From the Publisher
"Funny but not jokey, moral but not preachy, Bernard Cooper's stories reflect a great sense of humor and a bottomless reserve of humanity." David Sadaris
"Funny, compassionate, wistful . . . Cooper has a voice that is fluid and engaging." Charles Wilson, The New York Times Book Review
"Wonderful . . . [Cooper's] delicate use of humor, sympathy, and humanity makes Guess Again a wonderful addition to the short-story canon." Scott W. Helman, The Boston Globe
"Gentle humor and wonder at the variety of directions life can go lurk in the crevices and secret corners of these stories." Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This respected essayist's (Maps to Anywhere) fiction debut contains 11 exquisitely crafted stories, most previously published in such prestigious literary journals as Ploughshares, the Paris Review and the North American Review. Although many of the central characters are gay, the themes presented here are universal: love, loss, sexuality and aging parents, with the occasional specter of AIDS hovering on the periphery. Cooper handles all with compassion and bittersweet humor. In "Hunters and Gatherers," a Mormon husband and his wife attempt to reconcile his bisexuality with their faith by holding a bizarre dinner party for the few gay people they know. "What to Name the Baby" finds Laura, young and unmarried, unexpectedly giving birth while traveling in a cramped Winnebago with her father, Frank, and his gay lover. One year later, Frank keeps a promise to show the baby the redwoods, but "huddled in the midst of a green indifference," the baby is more interested in the loved ones gathered about her than the magnificent trees. In the opening story, "Night Sky," a man dying of AIDS visits his ex-wife, who is under house arrest for vandalizing her new ex-husband's property. At the end, they forgo their problems of the present for the larger picture: "But for now we lay back on a stranger's lawn, pointing to what we guessed were red dwarfs, stars formed long before the earth, their matter decaying so slowly it defies all measure of time." Cooper's love for his characters is evident in their self-deprecating humor and the poetic imagery of his writing. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
An award-winning author (O. Henry Prize, PEN/Hemingway Award), Cooper presents us with a delightful collection of stories showcasing many of life's rites of passage. From first childhood crush, to burgeoning teen sexuality, to early twenties and beyond, this collection makes life's gains and losses starkly real. The theme of loss and/or betrayal by one's spouse is raised several times. In one, after the death of her husband, Libby discovers a detailed list of men in his papers. She then must face the loss of the man she thought she knew as well as the actual physical loss. In another, Ray deals with the mental deterioration of his partner, Cliff, long before Cliff dies, looking for the occasional glimpses of the man he fell in love with. While many of the stories are about loss, they are all about growth. A superior collection.--T.R. Salvadori, Margaret E. Heggan Free P.L., Hurffville, NJ Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
With one gesture, Cooper shows us how being gay is both prosaic and wondrously sublime.
...funny, compassionate, wistful...Cooper has a voice that is fluid and engaging. His concern is less with sex than with how people's lives unfold -- often humorously -- in ways they couldn't have anticipated. In the collection's darker moments, the ghosts of dead and absent lovers and alienated family members crowd around the characters' lives, as thick as sand.
New York Times Book Review
Like Cooper's previous novel (A Year of Rhymes, 1993) and memoir (Truth Serum, 1996), his debut collection of 11 stories, most first seen in literary quarterlies, focuses on gay men in southern California. "Night Sky" sets the tone. As the narrator helps his ex-wife spy on her second ex-husband, Cooper doesn't quite succeed in avoiding every easy opportunity for bitchy humor, but his real interest is in the emotional connection, deeper than friendship though no longer sexual, that binds this gay man and straight woman. This seesaw between cliché and hard-won insight turns up in the weaker entries, some of them no more than slices of gay life, often marked by the numbingly repeated threat of AIDS. Most of the time, however, Cooper adopts a fresh, matter-of-fact approach that neither trivializes nor overemphasizes the boundaries between the gay world and the straight. "What to Name the Baby" explores a daughter's relationship with her gay father and his companion. As she gives birth to her baby, the viewpoint shifts from the girl to the companion, a poet who suffers a climactic stroke that robs him of language. A certain sentimentality aside, these are people the reader cannot help caring about. "Hunters and Gatherers" has a tougher skin. A Mormon couple holds a dinner party for gay acquaintances, in an attempt to preserve their marriage despite the husband's predilection for "collegiate" young men. The party goes comically awry, but the Mormons are neither villains nor buffoons, simply confused and unhappy. So are the father and son in "Bit-O-Honey," in which a barber who happens to be gay sneaks into his estranged father's house, desperate to connect. The trappingsincludeHalloween costumes and echoes of the movie E.T., but what lingers is the son's sense of loss despite enduring love, the central tragedy in so many of Cooper's stories. When he hits his mark between sentiment and jokiness, Cooper can be searing. Crabbe, Richard E. SUSPENSION Dunne/St. Martin's (480 pp.) Nov. 17, 2000