Inappropriate Behavior: Stories [NOOK Book]


The characters in Inappropriate Behavior teeter on the brink of sanity, while those around them reach out in support, watch helplessly, or duck for cover. In their loneliness, Murray Farish's characters cast about for a way to connect, to be understood, though more often than not, things go horribly wrong. Some of the characters come from the darkest recesses of American history. In 'Lubbock Is Not a Place of the Spirit,' a Texas Tech student recognizable as John Hinckley, Jr. writes hundreds of songs for Jodie ...
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Inappropriate Behavior: Stories

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The characters in Inappropriate Behavior teeter on the brink of sanity, while those around them reach out in support, watch helplessly, or duck for cover. In their loneliness, Murray Farish's characters cast about for a way to connect, to be understood, though more often than not, things go horribly wrong. Some of the characters come from the darkest recesses of American history. In 'Lubbock Is Not a Place of the Spirit,' a Texas Tech student recognizable as John Hinckley, Jr. writes hundreds of songs for Jodie Foster as he grows increasingly estranged from reality. Other characters are recognizable only in the sense that their situations strike an emotional chord. The young couple in 'The Thing About Norfolk,' socially isolated after a cross-country move, are dismayed to find themselves unable to resist sexually deviant urges. And in the deeply touching title story, a couple stretched to their limit after the husband's layoff struggle to care for their emotionally unbalanced young son. Set in cities across America and spanning the last half-century, this collection draws a bead on our national identity, distilling our obsessions, our hauntings, our universal predicament.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The characters in Farish’s debut collection react to the erosion of normalcy in myriad ways, from stress to psychosis. “The Passage,” the first and strongest story, is about a student setting off on a freighter from New Orleans to study in France, joined by a mysterious cabinmate. With its ambitious stab at deep U.S. insecurities, this short, shattering story sets a high bar that the rest of the collection struggles to reach. Another successful story, “The Thing About Norfolk,” is a tale of ghosts and erotic obsession that works beautifully—up until the too-blatant conclusion. “Mayflies,” about an aging waitress’s attempt to save a young woman from a circumscribed life, is also a standout. A corporate cog tells of his workplace’s decent into chaos in “Ready for Schmelling,” which, despite inspired moments, reads like a sketch waiting to be expanded; and “Lubbock Is Not a Place of the Spirit,” an attempt to get inside the head of John Hinckley Jr., who attempted to assassinate President Reagan in 1981, feels like a stunt. Farish is at his best—and in the case of the “The Passage,” he’s masterful—in the stories in which the cracks are just beginning to form in the facade of normal life. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

Advance Praise for Inappropriate Behavior

"The characters in these gripping and accomplished stories are rough customers—bad company, some of them—hellbent toward outer darkness. With fierce intensity and no slight streak of prophecy, Farish charts the paths they follow through a world gone haywire. These stories will be compared with works by Barry Hannah and Denis Johnson."
Janet Peery, author of The River Beyond the World and What the Thunder Said

"Inappropriate Behavior is a collection of lovely surprises: the tartly fresh, felicitous phrase, followed by the astonishing plot turn, and then by the lightning-streaked illumination of character. I think you will like this book."
Ken Kalfus, author of Equilateral

"A few facts about Murray Farish. First, he is wise, wickedly so, about the betimes corrupted creatures we are and about the hopes that bedevil us, not to mention the whichaway we go through time and the lies we need to tell ourselves when the bogey-men leap out from the shadows. Second, he's a deft and careful a craftsman between margins as you'll find at the keyboard nowadays, his stories models of clarity and design and artistic felicity. Finally, he, as the writer, does all the work so that we, his readers, experience all the pleasure, no matter how crosswise or inappropriate the behaviors found between 'once upon a time' and 'the end.' Do yourself a favor: put some Farish fiction between your ears."
Lee K. Abbott, author of All Things, All at Once

"Farish writes with a fiercely humanistic and moral rigor: we suffer together; we live together. We want, each of us, to be happy. There are scenes here that will still your heart with the quiet beauty of their soul-wisdom. The heartbreaking and beautifully constructed title story is the most authentic treatment of the Great Recession that I have read yet. Meticulous, richly detailed, and openly generous to the lives of the emotionally and socially displaced—these stories are the gift of a serious and electric talent."
T. M. McNally, author of Low Flying Aircraft, winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, and The Goat Bridge

"Murray Farish is up to something risky in Inappropriate Behavior. Set in the marginal cities and simmering towns of the south and midwest, the fictions anchor themselves in startling images: a man crawling across a corporate parking lot, a married couple raptly watching a teenage girl’s window, a diner waitress walking away from a car wreck. In a voice that is by turns funny, incisive, and lyrical, Farish plumbs the peculiar darknesses of American history and private life—these stories are nocturnal expeditions that leave an afterglow."
Eric Lundgren, author of The Facades

"Interesting and accomplished, this collection of stories explores the intersection of abhorrent behavior and the facade of ordinary life. Murray has mastered the short story and this collection is solid—not a weak one in the bunch."
Sarah Bagby, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kansas

"What is your "inappropriate behavior" of choice? Debut author Murray Farish, in this hip collection of stories, exposes an America living on the edge—the edge of the law, the edge of grief, the edge of society. Portraying characters who appear as real as a next-door neighbor, each unique story will make you wonder just what is happening behind closed doors. Highly original and focused on the unusual, Inappropriate Behavior is an auspicious beginning for the talented new voice of Murray Farish."
Nancy Simpson-Brice, Book Vault, Oskaloosa, Iowa

"As the title suggests, this collection of short stories deals with what our society considers "inappropriate behavior," whether it be obsessive, cruel or violent. The stories, with characters ranging from irate co-workers to crazy college students with guns, are all the more disturbing and powerful as they describe situations that are far from the ordinary. Farrish delivers a superb observation of contemporary America where the border between sanity and insanity is tenuous and blurry at best."
Pierre Camy, Schuler Books, Grand Rapids, MI

Kirkus Reviews
Edgy writing in an unnerving collection of short fiction. The title sets the tone for these stories, as each confronts some facet of inappropriate behavior, whether in the reader's opinion or in the judgment of posterity. Several of the stories focus on historical figures before they gained their notoriety, people we would most likely not want to encounter in daily life. Lee Harvey Oswald is here, as is John Hinckley Jr., the attempted assassin of President Ronald Regan. David Ferrie, the odd informant tied by some to the JFK conspiracy, also makes a visit in the hallucinations of a damaged high school girl. Though well-done, the best of the lot are those created from pure imagination. Farish works best when he is left to his own devices. "Ready for Schmelling" is a strange and humorous account of life in a large corporation that touches the absurd and hints of Kafka. He mixes farcical comedy in "The Thing about Norfolk" with true anguish in the disappointment of small-town life in "Mayflies." Violence haunts these pages, and insanity is the ghost in the machine. The titular story is almost a tour de force on the state of young American families facing unemployment, medical costs, the inability of social institutions to handle specific human problems, and the anxiety of coping with a behaviorally disturbed son in the face of all these obstacles. Almost. Its penultimate section is a steady barrage of questions about life and substance in America that generates frightening momentum as it moves over several pages. Stop there. It loses its punch with the actual ending. This collection of stories is intriguing but misses as standout fiction through uneven writing and trying too hard to be oddly curious.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781571319029
  • Publisher: Milkweed Editions
  • Publication date: 3/17/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • File size: 468 KB

Meet the Author

Murray Farish's short stories have appeared in The Missouri Review, Epoch, Roanoke Review, and Black Warrior Review, among other publications. His work has been awarded the William Peden Prize, the Phoebe Fiction Prize, and the Donald Barthelme Memorial Fellowship Prize, among others. Farish lives with his wife and two sons in St. Louis, Missouri, where he teaches writing and literature at Webster University. Inappropriate Behavior is his debut.
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Read an Excerpt

from the story, "Ready for Schmelling"

My name is Perkins, and my story begins on a Monday. Just as I was about to leave my desk after another day at the international corporation where I am employed, I happened to glance out the window to see a man crawling across the parking lot. I watched him as he crawled—hands and knees, attaché-handle in his teeth—from the front steps of the building all the way to the third row of cars, a good sixty yards or so, just like a baby in a blue business suit. When he got to his dark green Ford Taurus, the mid-level company car, he stood, took his attaché from his mouth, dusted himself off, got in and drove away in what I have to assume was the normal mode—seated, strapped in, ten-and-two—for a man of his age and station.

I had long ago quit wondering, or at least asking, about most of what went on at the I.C. I started there three years ago—just after Marcie and I got married, just before my father died—and I had seen more than enough corporate and individual doltishness, weirdness, and outright stupidity to make me seriously question the veracity of the yearly financial reports, which show us as a major player in the I.C. world. I had witnessed fiscal irresponsibility and massive waste offset by arbitrary niggling and concealed by necromantic accounting. I had narrowly escaped involvement in churlish turf wars. I had seen grown men and women reduced to paranoid hysterics by such matters as their table assignment at the company picnic or having their name left off a memo concerning this month’s coffee fund. I had learned that the single most important task one can master in business is that of assigning blame, and I had seen the best of the best ply their trade with such a profound lack of conscience that it would be debilitating in normal life. I was even there the day last March when Terrence McNeil—who never learned the corollary to the Most Important Task, that one must diligently avoid blame—came by to show some of his former co-workers in Vendor Support the business end of his Winchester side-by-side. But I had never seen a man in a blue suit crawl across a parking lot before.
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