Nervous Dancer

Nervous Dancer

by Carol Lee Lorenzo
     
 

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The lives on view in Nervous Dancer are complex and precarious. Speaking their familial idioms in tones and cadences determined well before they ever appeared in these stories, Carol Lee Lorenzo's characters surge into moments of change for reasons initially not apparent. In the quirky, hard-edged ways in which they stumble, beg, come of age, fall apart, and

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Overview

The lives on view in Nervous Dancer are complex and precarious. Speaking their familial idioms in tones and cadences determined well before they ever appeared in these stories, Carol Lee Lorenzo's characters surge into moments of change for reasons initially not apparent. In the quirky, hard-edged ways in which they stumble, beg, come of age, fall apart, and reunite, they reveal no simple notions about life.

The way women and children see men is often the focus of these stories, and female voices are the most numerous in Nervous Dancer. Singularity of character can be found in anyone, however, such as the nameless father in "Unconfirmed Invitations," whose guilt over his drinking and marital infidelities leads to a bizarre hunter-gatherer compulsion. Lorenzo's women are often mothers, like LuAnn Wilson Hunter in "Something Almost Invisible," who says of herself and her son that they are "divorced from everything, we are all living in slow motion, not at home anywhere." Others find themselves in double binds with generational friction compounding their troubles, such as Eulene in "Nervous Dancer," who informs her mother, "Just because I'm in your house doesn't mean I've lost the right to fight with my husband."

Lorenzo says that her characters are "in the throes of love with its impurities or as sterling as it comes, and sometimes they trip the spring and the hard face of hate appears." She believes that "it's not always the outside force, someone else's doing, that changes things or brings confrontation. It's our stranger within--our unspoken self that frightens and engages us. That's what story allows us to see."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Lorenzo has a sharp and generous vision. . . . Nervous Dancer is a book full of pleasures for the ear and mind and heart."—Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The nine stories in Lorenzo's debut have the ephemerality of troubling dreams. After they're told, all that remains are unsettling images-the dog that's been killed on the highway and needs to be buried; the water-filled quarry that's ``a blue hole all the way through to the bottom''; or the car that's been locked, running, with the keys still inside. Lorenzo frames these symbols with scenes of domestic unrest. In the title tale, the narrator expresses unhappiness with her husband by rekindling anger toward her mother. This ``nervous dancer,'' who studies ballet in a vain attempt to calm her skittishness, suppresses all feelings (she even refers to ``the dog'' rather than divulge the name of her pet); and such maddening, vague behavior alienates others from her. This cool indirection is characteristic of these tales: Lorenzo delicately defines her principals' personalities, and readers must linger over the tense sentences to grasp the slippery characters. Yet, if human psychology is subtly handled, metaphor is positively overt. Lorenzo often recycles favorite motifs-one-armed men figure in two stories here-and her phrasing (``I feel so empty. I think my soul upsets my stomach,'' one man professes) often proves more precious than meaningful. These stories hint at large import, but, as Lorenzo favors imagery over narrative consequence, they contract into well-wrought miniatures. (Apr.)
Library Journal
There is a symbiosis between these three volumes of short stories. Each deals with the experience of being a woman, touching on the complexity of the mother-daughter relationship and exploring connections and limitations in women's lives. The stories are differentiated by the authors' style and approach. Agee's collection is part of the "Coffee-To-Go Short-Short Story" series. Indeed, some of the stories are extremely shortonly one page. They are more appropriately vignettes, or fleeting impressions, and the writing style is stream of consciousness. Many of the stories feature an undercurrent of violence, and none is particularly upbeat. Three of Agee's books have been judged Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review, and this one demonstrates the same fine quality. Similar in style to Agee's book, Redel's first collection comprises 16 stories. Her stories tend to be a little longer but again focus on women's issues. "A Day in the Park" portrays a mother covering her two sons with leaves and twigs and bedding down in the park for the night, not unlike animals. This tale is oddly moving, but others tend to be challenging as they have no discernible plots. Redel's book is not an easy, relaxing read. Unlike these two volumes, Lorenzo's contains nine longer stories. Lorenzo creates a rich atmosphere and weaves a plot into each of the tales. They are beautifully written accounts of women grappling with difficult choices, the consequences of biology, and their (sometimes philandering) men. Lorenzo won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction for the title story of this collection. All three collections are recommended for general readers.Kimberly G. Allen, MCI Corporate Information Resources Ctr., Washington, D.C.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780820339955
Publisher:
University of Georgia Press
Publication date:
10/01/2011
Series:
Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction Series
Pages:
184
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.42(d)

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