Human Oddities: Short Stories

Overview

In Human Oddities, by newcomer Noria Jablonski, we meet Siamese twins, newly separated, drag queens, and seedy hospital orderlies. A corpse washed up on the beach, cancer diagnoses, and tummy tuck operations all intrude abruptly into characters’ lives; sadness is interrupted by hilarity. Jablonski’s characters cope with the drama of the body and what it means, what it feels like, to be marked as different.

If Ludwig Wittgenstein’s belief that “the human body is the best picture ...

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Overview

In Human Oddities, by newcomer Noria Jablonski, we meet Siamese twins, newly separated, drag queens, and seedy hospital orderlies. A corpse washed up on the beach, cancer diagnoses, and tummy tuck operations all intrude abruptly into characters’ lives; sadness is interrupted by hilarity. Jablonski’s characters cope with the drama of the body and what it means, what it feels like, to be marked as different.

If Ludwig Wittgenstein’s belief that “the human body is the best picture of the human soul” is right, what does that say about the diseased body, the less-than-perfect body? Without flinching, Noria Jablonski shows us the passions and longings of her characters, made more vivid by their bodies in doubt, on hold, in transit. Her earthy, pungent characters and deadpan narrative style leave their mark on a reader.

With the blunt, gritty impact of a Diane Arbus photograph, these are stories of lives not commonly recorded, and the characters—often physically unique, some might say monstrous—are delivered with compassion, dignity, and a hopeful, therapeutic humor. Brought to light, they deepen our understanding of the human condition, revealing us to ourselves.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her stark, startling first book, Jablonski gestures toward the abject and the sublime. These nine stories hinge on the damaged contemporary body-battered, conjoined, disfigured by plastic surgery, abandoned, intoxicated, in drag or rendered uninhabitable by obesity, desire or deformity. With freak-show imagery tempered by sympathy, Jablonski conjures outcast protagonists, from the overweight orderly Andy who collects ventriloquist dolls in "Big Guy" to the cancer patient in "Wanting Out," arrested at the Canadian border with pepper spray and prescription drugs while fleeing her disease and her failed marriage. The first three stories follow one family's history, from a woman's obsession with her abusive ex-husband in "Pam Calls Her Mother on Five-Cent Sundays" to the forces that create that situation in "The Good Life." The other stories, at their best with the quiet hope and surreal flotsam of "The Monkey's Paw," wander from raw victimhood in "Big Guy" into histrionic camp and alcoholic relapse in "The End of Everything." Like some of Jablonski's characters, these compelling but overreaching stories sometimes can't bear the weight of their own existence, too elusive and voraciously complex to allow for traction. But the book, by articulating violence, loss, suffering and self, does maintain a powerful voice and forward motion throughout. Agent, Henry Dunow. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Tales of fantastic, unbearably embodied humanity. Jablonski's debut story collection is filled with insistent bodies, carved open, sewn up, cut apart, made monstrous, made beautiful or disguised as someone or something else altogether. Her characters navigate the difficulties of being human as best they can, but birth, life and death mark them for all to see. The book opens with a trilogy of stories: Pam, a once-battered wife and hairdresser in late middle age, tells of her encounter with a long-ago famous pair of conjoined twins, now down on their luck; Valerie, Pam's adult daughter, tells the story of her mother's ruptured tummy tuck, and her brother's mysterious wasting disease; finally, Valerie, as a child, witnesses the slow death of her father and her baby brother's kidnapping. The remaining six stories return to these themes of doubleness, separation, death and loss. We meet a fat man grieving his abusive father, an intrepid legless child who becomes the star of her own solo freak show, a one-legged boy separated from his conjoined twin brother at birth and a drag queen teetering on the edge of self-destruction. For the most part, Jablonski handles her material with consummate skill and care. She subsumes the innately spectacular nature of her stories under an elliptical lyricism that brings her characters' emotional lives delicately, respectfully to the fore. Even at their most self-hating moments, they possess a wry sense of irony, an amazing resilience and, occasionally, a heartbreaking joy. Some stories are richer than others-"Solo in the Spotlight" is more brilliant sketch than full-length story-but the collection as a whole is strong. Two of the longer stories, the openingpiece, "Pam Calls Her Mother on Five-Cent Sundays," and "One of Us," about no-longer-conjoined twins, are remarkable. An exciting debut that rises to the risks it takes.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593760847
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 10/10/2005
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.22 (h) x 0.48 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2006

    A Worthy Successor to Geeks

    Few writers with physical disabilities venture into the world of fiction - most stick with life writing and poetry - and too often those who do turn their protagonists into either charity cases or, more recently, supercrips. Noria Jablonski's Human Odditites avoids these pitfalls. Instead, it follows in the tradition of Katherine Dunn's Geeks to explore the world of those who differ from main stream concepts of normalcy. The characters are neither stereotypic nor predictable some may not be particulary likeable, but none asks for pity or charity. Jablonski's storytelling style, which at times is almost minimalist, is equally compeling. This is an important piece of work for anyone interested in disabilities literature, an an amazingly skillful first collection.

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    Posted January 2, 2009

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