A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain: Stories

( 13 )

Overview


Robert Olen Butler's lyrical and poignant collection of stories about the aftermath of the Vietnam War and its impact on the Vietnamese was acclaimed by critics across the nation and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993. Now Grove Press is proud to reissue this contemporary classic by one of America's most important living writers, in a new edition of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain that includes two subsequently published stories -- "Salem" and "Missing" -- that brilliantly complete the collection's narrative ...
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Overview


Robert Olen Butler's lyrical and poignant collection of stories about the aftermath of the Vietnam War and its impact on the Vietnamese was acclaimed by critics across the nation and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993. Now Grove Press is proud to reissue this contemporary classic by one of America's most important living writers, in a new edition of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain that includes two subsequently published stories -- "Salem" and "Missing" -- that brilliantly complete the collection's narrative journey, returning to the jungles of Vietnam.

In a collection of bittersweet stories about Vietnamese expatriates living in the American South, Butler blends Vietnamese folklore and American realities, lyric, dreamlike passages and comic turns, to create a panoramic tapestry of a people struggling to find a balance between their hearts and their hopes.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In a short span of time, many Vietnamese immigrants to the United States have quietly made good in their adopted country. Butler, who served in Vietnam as a translator, now has given this silent community a voice. The first-person narrators in these tales explore both the old country and the new (primarily Louisiana), as well as the realm of the spirits. Each story unfolds like a delicate paper fan, with startling, ghostly images hiding in every crevice. While many writers have finely described the daily grind of the immigrant experience, Butler has gone one step further, evoking the collective unconscious of a displaced population. Recommended for all literary fiction collections and essential for libraries seeking to expand Asian American literature collections.-- Rita Ciresi, Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park
Madison Smartt Bell
Butler's achievement is not only to reveal the inner lives of the Vietnamese, but to show, through their eyes, how the rest of us appear from an outside perspective.
Chicago Tribune
John Clark Pratt
The number of novels and short-story collections about the Vietnam War is now approaching 500. Were I to recommend a single volume that poignantly shows the magnitude and the humanity of the tragedy, it would be this one.
The Detroit News
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802137982
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/28/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 199,167
  • Lexile: 1070L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Open Arms 1
Mr. Green 17
The Trip Back 29
Fairy Tale 45
Crickets 59
Letters from My Father 65
Love 73
Mid-Autumn 95
In the Clearing 103
A Ghost Story 111
Snow 125
Relic 137
Preparation 143
The American Couple 155
A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain 235
Salem 251
Missing 261
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 13 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(8)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 1999

    SEEING PEOPLE NOT BECAUSE OF WHO THEY ARE!!!

    this is a very interesting book, containing many different points of views of a vietnamese person in america or during war. The author lays out the information he had gathered very smoothly and nicely as though he was vietnamese. His voice are reaching out as though as he was really the female or male telling the story in the hard time of the misunderstood vietnamese.. He explains in a very vivid way about how everyone is the same... All people think the same way and solve problems in the same way no matter where they are at and what they are.. Excellent book.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 11, 2011

    A Forgotten People

    As we deal in being a nation at war, it is sometimes good to reflect on the past.
    Vietnam, a conflict whose scars still lie deep in America's psyche is of often misunderstood.
    With fifteen short stories in A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain Stories by Robert Olen Butler, this book takes you into the ordeals of the Vietnamese.
    The voices are young, old, and a diverse background. The mix brings alive and humanizes this often misunderstood period of our nation's history.
    A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain Stories by Robert Olen Butler movingly gives life to multilevel impact of the Vietnam War.

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  • Posted May 2, 2010

    This Pulitzer Prize winner is sheer genius

    Astounding, touching and revelatory book.
    Robert Olen Butler writes masterfully, and his voice is singular..

    Each time you read "A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain", you will learn something new about the world and about yourself.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2006

    The Importance of Scenery

    ¿The mountains were covered in a green lush that looked like velour and was very much like Vietnam. There was a river running over the mountain, a brown river, as brown as a Mexican child, and our plane followed it until I could see the city out ahead of us strung along the sea¿ (156) A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler is a magnificent work of writing, overflowing with breath-taking and realistic settings. Butler¿s descriptions are incredibly detailed, and as shown by the quote above, he uses various techniques, such as symbolism, similes, and metaphors. This important element allows the reader to clearly visualize the dramatic scenes and understand their significance to the stories on a deeper level. Most importantly, the individual settings of the stories greatly emphasize the plots and numerous themes of the book. For example, in the chapter The American Couple the narrator views the Mexican setting as romantic and beautiful, while her husband vainly notices the litter and mud. Their disagreement over the scenery mirrors the disparity and detachment of their marriage. Therefore, the scenery gives the reader a symbolic way of understanding the characters¿ relations with one another. One of the unique aspects of Butler¿s writing is that he utilizes each setting description as a way for the reader to connect to the plots and meanings in the book. The use of strong scenery details is only one of his many strong writing abilities that make this book an effective and outstanding piece of work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2006

    A delight for all

    A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain is a delight for readers of all backgrounds. It is a collection of fifteen stories about Vietnamese men and women living in Louisiana post-Vietnam war. The author, Robert Olen Butler, does an excellent job of creating imagery for the reader and lets the reader experience Vietnam culture. ¿We are all like that in Vietnam. We honor our families. My four children honor me very much and I honor them. My wife is devoted to me and I am devoted to her. I love her. We are very lucky in that our parents allowed us to marry for love. That is to say, my mother and father and my wife¿s mother allowed it. Her father was dead. We still have a little shrine in our house and pray for him, which is the way of all Vietnamese, even if they are Catholic.¿ It is easy to get lost in the novel and forget that the stories, some told from a woman's point of view, were actually written by an American man. ¿I said nothing, and I almost raised my hand to put it on his shoulder, but my husband is old-fashioned, really. He would rather touch me first. So I simply nodded at his words.¿ These short stories are definitely worth reading for their entertainment and the validity of the Vietnam culture represented. Butler¿s narrators are very believable characters and it is a joy to get an insight into their different lives. Each of the fifteen short stories is separate from each other and has their own plot and characters. Although this book is not well known, Butler won a Pulitzer Prize for it in 1993. I highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a light read that is a little out of the ordinary.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2006

    An American Perspective of a Vietnamese perspective of America

    Robert Olen Butler's A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain is a collection of short stories written in first person about the experiences of Vietnamese people living in New Orleans after the Vietnam War. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book blends Vietnamese legends with the reality of adapting to American culture. Butler has written these stories in a way that reveals cultural universals- even Americans who have never left the country can relate to the experiences many of his Vietnamese characters have. Most of the stories are 15 pages or less in length, making it easy to pick up the book and read a story even if one only has a little bit of time to read. As short as the stories are, they seem to have the perfect length. It isn't as though they are rushed through and incomplete, and they are obviously unable to drag on and on in so little space. It is amazing that the stories in A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain are able to convey with such depth the feelings of isolation, despair, remorse, and sometimes happiness. Many of the stories are bleak from their outset, but the ones without a happy ending are just as profoundly satisfying as the stories with one. Butler's vivid imagery lets us feel the way these foreigners must have felt as they struggled with working as a stripper, interacting with Americans, being forced to view pornography, remaining loyal to the Vietnamese culture their parents refuse to give up, and even reacting to the concept of snow.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2006

    Many Stories, Many Characters

    A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain is a diverse collection of short stories about the lives of Vietnamese immigrants in America after the Vietnam War. Each story distinguishes itself from the rest due to Robert Olen Butler¿s proficiency in characterization. After each story a new character has emerged in your imagination¿dynamic and interesting and unlike the characters preceding and those still to come. No matter their age, gender, or particular circumstance Butler creates a character you can get to know and understand. For instance, in Letters from my Father Butler portrays ¿a child of dust,¿ that is, a young Vietnamese girl who was separated from her American father after the war had ended. The story emphasizes their relationship and the struggle they encounter in trying to know one another even after she is able to come to America. As well, a man occupied with jealousy over his wife¿s indiscretions is depicted in Love. Ironically, love isn¿t a dominant sentiment in this eccentric tale. Mid-Autumn narrates the story of a mother connecting with her unborn baby by sharing how she and the father first met. The father died fighting in the war and yet the woman is preparing to welcome her baby into a life full of hope and warmth. The remaining stories are enriched with characters of quality and sincerity that are all worthy of thoughtful recognition. By reading A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain an array of characters and situations are exposed. Butler¿s characterizations fill the pages and connect you into the unique lives of its characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2006

    A Convincing Perspective

    The passion with which Robert Butler writes in A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain is surprising and impressive, particularly for a white author portraying Vietnamese people. He truly seems to have captured the Vietnamese spirit, and he is convincing to his audience that he is qualified to write from such a perspective. Butler took on a huge challenge here. In these stories, not only did he choose to write from the perspective of people from across the globe, he also chose to tackle writing as a woman. His success in writing from the female perspective is enough to make the reader forget Butler¿s true gender. Seven of the seventeen stories are narrated by female characters. Furthermore, these stories deal with particularly female topics. In ¿Mid-Autumn,¿ a mother speaks to her unborn daughter, still inside her womb. In another, a woman narrates as she prepares her best friend¿s dead body. This story is centered around the deceased friend¿s concealed breast cancer, and her desperation to preserve her dignity by maintaining a womanly figure. In ¿The American Couple,¿ Butler illuminates a wife¿s most personal feelings about her marriage. As a female, I feel Butler does justice to the situations as well as any male writer could. The masterpiece that is born from Butler¿s courage in diversifying his voice is a testament to his standing as an achieved, Pulitzer Prize-winning author. If A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain captivated me, a white, American, teenage girl, it has the power to touch and enthrall an exceptionally widespread audience.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2006

    Great Book

    Reverberating with the collision of cultures, Robert Olen Butler¿s A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain is a sophisticated collection of short stories that tell the tales of Vietnamese men and women in America who are striving to adapt to American culture in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Butler¿s work tackles a unique topic and has much to offer. However, along with the book¿s gems lurk stories that could easily be called mediocre for their monotony and repetitiveness.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2000

    Beautifully Written

    I am a first generation Vietnamese. I came across this book few years ago. It touched my heart! The author has described the heart and mind of the Vietnamese people better than many Vietnamese writers themselves.I have recommended the book to many friends and acquaintances, and they all greatly enjoyed it. Happy Reading to All.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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