, Lori received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Award. She is the author of the novel, After the Parade and lives in San Francisco.

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The Bigness of the World 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago