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Hush Hush

Overview

If you're up $16,000 at the casino and missing dinner with the woman you love, how do you find the strength to drive away? If you give up your career and your beautiful wife and find yourself drinking vodka and fixing cars for a living, is that necessarily a step down? In Hush Hush, Steven Barthelme gives us a simultaneously twisted, heartbreaking, and hilarious account of learning to quit when you're ahead.

The collection, which includes the Pushcart Prize-winning "Claire," ...

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Hush Hush: Stories

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Overview

If you're up $16,000 at the casino and missing dinner with the woman you love, how do you find the strength to drive away? If you give up your career and your beautiful wife and find yourself drinking vodka and fixing cars for a living, is that necessarily a step down? In Hush Hush, Steven Barthelme gives us a simultaneously twisted, heartbreaking, and hilarious account of learning to quit when you're ahead.

The collection, which includes the Pushcart Prize-winning "Claire," exposes the surprising dignity in lying on your belly in the pouring rain, in ringing your ex-girlfriend's doorbell at 4 A.M., in sleeping with your dead wife's best friend. Co-author with his brother Frederick of the brilliant and devastating casino memoir, Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss, Steven Barthelme seems to cast an eye at his own history and the characters he's known. These are men and women who are down --- but stirringly, not quite out. An unmissable, arresting book from one of the most seminal short story writers of the last twenty years.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Barthelme’s new book is less a set of linked short stories than narratives that cohere with thematic chiming. Protagonists in similar predicaments advance an idea and play upon one another from tale to tale: a narrator faces the impending death of his father, and in the next story, a character deals with a father figure’s death. A man named Quinn recurs: in “Interview,” he leaves his comfortable job and wife in favor of fixing cars back in Texas. In “Coachwhip,” Quinn’s son, in the midst of a fistfight, considers his father’s failings. In “Acquaintance,” Quinn flies to Boston to attempt to find a signed copy of his deceased mentor’s failed novel. Quinn’s struggles reflect those of others, people on the outs, either clinging to or running from a lost idea or person. Stylistically, the stories’ range from traditional to the experimental flares in an alienated child’s neologisms in “Siberia” and the disorienting admission of a nonfiction writer’s fabricated facts in “The New South.” What makes this so solid is, no matter Barthelme’s approach, the strong sense of humanity that remains. With great humor and insight, he explores the psyche of desperate people striving to connect, with others and with themselves. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"Distinctive ... and refreshingly original." The Washington Post

"With great humor and insight, he explores the psyche of desperate people striving to connect, with others and with themselves."Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Barthelme has a sure voice and a respect for the narrative arc as it reveals itself. These stories are relatively short, but they always end at just the right place." —Library Journal

"Steven Barthelme’s new collection of short stories plays like the best of saddest love songs ... Hush Hush more than deserves its own place on the mantle of celebrated contemporary short fiction collections." —The Rumpus

"Poignant ... this is one of the few noteworthy short story collections that we've come across this year." —The Huffington Post

Hush Hush speaks quietly and plainly … deceptively artful and refined.” —The Texas Observer

"There is a pragmatic eloquence to Steven Barthelme’s writing, in the way his characters explain their decisions and their failures to live up to their potential.... it's often beautiful and profound."
—Los Angeles Review

"Profound ... a refreshing contemporary story collection for readers." —Critical Mob

Library Journal
In his second collection (after And He Tells the Little Horse the Whole Story), Barthelme breathes life into characters who act on instinct, often surprising themselves in the process. Readers familiar with Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss, which Barthleme wrote with his brother Frederick, will find similar territory here; for example, in "Claire," a long-time loser in the casino and in life finds it within himself to quit while he is ahead—by $16,000—for the chance of reconciling with the woman he loves. In other stories, the protagonists take chances, like leaving a lucrative job and a wife and taking work as a car mechanic, that seem crazy, even to themselves, but turn out to be a step in the right direction. VERDICT Barthelme has a sure voice and a respect for the narrative arc as it reveals itself. These stories are relatively short, but they always end at just the right place.—Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781612191591
  • Publisher: Melville House Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/23/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

STEVEN BARTHELME was born in 1947 in Houston, the son of the celebrated architect Donald Barthelme Sr. He is the author of the story collection And He Tells the Little Horse the Whole Story and the co-author, with his brother Frederick, of Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss. A collection of essays and occasional pieces titled The Early Posthumous Work appeared in 2010. He is the director of the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he is also a Professor of English. His writing has appeared in publications including The New York Times MagazineThe Atlantic Monthly, Yale Review, McSweeney’s, and the Pushcart Prize annual.
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