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Ghost Traps

Overview

Ghost Traps is a collection of twelve stories about characters who are on the edge and under duress, individuals backed against a wall as they try to free themselves from their own limitations, habits, and destructive desires.

In the title story, Harper learns to fish from a man whose son is “catching hell” in the Korean War. When the son returns, he begins stealing lobsters from Harper’s traps, and Harper, out of a sense of obligation and guilt, teaches him to fish, vainly ...

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Overview

Ghost Traps is a collection of twelve stories about characters who are on the edge and under duress, individuals backed against a wall as they try to free themselves from their own limitations, habits, and destructive desires.

In the title story, Harper learns to fish from a man whose son is “catching hell” in the Korean War. When the son returns, he begins stealing lobsters from Harper’s traps, and Harper, out of a sense of obligation and guilt, teaches him to fish, vainly hoping it will help the man put together the pieces of a life that war shattered. In “The Connoisseur,” a wealthy collector on an archeological dig in the Himalayan foothills realizes he “knows how to stay out of jail, charge rent, build hotels, and pass Go,” but has not spiritual life. Unlike his guide, a Sherpa, who could remain content with nothing but the Himalayas, the collector finds himself wanting in all but material success.

Whether they win or lose, Robert Abel’s characters make the best of circumstance with creativity, wit, passion, and endurance. In “Lawless in New York,” Professor Alice Reinquist, the sole woman in her university’s delegation to an academic conference, maintains her sense of humor by thinking of Wonder Woman’s Gold Lasso, which makes “even the most cunning of evildoers unable to prevaricate.” Tracey Wynn, a woman who considers herself on loan to her aloof boyfriend, keeps her options open by always leaving a portion of her neck exposed because she “cannot stand being closed in by anything and because she knows it invites at least a fantasy kiss.” In “Appetizer,” a man fishing in Alaska resourcefully asks two hungry grizzly bears, “How much love can $600 worth of salmon buy?”

Although many of these characters inhabit a world in which the bottom is about to fall out, they invariably find good reason—and courage—to take the next treacherous step. From the salty waters of Cape Cod Canal to the mountains of Tibet; from a Puerto Rican pub to an elegant New York bar where “Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer had no doubt insulted each other,” Ghost Traps is filled with people hustling for survival and fighting for identity in a world reluctant to give anyone an even break.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Abel holds the reader’s attention with the pacing of a seasoned raconteur. . . . The characters in all of these stories are distinguished by an ability to persevere in the face of potential chaos. Abel is a tremendously skilled writer and a first-rate storyteller in the timeless tradition of John Hersey.”—Publishers Weekly

“Most of Abel’s characters go about their ordinary lives until a sudden, random event makes them pause and, in a startling burst of clarity, realize how perilously close to disaster they are. Abel’s ironic style and wit threads through and connects these twelve diverse tales.”—Library Journal

“Abel’s stories are about the joyous unpredictability of life. His characters are ordinary people in slightly extraordinary circumstances, but he looks at them so generously that everything crackles with meaning.”—American Libraries

"Abel's stories are about the joyous unpredictability of life. His prose is so energetic and direct that anything seems possible, and everything seems new. . . . This is a beguiling collection of stories by an ardent realist."—Booklist

"Reading Ghost Traps is like wading behind a masterly guide as he fishes some turbulent and exotic waters. . . . Mr. Abel displays an astonishing breadth."—New York Times Book Review

“[Abel] helps readers stand in the shoes of others. In the final analysis, the desire to experience the world as others do, to stretch our minds and our souls, is the reason we read fiction. Abel serves up a satisfying smorgasbord to satisfy that hunger.” —Tinky Weisblat, The Recorder

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction and author of Full-tilt Boogie and The Progress of a Fire , among other works, Abel has in these 12 stories demonstrated a finesse that will gladden the hearts of readers disenchanted with the flatness of the contemporary short story scene. From one unlikely scenario to another, Abel holds the reader's attention with the pacing of a seasoned raconteur. ``Appetizer'' epitomizes his fabulous technique: a solitary fisherman is menaced by a bear, and he must literally fish for his life in order to provide her with diversionary salmon. The increasing tension and drama of the narrative is offset by the laconic voice of the narrator who, we figure, must have survived to tell the tale. How he outwits the bear makes for a powerful and very funny yarn. Several of the other entries in the collection, widely varied in setting and tone, have as a common theme the binding ties of friendship between men, one of whom resents or envies the other. The title story exemplifies this concern in a wistful narrative about two lobster fishermen, one of whom seems to be stealing lobsters from the other's pots. The characters in all of these stories are distinguished by an ability to persevere in the face of potential chaos. Abel is a tremendously skilled writer and a first-rate storyteller in the timeless tradition of John Hersey. (Apr.)
Library Journal
This collection of 12 stories is the most recent winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. The stories are diverse in their portrayals--depicting cardsharps, fishers, spies, and academics--as well as in their locales, which range from Tibet to Alaska to New York to Cape Cod. In ``The Connoisseur,'' a successful man has a strange experience in Tibet that makes him realize the futility of his materialistic life. In ``The Death of Strangers,'' an artist comes down from his loft one day to find two strangers waving pistols in front of his door. As he watches, one man kills the other. The murder haunts him, causing him to reflect deeply on his own life. Most of Abel's characters go about their ordinary lives until a sudden, random event makes them pause and, in a startling burst of clarity, realize how perilously close to disaster they are. Abel's ironic style and wit threads through and connects these 12 diverse tales.-- Marcia Tager, Tenafly, N.J.
Booknews
A collection of 12 short stories that was one of two winners of the 1989 Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. The stories tell of characters forced to overcome their own limitations in order to avoid destruction. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Robert Abel is the author of Full-tilt Boogie; The Progress of a Fire; Freedom Dues, or, A Gentleman’s Progress in the New World; and Skin and Bones. His stories have appeared in Playgirl, Contact, and Denver Quarterly.

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Table of Contents

Appetizer

A Good Investment

Commander of the Buffaloes

My Kline Syndrome

Lawless in New York

New Line

The Connoisseur

One Up

Buck and Tracey Go Walking

The Deaths of Strangers

A Sweepstakes Story

Ghost Traps

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