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Drinking with the Cook

Overview

In her first collection in more than a decade, acclaimed short story writer Laura Furman displays the maturation of talent, theme and content that her widely praised early work foretold.

Furman is a writer of nuance and marvelous subtlety, acutely observant of the minute detail that forms the texture of reality whether in the natural world or in the arena of personal relationships.

Furman's specialty is buried...

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Overview

In her first collection in more than a decade, acclaimed short story writer Laura Furman displays the maturation of talent, theme and content that her widely praised early work foretold.

Furman is a writer of nuance and marvelous subtlety, acutely observant of the minute detail that forms the texture of reality whether in the natural world or in the arena of personal relationships.

Furman's specialty is buried emotion. And always there are knives hidden beneath the small comforts of the domestic life she describes so well.

In the title story, a woman who's taken early retirement moves to her lover's home in the country, oblivious to the ways in which this disturbs the balance of their relationship. In "Wonderful Gesture," a houseguest's gratitude hides—for awhile even from herself—the depths of her hostility.

Several of these thirteen rich and complex stories explore how it feels to look in with longing at what appear to be the more desirable lives of sisters or friends. But other stories expand outward, revealing an appreciation of the compromises by which most of us survive into middle life or beyond. In "Melville's House," a dying man recalls a life of duty and responsibility—and then does the final unexpected thing. In "The Woods" a surprising experience causes an older mother concern about how the choices she and her husband make affect the well-being of her son.

Many of the stories involve a woman's relationship to children or siblings. Often, a couple or woman is childless, with complex emotional results. In others, there are babies. In "Buddy," the relationship between two sisters is altered abruptly when one becomes pregnant. In "Beautiful Baby," an unmarried mother risks everything by participating in a contest where there will be no winners.

And throughout, there is the sudden shock of self-revelation.

Invoking the magic of vivid observation, Furman makes us realize that everything we think of as human is expressed in the dangerous world of domestic life.

About the Author:
Laura Furman is the distinguished author of a memoir, Ordinary Paradise; two novels, Tuxedo Park and The Shadow Line; two short story collections, The Glass House and Watch Time Fly. She is co-editor, with Elinore Standard, of Bookworms: Great Writers and Readers Celebrate Reading. Her fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Mirabella, House & Garden, GQ, Ploughshares, Southwest Review, Threepenny Review, Yale Review, Glamor and others. She was the founding editor of American Short Fiction, and has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Dobie-Paisano Fellowship. She has received the Jesse H. Jones Award for fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters. She and her husband, Joel Warren Barna, and their son make their home in Austin, Texas.

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Editorial Reviews

Marta Salij
"Furman is especially brilliant at capturing the moment when self-deceit begins to crumble, making this a refreshingly truthful and illuminating set of stories. Furman is respected among writers, but this matter-of-fact collection should make her better-known among readers."—Marta Salij
Alan Cheuse
"Thirteen new stories by one of our country's most accomplished short fiction writers …(T)he subtle art Furman practices immediately takes you over."
—Alan Cheuse, Dallas Morning News
Marta Salij
"Furman wonderfully captures the creepy dislocation of people who are on the verge of being abandoned by those they think love them…"
— Marta Salij, Detroit Free Press
Barbara Liss
"…describe(s) the progression of ordinary domestic life in which people put one foot in front of the other and end up surprised where they land."
— Barbara Liss, Houston Chronicle
Merle Rubin
Furman is unflinching in her portrayal of anxiety, fear and sadness, yet she exercises great emotional and artistic restraint. Little in her fiction is there for shock value: What we're left with instead is the more muted shock that comes with recognition of the real.
Los Angeles Times
Deborah Mason
This stinging collection . . . shows that she is still adept at conjuring up scenes of domestic bliss gone south . . . Her luxuriant histories of grief are sure and exact, drawing the reader in and rarely loosening their grip.
New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The protagonists of the 13 sensitive, well-crafted stories in Furman's new collection are mainly women who lead solitary inner lives even when they are involved in intimate relationships. Most live in the country, or in the suburbs of cities in Texas or New England; many are committed vegetarians; in several stories, rain is pervasive, and in each of them, the atmosphere is muted and melancholy. For all of these women, the future is frighteningly unclear, and they all must come to terms with loss and longing. Miriam, the narrator of "Hagalund," the most complex and satisfying story, looks back at a time 20 years ago when she fled to Sweden to escape a broken heart, and lived with American draft protestors against the Vietnam war. Furman deftly recreates the political activism, casual drug use and hand to mouth existence of this small community, while depicting Miriam's decision to move to another stage of her life. Another painful epiphany that opens the door to freedom sways Deborah, the questing heroine of "The Apprentice," who seeks clues from an artist on how to pursue her career, and discovers a more fundamental truth. Though a few of the narratives are stretched thin by their heroine's caution or inertia, in the main Furman's quiet observations of lonely lives ring true, and she establishes a small universe of people looking for connection but unable to escape the bonds of self-doubt. Fans of Furman's previous novels (Tuxedo Park) and collections (The Glass House) will enjoy this work, and booksellers would do well to recommend it to readers seeking fiction that depends on adroit characterization rather than flashy denouements. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780970152527
  • Publisher: Winedale Publishing
  • Publication date: 3/1/2001
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.27 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Furman

LAURA FURMAN is the distinguished author of a memoir, Ordinary Paradise; two novels, Tuxedo Park and The Shadow Line; two short story collections, The Glass House and Watch Time Fly. She is co-editor, with Elinore Standard, of Bookworms: Great Writers and Readers Celebrate Reading. Her fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Mirabella, House & Garden, GQ, Ploughshares, Southwest Review, Threepenny Review, Yale Review, Glamor and others. She was the founding editor of American Short Fiction, and has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Dobie-Paisano Fellowship. She has received the Jesse H. Jones Award for fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters. She and her husband, Joel Warren Barna, and their son make their home in Austin, Texas.

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Table of Contents

Drinking with the Cook 1
What Would Buddha Do? 25
Wonderful Gesture 57
Melville's House 75
The Natural Memory 103
The Apprentice 119
That Boy 139
Hagalund 149
Sympathy 187
Sunny 191
Buddy 205
Beautiful Baby 225
The Woods 243
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