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Costly Habits: Stories
     

Costly Habits: Stories

by Peter Makuck
 

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A father on vacation nearly loses his eye on an ocean fishing pier while trying to escape the demands of his family. A systems analyst, embittered by the loss of his job and resentful of a seemingly carefree neighbor whom his estranged wife admires, becomes obsessed with catching squirrels in a box trap. A woman married to a former police detective

Overview

A father on vacation nearly loses his eye on an ocean fishing pier while trying to escape the demands of his family. A systems analyst, embittered by the loss of his job and resentful of a seemingly carefree neighbor whom his estranged wife admires, becomes obsessed with catching squirrels in a box trap. A woman married to a former police detective festers with anger and plots revenge after a confrontation with a restaurant owner. A recent widower tries scuba diving with his difficult teenage children as a way to galvanize the family and regain control of his life. These are some of the people who inhabit the richly textured worlds of Peter Makuck’s Costly Habits. In many of his stories, individuals find themselves in situations where moments of clarity arrive, moments that disclose perspectives of possible change or ways to accept things as they are.
Makuck skillfully portrays characters who experience various kinds of loss: loss of work, illusion, and self-respect; loss as a result of death, separation, or divorce. The relationships of siblings, husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and lovers provide the give-and-take that drives his narratives, many of which evoke images of coastal Carolina with eelgrass islands, jade waters, and sandy channels.
Peter Makuck’s stories are often humorous, but caring and wise, and deal with the costly habits of being materialistic, envious, narcissistic, fearful, judgmental, vengeful, obsessive, and altogether human. Depth of characterization and vivid detail make Costly Habits a compelling collection of short fiction.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
The intellectual comfort of aesthetic life collides with pettiness and pop culture in a second collection (after Breaking and Entering, not reviewed) from poet Makuck. Settings and themes are diverse, and the de-emphasis on plot, perhaps, could reflect a poetic predisposition. In "Bound Away," the opener, two college students parking in front of a man’s house for a semester are either the embodiment of a hurricane on its way or quiet reminders of a happiness under the man’s nose. A boat-culture family in "Under the Azure Dee" finds that life is easier underwater, where "a huge billow of silversides flashes as they moved from right to left, turning precisely, as if they were scales on the flank of a single great fish, the act of each mysteriously integrated within the larger ballet of the school." "Existential Dirty Jokes" is about a man who attempts to process the likes of Hegel and Kierkegaard in a world of college basketball, overdoses, bears on the loose, and a girlfriend who says things like "Existentialism, the fucking absurd--don’t make me laugh! . . . You’re absurd! Diddley is what you fucking know!" The best of Makuck’s quick interlude stories is "Bereavement Flight," in which a man encounters more humanity from an airline ticket agent who books his flight to go to a friend’s funeral than from the party raging in his living room. And 22 cats slaughtered by Iowa football players, a retired vet who spends 95K on a wolfhound not even his, and a bichon named Fluff make a man in "Animal Planet" wonder who the real animals are. The people in Makuck’s world seem alarmingly lowbrow--indeed, the challenge of this world is to figure reasons to remain highbrow. Varied, often surprisingstories, culled from many years’ work, from the editor of Tar River Poetry.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780826214461
Publisher:
University of Missouri Press
Publication date:
11/28/2002
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

Meet the Author

Peter Makuck is Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences at East Carolina University, where he has edited Tar River Poetry since 1978. He is the author of an earlier collection of short stories, Breaking and Entering, and five volumes of poetry. His essays and reviews, stories and poems have appeared in the Hudson Review, the Sewanee Review, Poetry, and the Laurel Review. He lives with his wife, Phyllis, on Bogue Banks, one of North Carolina’s barrier islands.

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