The Melancholy of Departure

Overview

Filled with sharp dialogue, engaging characters, and offbeat detail, the twelve stories collected in The Melancholy of Departure describe an outsider's world of longing, disillusion, and survival, where hope is found in unexpected places and understanding comes from unlikely sources. In "Hurley," the title character is a would-be revolutionary who unsuccessfully tries to explain "the difference between erotica and violence against women" to a clerk at a pornography shop called The Fifth Wheel; "Florence Wearnse" ...
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Overview

Filled with sharp dialogue, engaging characters, and offbeat detail, the twelve stories collected in The Melancholy of Departure describe an outsider's world of longing, disillusion, and survival, where hope is found in unexpected places and understanding comes from unlikely sources. In "Hurley," the title character is a would-be revolutionary who unsuccessfully tries to explain "the difference between erotica and violence against women" to a clerk at a pornography shop called The Fifth Wheel; "Florence Wearnse" centers on a spinster of the World War I generation who goes deaf "to escape the listening, so tired had she grown of stocks and bonds, whooping cough, motor cars, weddings, the Kentucky Derby." A bizarre friendship between a former psychiatric ward orderly with an interest in sadism and an obese mental patient who sublimates his needs by eating lemon meringue pie is featured in "Ralph and Larry." As the title of the collection suggests, many of the stories deal with loss or failed relationships. In "Voici! Henri!, a story set in Paris, an aging Englishman contemplates life without his young lover, Henri, who has left for Switzerland with a wealthy baron. "Let Me Tell You How I Met My First Husband, the Clown!" is a bittersweet remembrance of a Jewish woman's first marriage to "Daniel Muldoon: One-Man Flying Circus," a man she believes was "a sort of Ba'al Shem Tov with laughing children on his shoulders, a man whom God had put on this earth to show us the study of Talmud was not the only path." "At Home with the Pelletiers" chronicles the disintegration of a St. Louis family after the oldest son, Walter, returns home from Marine Corps boot camp during the Vietnam War. Younger brother Howard prefers the Jane Fonda he sees on the nightly news to the actress who played "Barbarella" and feels uncomfortably at odds with the militaristic Walter, whose stories about war atrocities and sex Howard finds frighteningly similar. Fully aware of the dangers that awa
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The protagonists of the stories in this Flannery O'Connor Award-winning collection draw on a highly personalized assortment of survival tricks to maintain hope as they fall short of expectations, either their own or those of society. In ``Ralph and Larry,'' 418-lb. Larry dines on pie and tries to analyze his shrink, while Ralph, his companion, is into gay ``leather sex.'' The eponymous hero of ``Hurley'' is a slightly addled, would-be political activist who threatens to blow up a porn shop with a suitcase full of laundry and later ashamedly masturbates to a skin flick. Other stories chronicle more conventional struggles. DePew relies heavily on monologue and on present tense, devices that frequently seem cliched here. Although his tone ranges from meditative to cross to comic, all the while retaining some taste of the melancholy proposed by his title, DePew fails to stake out a distinctive territory and to project a distinctive voice. (Apr.)
Library Journal
DePew, winner of this year's Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, has created a unique collection of short stories, all connected by themes of ending or loss and examining bittersweet, unsuccessful relationships. DePew's characters find commitment, sadness, and loneliness in their heterosexual and homosexual liaisons, but too often no one shares their pain. They manage to survive alone, with just a hint of understanding how things might have been. Sensitive and poetic, DePew feels his characters' pain and enables his audience to feel more acutely. Readers who enjoy offbeat characters involved in unexpected situations will appreciate this collection.-- Ellen R. Cohen, Rockville, Md.
From the Publisher

Lush and sophisticated. Heart and mind. Near and far-reaching. Stories that live longer than the duration of your reading them. Stories that live on after the book is closed. No fuller, finer fiction exists anywhere. This is literature. The gift.”—Carolyn Chute, author of The Beans of Egypt, Maine

“Sensitive studies of loss and survival.”—New York Times Book Review

“A unique collection of short stories, all connected by themes of ending or loss and examining bittersweet, unsuccessful relationships. DePew's characters find commitment, sadness, and loneliness in their heterosexual and homosexual liaisons, but too often no one shares their pain. They manage to survive alone, with just a hint of understanding how things might have been. Sensitive and poetic, DePew feels his characters' pain and enables his audience to feel more acutely.”—Library Journal

“DePew has impressive skills at hair-down narration and offhand wisdoms.”—Kirkus Reviews

"The anniversary publication of one of my all-time favorite story collections is something to celebrate. The characters have held up beautifully over the years, in all their emotional complexity, their bone-deep humanity, their timeless missteps and triumphs."—Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine

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Product Details

Meet the Author


A journalist for the Vancouver Observer, Alfred DePew has taught at the Universities of Vermont and New Hampshire, the Maine College of Art, the Salt Center for Documentary Studies, and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. He has lead creativity and leadership workshops throughout the U.S. and Canada. In 2008, he joined the faculty at the Center for Right Relationship, where he teaches organization and relationship systems coaching. In his private practice, he works with executive directors, physicians, school administrators, couples, artists, writers, and clergy in deepening their awareness, managing change and conflict, broadening their range, achieving personal and creative objectives, and realizing their leadership potential.
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Table of Contents

Let Me Tell You How I Met My First Husband, the Clown 1
Stanley 13
Voici! Henri! 21
Rita and Maxine 32
Bettina in Love 46
For If He Left Robert 63
Hurley 68
What Do You Mean What Am I Doing? 80
Ralph and Larry 84
Beauty and the Beast 96
Florence Wearnse 104
At Home with the Pelletiers 110
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