Confessions of a Falling Woman: And Other Stories
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Confessions of a Falling Woman: And Other Stories

by Debra Dean

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Ten masterworks of short fiction—by turns tender, comic, powerful, and devastating—from the highly praised author of The Madonnas of Leningrad

A surprised Southern matriarch is confronted by her family at an intervention. . . . A life-altering breakin triggers insomniac introspection in a desperate actor. . . . Streetwise New York City


Ten masterworks of short fiction—by turns tender, comic, powerful, and devastating—from the highly praised author of The Madonnas of Leningrad

A surprised Southern matriarch is confronted by her family at an intervention. . . . A life-altering breakin triggers insomniac introspection in a desperate actor. . . . Streetwise New York City neighbors let down their guard for a naïve puppeteer and must suffer the consequences. . . .
In this stunning collection of short stories—five of which are being published for the very first time bestselling, award-winning author Debra Dean displays the depth and magnitude of her literary talent. Replete the seamless storytelling and captivating lyrical voice that made her debut novel, The Madonnas of Leningrad, a national bestseller, Dean’s Confessions of a Falling Woman is a haunting, satisfying, and unforgettable reading experience.

“A novel that dares to be beautiful—and fully succeeds.”—Daily Mail (London)

Editorial Reviews

A. Manette Ansay
“Dean is a marvelous chameleon of a writer, adapting, reflecting, revealing multiple, generous worlds with perceptiveness, humor and light.”
Publishers Weekly

Dean follows her debut novel, The Madonnas of Leningrad, with a humorous collection chronicling struggling actors and actresses, therapy sessions and romantic relationships on the brink of disaster. After a bizarre break-in, the 30-something actor-narrator of "Dan in the Gray Flannel Rat Suit" finds himself on the cusp of fleeing a cruel New York with his wife and child. "The Queen Mother" reveals an actress returning to Louisiana to help coax her dramatic, alcoholic mom to rehab. In "The Afterlife of Lyle Stone," a Seattle attorney allows a vivid dream to unhinge his waking life, while a group of creative-minded neighbors have their lives shaken up by a Muppet-like puppeteer in "What the Left Hand Is Saying." Herself a former actress, Dean illuminates the nastiness of the business and the psychic toll of performance, writing about failure and loss with unfailing comic precision: "But gradually I fall under the spell of my own acting, or the rhythm of the act, it doesn't matter which," the narrator of "Romance Manual" says of sleeping with a fellow cast member. Readers will certainly forget themselves in these sparkling stories, pausing over small, strange moments that change entire lives. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Dean, author of the best-selling The Madonnas of Leningrad, has put together a stunning collection of stories. She presents several stories concerning actors: a gregarious puppeteer turns against his friends when he puts on his puppet in "What the Left Hand is Saying"; an actress in a traveling show realizes that she will lose her married lover in "Romance Manual"; and an aging part-time actor risks losing his marriage by accepting yet one more bit part in "Dan in the Gray Flannel Rat Suit." In the title story, a dying woman writes a letter to her ex-husband, forgiving him for the accident that killed their only child. In "The Afterlife of Lyle Stone," Lyle suffers a breakdown that causes him to question his life but forgets about it in the face of antidepressants. Characters are drawn subtly, with just enough detail to let the reader feel the personality, and the story is allowed to carry the characters to its conclusion. These polished stories evoke a more experienced writer than Dean, who has already had a career as an actor. Recommended for libraries where there is an interest in literary fiction or short stories.
—Amy Ford

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
An attractive wry humor ripples through this collection of ten stories, which follows Dean's debut novel (The Madonnas of Leningrad, 2006). The humor is evident in the opening story, "What the Left Hand Is Saying," a cute riff on All About Eve. Tim, a seemingly innocent young charmer, makes friends with his neighbors in his New York building, then skewers them mercilessly at a comedy club and lands a slot on a cable channel. That's show business. Performers also appear in "Romance Manual," a decidedly unromantic account of a one-night stand on the road in Florida, and in "Dan in the Gray Flannel Rat Suit," the longest piece by far, a bittersweet valentine to the acting profession (Dean is a former actor). In the story, Dan spends more time tending bar than acting, but he eventually gets a couple of breaks. Ironically, he sails through his audition for a challenging role in a hot off-Broadway play, but he messes up a dumb commercial. There's high drama, too, in "The Queen Mother," about a crisis intervention. A large Southern family is trying to steer its alcoholic matriarch into a rehab clinic; again, the humor is dark. There's nothing humorous, however, about the midlife crisis of a successful Seattle lawyer in "The Afterlife of Lyle Stone"; the story suggests, chillingly, that the cure may be worse than the disease. That satisfying payoff is missing from "The Best Man," in which a recovering alcoholic yearns fleetingly to stray from his happy marriage, and from "The Bodhisattva," about a woman's unrequited love for her former shrink. But everything comes together in the beautifully calibrated "Another Little Piece of My Heart." For middle-aged Elaine, a chance encounter with her exyields an unexpected journey into self-knowledge and maybe, just maybe, offers opportunity for a fresh start. Dean has a fine appreciation for the way chance can save or doom careers and marriages. More, please. Agent: Marly Rusoff/Marly Rusoff & Associates

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
P.S. Series
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.57(d)

Read an Excerpt

Confessions of a Falling Woman
And Other Stories

Chapter One

What the Left Hand Is Saying

Only a mesh of ivy holds this old building upright, ropy veins lashing the fire escape precariously to its side. Wind rattles through the rotting window frames and the tub is in the kitchen, but the building is rent-controlled, so years can go by without a name changing on the buzzers downstairs. Still, before Tim the Puppet Boy arrived, I knew my neighbors in the way New Yorkers do, faces passed on the stairs, voices heard through the walls late at night. In fact, I didn't know a soul in the city. But I'm an only child and the child of only children, and was accustomed to being alone. I wouldn't have called myself lonely.

He arrived in the summer, on a morning already wilting with the heat. I remember I had given up a halfhearted plan to go to a cattle call and instead was soaking in a tub of cold water. He might have been knocking for some time, but I didn't hear him until I surfaced and reached for another tray of ice cubes out of the freezer. Peering in at the open window was a gangly apparition wearing only striped bikini briefs and ridiculous pink plastic sunglasses. He was sorry to bother me, he said, but could he use my phone?

Oh, for Pete's sake. That was my reaction, can't a person even take a bath in her own kitchen? And then mild astonishment that the fire escape could actually hold the weight of an adult, albeit a pretty scrawny one. A full minute elapsed before it occurred to me to throw a towel over myself. I stood up and tried to shoo him away from the window as though he were a pigeon. He smiled and shrugged but didn'tleave. "I was sunbathing up on the roof, and Juan must have locked the window before he left. Philip's asleep, and it's like trying to wake the dead. You know, you should repot that dracaena—it needs more room for its roots." He was pointing to a dead plant on the sill. "So I've been pounding out there for ten minutes, but no luck." He waited, his smile hopeful.

"Listen, I don't know any Philip or Juan."

"Really?" He seemed disbelieving. "You share a fire escape. I'm staying with them for a few days." He crouched over to extend his hand through the window. "My name's Tim."

I'd never heard of a burglar in a swimsuit, but more to the point, he was the only person I'd ever seen in New York who looked utterly guileless and sexless. I shook his hand and pushed up the sash, cautioning him to watch his step.

Tim stayed for a year. I found out some time later that Philip and Juan had met him only a few weeks before I did. "I thought he was trying to pick me up," Philip said. "Well, my God, he just walked up to me in the park and started talking to me. So I brought him home. Next thing, the little weenie was asleep on the couch."

If I can't remember when Tim moved across the hall into my apartment, it is because he had a disarming lack of boundaries. He'd drop over three times a day—to borrow my iron, to tell me the mail had come, to show me something wonderful he'd found in a Dumpster. In the evenings, he might tap on the door and announce that everyone was watching Dynasty on Philip's new TV. Gradually our two doors were simply left ajar. Our two apartments fused, with silverware, shampoo, and condiments migrating freely back and forth. I began to find Tim asleep on my couch when I came home late, and chatting with one of our neighbors in the kitchen when I got up the next morning.

Through Tim, I discovered that our building was populated entirely by aspiring fill-in-the-blanks. I was going to be a star on Broadway or, barring that, sell out and make a lot of money doing television. Juan was a dancer with a company that disbanded and renamed itself every few months, and he hoped to choreograph someday. Philip's aspirations were more vague but nonetheless brilliant: he was going to be famous, for what was left open. Meanwhile, he devoted his energy to being in the right place—whatever club was currently in vogue—and sleeping with the right people. Darla, a would-be model, lived on the second floor. She had once met the photographer Scavullo at a party. He told her she had great bones, and she'd been starving them into prominence ever since, endlessly refining her appearance in hopes of finding the look that would propel her onto the cover of Vogue. Her boyfriend, Zak, hung out at the comedy clubs, convinced that he was funny enough to get paid for it. Even Morty the super was taking night classes in real estate. He had big plans to cash in on the co-op boom.

Tim was the only one among us who didn't appear to have any ambitions. He occasionally got work from a company that did rich kids' birthday parties, but there wasn't much demand for puppeteers. He lived more or less hand-to-mouth. The puppets themselves were his own creations, whimsically detailed creatures that he might have sold for a lot of money. More than once I tried to forward this idea, but Tim couldn't sustain any interest in profit. He might spend whole days painting over the same eyes or searching for just the right shade of wool yarn. More often, I heard him playing with an unfinished puppet, cackling laughter and different voices interspersed with his own.

He idolized Jim Henson. Once you knew this about him, it was hard to shake his resemblance to a Muppet. His thin legs and arms moved with floppy abandon, and he tended to dress in childish combinations of color and pattern. But stronger than the physical resemblance, it was the way he moved through the world, as though everyone were his friend. I don't know that he ever actually said so, but I assumed he was from a small town somewhere in the Midwest, a place where people still knew their neighbors and gossiped with them over pie and coffee in each other's kitchens. When he moved in here, the tenants in our building gradually began to mingle and kibitz like a large and affectionate family.

Confessions of a Falling Woman
And Other Stories
. Copyright © by Debra Dean. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

A. Manette Ansay
“Dean is a marvelous chameleon of a writer, adapting, reflecting, revealing multiple, generous worlds with perceptiveness, humor and light.”

Meet the Author

Debra Dean worked as an actor in New York theater for nearly a decade before opting for the life of a writer and teacher. She and her husband now live in Miami, where she teaches at the University at Miami. She is at work on her second novel.

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