Nightwork: Storiesby Christine Schutt
A young woman remembers, after a forbidden embrace, the exact quality of her father's skin, "pitted and stubbled under all that color." A/i>
In this, her first collection of stories, Christine Schutt gives exquisite and provocative form to feelings and memories. Nightwork is a masterful dreamwork, revealing our lives with the startling clarity we long for.
A young woman remembers, after a forbidden embrace, the exact quality of her father's skin, "pitted and stubbled under all that color." A girl recalls the strange kingdom that was her grandfather's estate, a place she came to inhabit only through betrayal.
Romantic linkings are often unexpected: mother-son, father-daughter, mother-lover-daughter. In "What Have You Been Doing?" a mother teaches her son how to kiss. In "Dead Men," a woman finds herself unable to be touched by her new lover without experiencing intensely erotic recollections of the lover who is gone.
The stories are sensually detailed and sometimes shocking. Hands, feet, breasts . . . bodies are known, as they are known, mostly in bed. "Before the dead man, she had slept by herself with her hands to herself like a poultice."
Here is an Everywoman, voiced from familiar enclosures: a house in the country, an apartment in town. The muted landscapes, too, are an Everyplace made of "wind and slashes of high blue sky in the heads of furious trees."
Schutt's fearlessness, her passionate honesty, is the source for the language of these splendid stories—night worlds, which may disturb our composure but enable us to dream while awake.
The narrators here are mostly nameless, and the uneasy territory of their subject matter cannot readily be labeled. In the opening piece, "You Drive," a grown daughter and her father cross the boundaries of any usual parent-child relationship as they sit in a car, sharing secrets, kissing and memorizing the smell and texture of one another's skin. In "What Have You Been Doing?," it's a mother and son who kiss: "She was out of practice and he wanted practice. . . . In the middle of rooms she obliged, in her bedroom, his bedroom, a kissing done standing, her hands on his shoulders, his not quite on her waist, heads tilted, mouths open." Another mother, in "Teachers," tells her daughter details about her lover while the girl yearns to get away, begging to be allowed just to go off to school. The spareness of Schutt's prose, in combination with her elliptical storylines, can make certain pieces (notably "Giovanni and Giovanna" and "His Chorus") difficult to decipher at all. But when she works with more accessible themes, the results are powerful, as in "Daywork," where two adult daughters guiltily clean out the attic of their mother's house as she lies dying in the hospital, and "To Have and To Hold," as a spurned wife acts upon her anger and grief in her tiny and terrifyingly tidy kitchen. Schutt is good at small, sharp moments, and she chooses words with the care of a poet. But effective as some of these tales are, others feel fragmentary, incomplete. Taken all together, they're finally overwhelming in the uniform grimness of their point of view.
Razor-sharp writing in stories sliced a little too thinand admittedly close to the bone.
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- Random House
- NOOK Book
- File size:
- 2 MB
Meet the Author
"It doesn't matter what anyone says. If the work is good, eventually it will be found," National Book Award finalist Christine Schutt told The New York Times Magazine. "I used to imagine that my work would be discovered after I am dead, but it's much nicer to be recognized in one's lifetime."
- Place of Birth:
- Watertown, Wisconsin
- B.A., M.A., University of Wisconsin; M.F.A., Columbia University
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