Limbo, and Other Places I Have Lived

Limbo, and Other Places I Have Lived

5.0 2
by Lily Tuck
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

In an elegant and penetrating first short-story collection, Limbo, and Other Places I Have Lived, Lily Tuck's characters travel to unknown, exotic places and, while there, find themselves deeply immersed in observation -- of the natives, the local customs, the foreign landscape -- in an effort to discern some elemental truth about who they themselves are.

Overview

In an elegant and penetrating first short-story collection, Limbo, and Other Places I Have Lived, Lily Tuck's characters travel to unknown, exotic places and, while there, find themselves deeply immersed in observation -- of the natives, the local customs, the foreign landscape -- in an effort to discern some elemental truth about who they themselves are. Instead, these women meet with disorientation, confusion; they are disappointed by the people closest to them -- lovers, husbands, family members. Finally, they arrive at the sometimes heartbreaking but ultimately optimistic realization that the answers they seek lie not in other people or places but within themselves.

Limbo, and Other Places I Have Lived is a brilliant collection from a writer of exceptional poise and insight.

Editorial Reviews

These fourteen stories are set in locales as diverse as Peru and Vietnam, Nevada and Paris. Collectively, they seem to be saying that however far one travels, it is impossible to escape oneself. Three of the pieces involve car crashes resulting in fatalities. Alas, bad things become less shocking as these stories succeed one another. The female narrators could easily be the same woman of indeterminate age—young in vanity, middle-aged in disillusionment—and generally passive, depressive and self-absorbed. They drift out of bad marriages and into marriages no better, visit grisly points of interest—Donner Pass, the Nagasaki Museum—and try, with unrealistic hopefulness, to keep a conversation going with men who are, by and large, fanny-grabbers. The best story of the bunch is "L'Esprit de L'Escalier," a phrase that has come to mean the clever remarks we wish we had made, and which here has wider implications of regret.
—Penelope Mesic <%END%>
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Tuck (Siam; The Woman Who Walked on Water) efficiently and eloquently chronicles the lives of women who undergo both geographical and emotional displacement in these 14 short stories. The characters end up in Peru, France, Italy, Southeast Asia and various North American locales, usually in the throes of unsatisfying relationships or suffering from nostalgic regret. Tuck's globe-trotting adds more than just splashes of exotica; she employs the varied settings to underscore a sense of dislocation. Her protagonists (principally Americans) associate with the locals and negotiate foreign customs and history while reflecting on their own pasts, which frequently include failed relationships with men. In "Next of Kin," a newly married woman ruminates on the elderly man who crashed his car into the church on her wedding day, the obsession obscuring the growing rift between her and her husband. A woman goes to California to visit her former college roommate in "Horses," and her insecurities surface during a swimming outing with her old friend's lover and his daughter. Alone in Paris, in "Rue Guynemer," a woman finds that she has a more vivid image in her head of the World War I pilot for whom her street is named than of her ex-husband. Tuck's style is simple, unembellished, and mixes a range of narrative voices. Though the stories can feel underdeveloped, and a few of the plots resemble each other too closely, these are fine-boned, intelligent, meticulously observed fictions. A talented writer, Tuck honestly explores the ways in which women yearn for and seek out better lives. (Jan. 4) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
Tuck (Siam; The Woman Who Walked on Water) efficiently and eloquently chronicles the lives of women who undergo both geographical and emotional displacement in these 14 short stories. The characters end up in Peru, France, Italy, Southeast Asia and various North American locales, usually in the throes of unsatisfying relationships or suffering from nostalgic regret. Tuck's globe-trotting adds more than just splashes of exotica; she employs the varied settings to underscore a sense of dislocation. Her protagonists (principally Americans) associate with the locals and negotiate foreign customs and history while reflecting on their own pasts, which frequently include failed relationships with men. In "Next of Kin," a newly married woman ruminates on the elderly man who crashed his car into the church on her wedding day, the obsession obscuring the growing rift between her and her husband. A woman goes to California to visit her former college roommate in "Horses," and her insecurities surface during a swimming outing with her old friend's lover and his daughter. Alone in Paris, in "Rue Guynemer," a woman finds that she has a more vivid image in her head of the World War I pilot for whom her street is named than of her ex-husband. Tuck's style is simple, unembellished, and mixes a range of narrative voices. Though the stories can feel underdeveloped, and a few of the plots resemble each other too closely, these are fine-boned, intelligent, meticulously observed fictions. A talented writer, Tuck honestly explores the ways in which women yearn for and seek out better lives. (Jan. 4) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Fourteen stories from Tuck (Siam, 1999; The Woman Who Walked on Water, 1996) aim often at intricacy in design but bear the stamp of the mass-produced. In "La Mayonette," for example, about two families on a rural vacation in France, tone (curiously distant) and symbolism (a pattern in the wallpaper, a long-ago trip to Egypt) are asked to reveal-well, a woman's unhappiness, but unhappiness so much without apparent real cause as to be unmoving. The exotic is used also to make more of things than they are in "L'Esprit de L'Escalier," about a boyfriend, a car accident, and a lunch with Alberto Moravia, all told in an inexplicably parodic style ("You could tell right away by the way Massimo said his Rs that Massimo was not from Rome. Massimo was from the north, from Turin. Massimo knew a lot of people"); and it's used again in "Rue Guynemer," about an American woman staying in Paris to recover from a divorce ("At the time when she discovered that her ex-husband was having an affair . . . she was both hurt and angry"), a story that name-drops its way (Scott and Zelda, Françoise Sagan, Stein and Toklas) to an unearned ending. Characters get almost to the edge of gaining roundness, substance, or depth, but a thinness in the soil keeps them from growing. In "Verdi," a woman on a dude ranch is preoccupied by the Donner Party (". . . she felt alone. Really alone"); an incipiently religious young girl and her pretty mother wait out WWII in Lima ("Limbo"); and a woman isn't sure how to act when she joins a father and daughter who swim naked ("Horses"). "Second Wife," "Next of Kin," and "Hotter" (set in Laos) are stories of the woe that is in marriage, while "The View from Madama Butterfly's House" isan oddly artificial tour-told by "we"-of the Nagasaki Museum. Published previously in the New Yorker and elsewhere, tales that will seem more empty to some than to others. Author tour

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061748479
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
192
File size:
350 KB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

La Mayonette

We arrive at La Mayonette very late at night. My husband, Charles, and I had calculated eight hours for the drive but it took much longer since we did not take into account the winding part on the map between Geneva and Lyons -- that part alone took five hours. Also, not realizing how far we still had to go, we had stopped along the way to have a picnic lunch and, lastly, just after it had got dark, the two bicycles that were attached, upside down, to the roof rack of the car worked themselves loose and we had to stop once more to reattach them. "If the bicycles fall off, someone could get hurt. Seriously hurt," I kept saying to Charles, as I tried to hold the flashlight steady and as he tried to tighten the bungee cords that held the bicycles down, and this, too, took up more time. Now, and for once uncomplaining, our two boys are huddled against each other in the back of the car asleep as we drive up to Francine's house to get the key to La Mayonette. We wake her up but she does not seem to mind. She was afraid, she tells us, that we had had an accident; she is relieved to see us. Her long hair is tied into a single old-fashioned braid and hangs down her back, and the bright-green Mexican dress she is wearing as a nightgown is wrinkled from her sleep. She does not look any different since I last saw her, and we embrace warmly. I introduce her to Charles whom she has never met. She gets us the key, a long iron key, like a key to a city, and tells us how to find the house. We kiss again and say à demain.

La Mayonette is painted a rough yellow -- the same yellow van Gogh used when he painted the houses there-- and although there are several other buildings, mostly farm buildings, next to them, it looks garish and out of place. In the morning before I am properly awake, I can hear roosters crowing and a tractor starting up and setting off down the road. When I look around at the unfamiliar room -- last night, not bothering to unpack, barely turning on a light, we all went straight to bed -- I see an ordinary room sparsely furnished with a bedside table, two straight-backed chairs, and an armoire; only the wallpaper seems inappropriate. More than inappropriate: the wallpaper disturbs me. The design on it is a profile of a woman with red hair and dark sharp features, repeated a dizzying amount of times all around us. To make matters worse, the wallpaper was hung by an amateur. The faces do not match at the seams and are distorted -- where there should be a nose, there is a chin, where there should be a mouth, hair.

In the next room, I can hear our two boys talking; their words are as distinct as if no wall separated us. "Shit," the younger boy says, "the bastard flew around me all night. I never got to sleep." He makes a buzzing sound and the older boy laughs. Something crashes to the floor and they both laugh. Already smiling, Charles opens his eyes and reaches an arm toward me. "We are going to have a good summer," he promises.

"In college, I read a story about a woman who goes crazy looking at the wallpaper in her bedroom," I answer.

La Mayonette is the name of the house we have rented in the Var district of France for the month of July. The house belongs to Francine's family and it was my idea to rent it, because of Francine, who was my classmate and friend a long time ago when I was a student in France, and because of the countryside. The countryside is hot and dusty and the azure sea and the crowded Riviera beaches, which are a few kilometers away and only a twenty-minute drive from the house, seem very remote from La Mayonette. Here the land is given over to vineyards and orchards and is contained by a ragged ring of scrub mountains on which grow patches of wild rosemary and thyme.

We are soon settled in La Mayonette and the days establish themselves into an easy routine. The two boys bicycle and run around as if they had always lived here and as if it does not matter that they are in France. The bread man delivers a loaf of flat round country bread every morning; and Jacqueline, who lives in one of the buildings clustered around La Mayonette, comes twice a week to clean and do the wash. She is silent and efficient and I am relieved that I do not have to speak to her and tell her what to do. Even so, I warn Charles to hide his money, his valuables; I do likewise. We learn our way around Pierrefeu, the little village perched on a hill six kilometers away. From there, we tour the caves to taste the wine grown in the region and end up buying two large plastic bonbonnes of pink and red wine -- more than enough for a month, Charles says. We also buy a quantity of food: olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, fish, fruit -- mainly the juicy yellow peaches that are in season.

On the Fourth of July, the younger boy says that he wants to bake a cake, but, inexplicably, he makes mashed potatoes instead. The kitchen is the largest room in the house and the one we use the most. A long oak table stands in the middle, and already, the tabletop is crowded with pitchers of wild flowers and china bowls of peaches. We have brought in two armchairs from the living room, and Francine is sitting in one of them and her two daughters, who are a little younger than our two boys, are...

Limbo, and Other Places I Have Lived. Copyright © by Lily Tuck. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Born in Paris, LILY TUCK is the author of four previous novels: Interviewing Matisse, or the Woman Who Died Standing Up; The Woman Who Walked on Water; Siam, or the Woman Who Shot a Man, which was nominated for the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction; and The News from Paraguay, winner of theNational Book Award. She is also the author of the biography Woman of Rome: A Life of Elsa Morante. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker and are collected in Limbo and Other Places I Have Lived. Lily Tuck divides her time between Maine and New York City.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
New York, New York
Date of Birth:
October 10, 1939
Place of Birth:
Paris, France
Education:
B.A., Radcliffe (Harvard); M.A., Sorbonne, Paris

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Limbo, and Other Places I Have Lived 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Hai."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Psyche. Hi guys!