A dazzling new collection of interconnected stories by the National Book Award finalist.
The New York Times Book Review - Natalie Bakopoulos…a moving collection of six linked storiesthough "linked" doesn't begin to describe the complex web Silber has woven. Structurally, the intricacy is skillful; emotionally, it's astounding. One of the many pleasures here is understanding how the stories intersect and how each, despite the large swaths of time encompassed, reveals only versions of lives. The interconnectedness creates a larger narrative, so we can imagine countless other versions still unrevealed…[Fools is a] beautiful, intricate and wise collection…
Publishers WeeklyThis tightly constructed collection from Silber (Ideas of Heaven) shows her talents at their finest. The stories pivot nimbly from the foibles of young anarchists in Greenwich Village in the early 20th century, in “Fools,” to a spoiled young man’s comeuppance in Paris in the early ’60s, to a nonprofit development worker’s attempt to solicit money from a potential donor in the present. In “Two Opinions,” Louise, the young married daughter of the narrator from “Fools,” stays in New York when her husband goes to Japan for work. Rather than despair at what becomes an extended separation, Louise creates her own happiness. Self-discovery many years too late is a recurring theme. In “Going Too Far,” middle-aged Gerard doesn’t realize until after 9/11 that his heart still belongs to his ex-wife, now a convert to Islam eager to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. And in “Better,” Marcus, reeling from a breakup with his boyfriend, finds possibilities for picking himself back up, in a memoir written by one of the anarchists from “Fools.” Though they make bad choices and exhibit a multitude of faults, Silber’s characters display wonderfully lifelike vulnerability and complexity. Agent: Geri Thoma, Marson Thoma. (May)
Stacey D'Erasmo“Joan Silber is one of the wisest, finest, most capacious observers of the human condition writing now. We should all be as heartbreakingly foolish and beautiful as the characters in this collection. Silber understands them inside out, and brings them close to us, as no one else can.”
Edmund White“Joan Silber's stories are like compressed novels. They are interlocking tales that fill in the history of revolutionary politics in the twentieth century.”
Kirkus ReviewsA sequence of six linked stories explores the lives of those who risk something for their ideals, which is not the same as, and produces quite different results from, risking something for one's beliefs. Silber (The Size of the World, 2008, etc.) teaches at Sarah Lawrence College. She has won a PEN/Hemingway Award and has been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize and the National Book Award. The title story begins with telegraphic directness: "A lot of people thought anarchists were fools." Silber makes much of the difference between what it means to be a fool and being merely foolish. The former is so much worse. In "Fools," a merry band of political idealists lives a bohemian life in New York in the '20s. In the background looms the incarceration and execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. The characters make love, marry, cheat on their spouses and scatter. The next story, "Hanging Fruit," follows Anthony--the son of one who left penury for profit, then regressed back into poverty. "Two Opinions" follows Louise, the daughter of an anarchist, in jail as a conscientious objector. The legacy of her father's radical politics costs her the life she imagines she wants, but she is merely mistaken and learns to provide for herself in novel ways, finding satisfactions she couldn't have dreamed of, including the possibility that satisfaction is overrated. "Better" is the weakest in this worthwhile collection. Its connection to the others is tenuous. "Going Too Far" dramatizes a clash between the spiritual and the practical. It and the final story, "Buying and Selling," are more completely realized. A thought-provoking collection; "Buying and Selling" is particularly strong.
Dan Chaon“Astonishing for its range,for its sweeping sense of time and place, and most especially for its deep insight into the way small choices can circle out to shape lives, and even human history.This is a beautiful book and an important literary achievement.”
Susan Straight“I loved Fools. The stories always surprised me, with the narratives unfolding as if in real time, and then turning unexpected in so many ways, twisting into stories that felt like remembered history, but with such added emotion that I thought about the characters for several days afterward as if they were here in my house.”
Amy Bloom“Joan Silber’s stories charm us. And amuse us. And engage us. And move us. And even enlighten us. Fools embraces us all.”
Jim Shepard“A wonderfully winning exploration of impetuousness in all of its appalling and appealing forms.”
Stacey D’Erasmo“Joan Silber is one of the wisest, finest, most capacious observers of the human condition writing now.”
Antonya Nelson“A unique and fascinating collection. . . . The collective vision this provokes is what makes the book intellectually satisfying, the separate lives it convincingly displays are what move the heart.”
Christine Schutt“Great fiction. . . . It is impossible not to be enthralled.”
Lily Tuck“Dazzling . . . written in elegant prose and with clairvoyant wisdom.”
Boston Globe“Silber deftly constructs whole, fully realized lives in just a few pages, and her use of first-person narratives gives these stories an intimate, confessional feeling, as if you’ve struck up a conversation with a particularly talkative stranger.”
Wall Street Journal“Excellent . . . the pleasure of Ms. Silber’s overlapping tales is that in all of them characters do something to surprise you.”
The Oprah Magazine O“So well made and pleasurable . . . [Silber]
Daily Beast“Sly, graceful.”
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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- 5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
What People are saying about this
Amy BloomJoan Silber’s stories charm us. And amuse us. And engage us. And move us. And even enlighten us. Fools embraces us all.
Jim ShepardFools is a wonderfully winning exploration of impetuousness in all of its appalling and appealing forms, and its deftly interconnected stories are devoted to those dreamers who act rashly out of their better natures, who never quit asking the world, Can’t you do better than that?—a question certain to become increasingly urgent as this twenty-first century progresses.
Dan ChaonFools is astonishing for its range, for its sweeping sense of time and place, and most especially for its deep insight into the way small choices can circle out to shape lives, and even human history. This is a beautiful book and an important literary achievement.
Susan StraightI loved Fools. The stories always surprised me, with the narratives unfolding as if in real time, and then turning unexpected in so many ways, twisting into stories that felt like remembered history, but with such added emotion that I thought about the characters for several days afterward as if they were here in my house.
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