The Necessity of Certain Behaviors

Overview

Winner of the 2011 Drue Heinz Literature Prize

Shannon Cain?s stories chart the treacherous territory of the illicit. They expose the absurdity of our rituals, our definitions of sexuality, and above all, our expectations of happiness and self-fulfillment.
      Cain?s protagonists are destined to suffer?and sometimes enjoy?the consequences of their own restless discontent.  In the title story, Lisa, a city ...

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The Necessity of Certain Behaviors

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Overview

Winner of the 2011 Drue Heinz Literature Prize

Shannon Cain’s stories chart the treacherous territory of the illicit. They expose the absurdity of our rituals, our definitions of sexuality, and above all, our expectations of happiness and self-fulfillment.
      Cain’s protagonists are destined to suffer—and sometimes enjoy—the consequences of their own restless discontent.  In the title story, Lisa, a city dweller, is dissatisfied with her life and relationships. Her attempt at self-rejuvenation takes her on a hiking excursion through a foreign land. Lisa discovers a remote village where the ritualized and generous bisexual love of its inhabitants entrances her. She begins to abandon thoughts of home.
      In “Cultivation,” Frances, a divorced mother strapped with massive credit card debt, has become an expert at growing pot. When she packs her three children and twelve pounds of homegrown into the minivan and travels cross-country to sell the stash, their journey becomes one of anguish, revelation, and ultimately transformation. “Cultivation,” like many of the stories in The Necessity of Certain Behaviors, follows a trail of broken relationships and the unfulfilled promises of modern American life.
      Told in precise, evocative prose, these memorable stories illuminate the human condition from a compelling, funny, and entirely original perspective.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Winner of the 2011 Drue Heinz Literature Prize, Cain's debut collection of nine short stories adroitly navigates the tenuous waters of human relationships. Her quietly august characters struggle to come to terms with the unpredictable nuance of tradition, sexuality, and happiness. Cain's confident and steady prose balances out the emotional tumult of stories just bizarre enough to be believable: "I Love Bob" chronicles the search for closure by a woman who believes Bob Barker to be her father; "The Queer Zoo" (you guessed it—"home to the largest collection of homosexual, bisexual, and transgender animals") serves as a strange locus for meditations on identity and the relief of letting go. Utilizing painful misunderstandings to maximum effect, Cain's characters arrive at epiphanies without relying on convenient tricks and plot devices. Dark moments that give way to enlightened reflection reveal characters whose selfishness is deftly managed. Cain highlights their humanity rather than calling it into question. She is especially adept at drawing forth vulnerabilities from her female protagonists. This is a work of finely calibrated emotional registers that will set the bar high for Cain's next book. (Sept.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822944102
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2011
  • Series: Pitt Drue Heinz Lit Prize Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 1,217,446
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Shannon Cain is coeditor of Powder: Writing by Women in the Ranks, from Vietnam to Iraq. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, the O. Henry Prize, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Tin House, Colorado Review, New England Review, American Short Fiction, and Southword: New Writing From Ireland. She has taught fiction writing at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University and is the 2011 Picador Guest Professor in Literature at the University of Leipzig.

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