The Long and Short of It

Overview

Dealing in divorce, abortion, motherhood, and Chinese concubines, Pamela Painter weaves twenty-five tales concerning topics that generally require a longer format than the short story. Painter's abstractions, however, allude to a denser tale, daring her reader to come inside the story. The stories mostly focus on women, but explore the fragile, inner sides of dozens of carefully drawn characters.
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Overview

Dealing in divorce, abortion, motherhood, and Chinese concubines, Pamela Painter weaves twenty-five tales concerning topics that generally require a longer format than the short story. Painter's abstractions, however, allude to a denser tale, daring her reader to come inside the story. The stories mostly focus on women, but explore the fragile, inner sides of dozens of carefully drawn characters.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Cheating spouses, broken households and the children caught between them drive most of these 25 well-made stories, tightly written and strewn with crackling dialogue. In the moving "New Family Car," a woman about to announce that she's leaving her husband overhears her teenage daughter's conversations with friends: each friend describes a dysfunctional household worse than her own.The two children of "Feeding the Piranha" prove expert at telling their divorced parents exactly what each wants to hear about the other. In "The Second Night of a One Night Stand," a wife tries to get even with her adulterous husband by having her own affair, only to fall in love with the other man. Painter excels at depicting failing marriages, bruised families and divorce: she knows how spouses learn the language of deception, and how children grow jaded. The tales that stray from these settings are, in general, less successful, though "The Real Story" looks cleverly at how writers use (and abuse) material from their own lives. As her title implies, Painter mixes short-short stories (a page or three in length) among more expansive work. Some of the former are models of concision and punch, like "The New Year," a page-and-a-half tale of a fleeing husband, or "The Bridge," a glimpse of a woman who may or may not have thrown a baby over the iron railing. Painter is also a co-author of What If?, a standard manual for fiction-writing classes: her expertise shows in this first book of her own fiction, which combines her technical versatility with pathos and poise. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Twenty-five sharply drawn short (and shorter) stories, from the author of Getting to Know the Weather (not reviewed). Painter is clearly a writer who believes in the light touch, and the great benefit of this approach is that the sketchiness of her portraits seems more tantalizing than obscure—and succeeds in drawing the reader in rather than putting him or her off. Most of the pieces here are actually vignettes rather than stories, but they manage to make up in atmosphere and tone what they lack in depth. The first story ("The New Year") is typical: it portrays the sudden collapse of a marriage on Christmas Eve when the narrator's wife discovers her husband's infidelity. "Going Wild" looks at a similarly troubled domestic life—in this case, that of a divorced woman at the end of her tether who decides to cut loose and enjoy herself for a change. Family trauma also plays a significant role: the young woman who narrates "Custody" meets with a divorce lawyer after her writer husband publishes an account of the abortion she had years before, while the mother and son of "Bringing Me Up It Never Stops" argue about whether or not he should move out of his college dorm and into a place of his own. Metaphor sneaks in only later in the collection: In "Dud," a Hollywood p.r. man lives easily but honestly with the duplicity of touting lousy films ("Who says the story you tell has to be the story that happened?") that he can sell without being able to watch. Painter's later pieces become more ornate and elaborate—"The Story of Hu" (the life and death of an Imperial concubine in ancient China), for instance, or "Inside Her, In Heaven" (the pillow talk of a young couple whohave just had sex and start reminiscing about their "first time"). Delicately wrought, if somewhat slight, tales that provide a welcome glimpse into the real hearts of imaginary people.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780887482861
  • Publisher: Carnegie-Mellon University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999
  • Series: Carnegie Mellon Series in Short Fiction
  • Pages: 202
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

The New Year 9
Going Wild 11
The Kiss 15
Bedtime Story 19
Custody 25
Twins 31
New Family Car 33
Cuts 43
Feeding the Piranha 45
Bringing Me Up It Never Stops 51
Dud 57
Murder One 61
Confusing the Dog 69
The Last Word 75
The Story of Hu 93
The Real Story 101
No Faith 111
The House that Burned 123
Dangerous Waters 131
Island Tales 137
Divided Highway 147
Inside Her, In Heaven 159
Sympathy 167
The Bridge 173
The Second Night of a One Night Stand 179
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