Black Vodka: Ten Stories
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Black Vodka: Ten Stories

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by Deborah Levy
     
 

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The stories in Black Vodka, by acclaimed author Deborah Levy, are perfectly formed worlds unto themselves, written in elegant yet economical prose. She is a master of the short story, exploring loneliness and belonging; violence and tenderness; the ephemeral and the solid; the grotesque and the beautiful; love and infidelity; and fluid identities national,

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Overview

The stories in Black Vodka, by acclaimed author Deborah Levy, are perfectly formed worlds unto themselves, written in elegant yet economical prose. She is a master of the short story, exploring loneliness and belonging; violence and tenderness; the ephemeral and the solid; the grotesque and the beautiful; love and infidelity; and fluid identities national, cultural, and personal.

In "Shining a Light," a woman's lost luggage is juxtaposed with far more serious losses. An icy woman seduces a broken man in "Vienna," and a man's empathy threatens to destroy him in "Stardust Nation." "Cave Girl" features a girl who wants to be a different kind of woman—she succeeds in a shocking way. A deformed man seeks beauty amid his angst in the title story.

These are twenty-first century lives dissected with razor-sharp humor and curiosity. Published simultaneously with Things I Don't Want to Know: On Writing, Levy's stories will send you tumbling into a rabbit hole, and you won't be able to scramble out until long after you've turned the last page.

"Deborah Levy showed she is a top-hitting novelist with a Man Booker Prize shortlist place for Swimming Home. Can she conquer the genre which demands she fashion perfect jewels? . . . Yes, Levy can do macro- and microcosm. These tales of unconventional love reinforce her reputation as a major contemporary writer who never pulls her punches." —The Independent

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
04/21/2014
Levy, author of the Booker-shortlisted Swimming Home, proves with this collection that her precision and unusual imagination are well suited to the short story form. The 10 spare stories included here explore the desire for a change in identity, in oneself and in others. In “Cave Girl,” the narrator’s sister undergoes what she refers to as a sex change, but instead of being surgically transformed into a man, she merely receives a cosmetic makeover to become “another kind of woman”—one who is more overtly feminine. In “Stardust Nation,” one man appropriates another’s memory of childhood trauma. Frequently, both personal and national identities are in play, as in “Vienna,” where a man dubs his aloof lover “middle Europe,” or when, in “Shining a Light,” a British woman, separated from her luggage in Prague, is adopted by an amiable group of Serbian expats. In the particularly strong title story, an ad executive with a hunchback perceptively notes that his date, an archaeologist, is more interested in him as a specimen than as a lover. The closing story, “A Better Way to Live,” offers a sense of hope after the downbeat preceding entries, as two people, both orphaned as children, find a new home with each other. Levy’s talent is evident throughout—though the stories themselves can be unsettling, their evocative language invites the reader to settle in. (June)
From the Publisher

“Levy provides fragmentary glimpses into the fascinating lives of people at odds with their surroundings and profoundly disturbed by their previous experiences. Edgy, unsettling, and intoxicating.” —Library Journal, starred review

“A good short story has to be brief, with few characters, artistic jumps and artistic elisions (that make us think we are missing nothing). And, I believe, must contain a good swatch of poetry in its prose. If those are the paradigms, then Levy seems to makes it into the near-genius class.” —The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities (RALPH magazine)

“[Levy's] precision and unusual imagination are well suited to the short story form . . . . Levy's talent is evident throughout--though the stories themselves can be unsettling, their evocative language invites the reader to settle in.” —Publishers Weekly

“One of the most exciting voices in contemporary British fiction . . . sophisticated and astringent.” —The Times Literary Supplement

“These ominous, odd, erotic stories burrow deep into your brain.” —Financial Times

“A sexy hauteur in Deborah Levy's prose [is] reminiscent of the voice of Marianne Faithfull. The rasping, deadpan delivery of these ten new stories emit a dreamy harshness at once jaded and invigorating.” —The New Statesman

“Fabulously jolting . . . Accomplished and uncanny . . . Powerful.” —The Guardian

“Enticing . . . Tantalizingly poetic.” —New York Times Book Review

“Levy's sparse, elegant stories are poetic and faintly surreal.” —The Sunday Times

“Levy harkens Lydia Davis's undulating, dreamlike style, moving quickly between tender observations and abrupt actions. A character may race bumblingly to answer a ringing phone in one sentence, and contemplate the rain in the next. Levy stitches such seemingly contradictory scenes together seamlessly to create an abstract, evocative collection.” —Huffington Post

Library Journal
★ 04/15/2014
This collection of ten very short stories by Levy (short-listed for the Man Booker Prize for her story collection, Swimming Home) takes place in familiar European cities—London, Dublin, Vienna, Prague, and Barcelona—and features characters who are either deformed, displaced, or deranged. Deformed, as in the title story, "Black Vodka," in which a successful ad executive with a congenital hump on his back meets an attractive archaeologist who takes a more than scientific interest in him. Displaced, as in the story, "Shining a Light," in which a young woman traveling to Prague loses her luggage and is helped out by a group of Serbian refugees who have lost everything. Deranged, as in "Stardust Nation," another story about ad men, in which Nick, suffering a mental breakdown, assumes the identity of his boss and his boss's shocking, trauma-filled past. VERDICT Levy provides fragmentary glimpses into the fascinating lives of people at odds with their surroundings and profoundly disturbed by their previous experiences. Edgy, unsettling, and intoxicating.—Barbara Love, formerly with Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781620406724
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
06/10/2014
Pages:
136
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Deborah Levy writes fiction, plays, and poetry. Her work has been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company and widely broadcast on the BBC, including her dramatizations of two of Freud's most iconic case histories, Dora and The Wolfman. The author of highly praised novels including Swimming Home, Beautiful Mutants, Swallowing Geography, and Billy and Girl, she lives in London.

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Black Vodka: Ten Stories 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
PierresFamily More than 1 year ago
Black Vodka Deborah Levy is a gifted writer. It is sad that she wasted some of her gift on stories like "Cave Girl." I'm  not at all a prude, but I'm sorry - but there is simply no circumstance under which it is appropriate for a character to say "I think I'm in love with my sister." Putting aside that incest is illegal, it is morally reprehensible. I realize that we live in a cynical society, for which it takes more and more to entertain people, and that it's ¿cool to "push the envelope." But Levy has gone too far; there are some boundaries that should not be crossed. I'm sorry that I wasted my money on this book, and I hope that few will do so in the future.