Livability

Livability

4.3 3
by Jon Raymond
     
 

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A collection of rich, powerfully human stories from the author of The Half-Life and the movies Old Joy ("one of the finest American films of the year"—New York Times) and Wendy and Lucy.

A grieving man embarks on a long-imagined affair in the months following his wife's unexpected death. Two old friends attempt to

Overview

A collection of rich, powerfully human stories from the author of The Half-Life and the movies Old Joy ("one of the finest American films of the year"—New York Times) and Wendy and Lucy.

A grieving man embarks on a long-imagined affair in the months following his wife's unexpected death. Two old friends attempt to rediscover their lost bond on a trip to remote mountain hot springs. Two teenagers, trapped in a mall after hours, push each other to new levels of honesty and sexual misconduct.

In Jon Raymond's deft, nuanced stories, these and other characters experience the deep longings and sudden insights of life in a modern, middle-sized city—a world of rapidly changing neighborhoods, rising financial pressures, and chance encounters shaped by far-distant forces. Whether kids or carpenters, artists or drifters, all have arrived at a crossroads, seeking what they need to survive and finding what, if necessary, they are willing to live without. With poetic detail and a humane spirit, Livability draws a somber, wryly observed portrait of America now.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Like another Raymond--Raymond Carver--Jon Raymond's realism is reflective without being reflexive, trading artifice and the wink-nudge of clever framing for genuine pathos and the organic trajectory of human drama. The stories in Livability feel real because they're believable, and believable because they're never sensational.” —Metroland

“Raymond is a prose maximalist. Although his characters have difficulty relating to each other, they relate to the reader with unbuttoned, occasionally garrulous, intimacy. To the reader alone, they entrust their memories, thoughts, feelings, landscape descriptions, even as they explain to the reader why these private riches can't be shared with the person closest to them in the story. The cumulative effect of this, extended over nine stories, is to immerse the reader in a varied society of compulsive and fluent interior monologuists, who experience their lives with articulate intensity, but find it uphill work to communicate satisfactorily with their fellow loners.” —New York Review of Books

“It's that pitch-perfect description of human interaction that gives these stories depth; in the best ones, a rich evocation of setting make them whole.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Raymond possesses a keen sensitivity…where he succeeds most is in conveying a broad cultural and specific individual ennui, while still managing to retain narrative interest. What marks just about all of these stories is the sympathy with which the author treats his characters, muddling through the gloom in search of better days.” —Austin Chronicle

“There is a raw immediacy to Raymond's narrative voice. It has a depressive quality that lends credence to his characterizations, which are often about people who are disagreeable, cut off, rough-edged and lost.” —Denver Post

“[Raymond's] third person limited point of view skims existential drift with delicate precision. Livability's plots are liminal hooks, awash in the overcast Oregon sky.” —San Francisco Bay Guardian

“Raymond's tales remain as quietly engrossing in their natural, printed habitat as they do upon a screen. They expand the scope of characters from cultural outsiders and lanky ne'er-do-wells to include members of the moneyed upper class, grieving spouses and young boys confronted by "shared torpor and sudden enthusiasms." Comparisons to the self-consciously hardscrabble Northwest of Raymond Carver will certainly be made, but it's the poems of Richard Hugo, born in the Seattle suburb of White Center, to whom these stories feel the most connected. Like Hugo's lovingly practical images of nature and bleak, localized stasis, Raymond's work floats just beside the realm of possibility, often ending as a character is teetering dramatically on the precipice of something. With Raymond, as with Hugo, we glimpse lives in suspension, and the effect, by the book's end, is dizzying.” —Los Angeles Times

“The lives of the folks in Jon Raymond's Livability are clouded by longing and lit with rare flashes of grace.” —Vanity Fair

“Jon Raymond is a real find--his work evokes that of the late Raymond Carver, the king of what was once called Kmart fiction. His stories are moving, real and discomfiting.” —Chicago Tribune (Elizabeth Taylor)

“This enticing collection pulses with the intensity of its diverse characters and the affliction that comes part and parcel with decisions, large or small, that they make at life's junctures. Raymond's nine stories are delicately refined and sublimely electric.” —Booklist

“Jon Raymond is a master at re-creating those feelings of unease and confusion that arise when relationships are at their most precarious. His artful rendering of life's defining moments reveals how we are all engaged in ceaseless self-evaluation.” —Bookforum

“Raymond's strength is his sensitivity, his ability to chart minute shifts and nuances… Realism, perceptively delivered.” —Kirkus

“These nine gorgeous stories from novelist and screenwriter Raymond find pallid Northwesterners testing the moral perimeters of their decent lives.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“These stories stick with me and rival my own memories of inertia, isolation and wild invention in the Pacific Northwest. And like real life, they head in one direction but always end up in another. Jon Raymond has an impressive ability to recognize the tales that we all tell ourselves, and then quietly lead us back to reality--excruciatingly familiar and usually rainy.” —Miranda July, author of No One Belongs Here More Than You

“Raymond's tales remain as quietly engrossing in their natural, printed habitat as they do upon a screen. They expand the scope of characters from cultural outsiders and lanky ne'er-do-wells to include members of the moneyed upper class, grieving spouses and young boys confronted by "shared torpor and sudden enthusiasms." Comparisons to the self-consciously hardscrabble Northwest of Raymond Carver will certainly be made, but it's the poems of Richard Hugo, born in the Seattle suburb of White Center, to whom these stories feel the most connected. Like Hugo's lovingly practical images of nature and bleak, localized stasis, Raymond's work floats just beside the realm of possibility, often ending as a character is teetering dramatically on the precipice of something. With Raymond, as with Hugo, we glimpse lives in suspension, and the effect, by the book's end, is dizzying.” —Los Angeles Times

“Jon Raymond is a real find--his work evokes that of the late Raymond Carver, the king of what was once called Kmart fiction. His stories are moving, real and discomfiting.” —Chicago Tribune

“The lives of the folks in Jon Raymond's Livability are clouded by longing and lit with rare flashes of grace.” —Vanity Fair

“All of these tales by screenwriter and novelist Raymond (The Half-Life) deal with seizing opportunities to reunite with friends, taking a temporary respite from grief, and starting a new life path, among other very human experiences. The author's simple yet elegant writing style, with concise descriptions and well-paced action sequences, is taut and powerful. The characters may seem like ordinary people on the surface, but Raymond explores the depths of their emotions to the core, revealing a deep insight into personal motivation that is impressive in a writer so young. Two of the short stories in this collection were inspiration for the films Old Joy(2006) and Wendy and Lucy, which was released Dec. 10. This collection is highly recommended to all libraries.” —Library Journal

“This enticing collection pulses with the intensity of its diverse characters and the affliction that comes part and parcel with decisions, large or small, that they make at life's junctures. Raymond's nine stories are delicately refined and sublimely electric.” —Booklist

“Jon Raymond is a master at re-creating those feelings of unease and confusion that arise when relationships are at their most precarious. His artful rendering of life's defining moments reveals how we are all engaged in ceaseless self-evaluation.” —Bookforum

“[Raymond's] third person limited point of view skims existential drift with delicate precision. Livability's plots are liminal hooks, awash in the overcast Oregon sky.” —San Francisco Bay Guardian

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Livability. Two old friends, estranged by time and lack of interest, attempt to reconnect on a trip to the mountains. Livability. A grieving man impulsively begins a long-imagined affair after the unexpected death of his wife. Livability. A woman, well acquainted with bad luck and alone except for the companionship of her dog, drives to Alaska to look for work. Livability. A man, recently divorced and long retired, prepares a sumptuous dinner party for guests, including the two Mexican immigrants he hired that same morning. Livability is the sum of these stories and more -- a rich collection at once deft, sobering, and artfully observed.

Whether divorced, widowed, on the run, or on their own, Raymond's characters all experience the longing, hard-won insight, and frustration that result from a welter of missed opportunities and bad timing. Kids, immigrants, artists, and drifters, they move along in their lives, taking what they need and deciding what they can live without. Old, young, or caught in the middle, they're trying to get things right before it's too late. Moment by moment, their chance encounters, disappointing relationships, and forgotten dreams develop into a portrait of America now.

Haunting, elegiac, and instantly recognizable, Livability, with its graceful detail and generous spirit, is destined to become a classic. (Spring 2009 Selection)
Publishers Weekly

These nine gorgeous stories from novelist and screenwriter Raymond find pallid Northwesterners testing the moral perimeters of their decent lives. In "The Suckling Pig," set around the preparations for a dinner party, the divorced middle-aged host hires two Mexican men for some yard work at his suburban house, then adds them to the guest list to spur on what turns out to be a transformative and class-blurring evening. The wayward protagonist of "Train Choir" hopes to make it to Alaska and find work with the fisheries, but she gets caught stealing food for her dog, setting off a chain of mishaps that sinks her deeper into a perverse, solitary rut. In "Young Bodies," 17-year-old Russian émigré Kendra sneaks into the store where she works to return the money she'd stolen, only to get locked in the mall for the night with an increasingly unsympathetic co-worker. A sense of fragility pervades these characters' lives, and as the upsets that threaten each of them simmer, Raymond reveals how close failure (and worse) lingers. (Jan.)

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Library Journal

All of these tales by screenwriter and novelist Raymond (The Half-Life) deal with seizing opportunities to reunite with friends, taking a temporary respite from grief, and starting a new life path, among other very human experiences. The author's simple yet elegant writing style, with concise descriptions and well-paced action sequences, is taut and powerful. The characters may seem like ordinary people on the surface, but Raymond explores the depths of their emotions to the core, revealing a deep insight into personal motivation that is impressive in a writer so young. Two of the short stories in this collection were inspiration for the films Old Joy(2006) and Wendy and Lucy, which was released Dec. 10. This collection is highly recommended to all libraries.
—Lisa Rohrbaugh

Kirkus Reviews
Subtle shifts in everyday lives are captured in this collection from Raymond (The Half-Life, 2004). In "The Coast," a long-married man, recently widowed and spending time by the ocean to mourn, meets an old friend and possibly starts a new chapter in his life. Old connections are also re-examined in "Old Joy" and "Benny," both of which consider bonds formed long ago and the emotional responses they trigger in the present. "The Wind" examines the peer pressure inflicted on a boy, forcing him into a fight while in the background his grandfather is dying. Raymond's strength is his sensitivity, his ability to chart minute shifts and nuances, a talent less evident in the stagey "The Suckling Pig," in which an unlikely dinner party scenario unfolds, and in "Young Bodies," which follows two teenagers locked in a mall. The final and longest story, "Train Choir," concerns the tough decisions of a woman traveling to Alaska to earn some decent money. This is a starker and darker tale than anything that precedes it. Realism, perceptively delivered.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596916555
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
12/23/2008
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
1,220,122
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Jon Raymond is the author of The Half-Life, a novel, and co-writer of the films Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy, adapted from stories in this collection. He is an editor at Plazm Magazine, and his writing has appeared in Bookforum, Artforum, Tin House, The Village Voice, and other publications. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Livability 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jkershawtn More than 1 year ago
I bought this book because I'm from Oregon and recognized many of the places in some of the stories. I loved each of the stories in the book, I recommend it to anyone, particularly to anyone that loves Oregon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago