Passion and Affect


Within these fourteen hilarious and insightful tales of urban life, you'll meet:Raiford Phelps, an ornithologist who discovers new patterns of animal behavior when he meets Mary Leibnitz.Benno Morna, a temporary bachelor, free to indulge in TV, junk food, and Greenie Frenzel when his wholesome wife is out of town.Vincent Cadworthy and Guido Morris, whose elegant friendship is suddenly disrupted by Misty Berkowitz. Elizabeth Bayard, whose passion for order and civility does constant battle with her unruly ...

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Passion and Affect: Stories

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Within these fourteen hilarious and insightful tales of urban life, you'll meet:Raiford Phelps, an ornithologist who discovers new patterns of animal behavior when he meets Mary Leibnitz.Benno Morna, a temporary bachelor, free to indulge in TV, junk food, and Greenie Frenzel when his wholesome wife is out of town.Vincent Cadworthy and Guido Morris, whose elegant friendship is suddenly disrupted by Misty Berkowitz. Elizabeth Bayard, whose passion for order and civility does constant battle with her unruly loves.They are buffeted by the pressures of their jobs, imposed upon by their families and their surroundings, and remain ever hopeful of making sense of their lives. With compassion and biting wit, Laurie Colwin has created a new sort of comedy of manners.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060958954
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/28/2001
  • Series: Harper Perennial Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 806,894
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.41 (d)

Meet the Author

Laurie Colwin

Laurie Colwin is the author of five novels: Happy All the Time; Family Happiness; Goodbye Without Leaving; Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object; and A Big Storm Knocked It Over; three collections of short stories: Passion and Affect, Another Marvelous Thing, and The Lone Pilgrim; and two collections of essays: Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. She died in 1992.


Born in Manhattan, Laurie Colwin grew up in Long Island, Chicago, and Philadelphia, but it was the middle and upper-class city dwellers of New York City that proved fertile ground for her short stories and novels.

Colwin was the editor of her high school newspaper, then attended Bard College in upstate New York, the Sorbonne in Paris, the New School for Social Research and Columbia University in New York City before establishing a successful career in publishing. She started with Sanford Greenberger International Publishers and eventually worked with a string of leading publishers, including Putnam, Pantheon, Viking Press and E. P. Dutton. Although she had a satisfying career as an editor, Colwin nurtured her writing style during these years as well, and in 1977, she left the publishing world and devoted herself entirely to writing.

One of Colwin's first short stories was published in The New Yorker in 1969, and she followed this early success with stories in Cosmopolitan, Playboy, Redbook, Mademoiselle and Harper's. Her first book of stories, Passion and Affect (1974), proved her talent as a writer -- the Los Angeles Times cheered that she had "single-handedly revitalized the short story." In 1977, Colwin won an O. Henry Award for short fiction for the story The Lone Pilgrim, which was later the title of a collection of 14 stories released in 1981. By the time her final book of short stories, Another Marvelous Thing, hit the stands in 1986, Colwin's readers and critics were hooked on her ability to examine troubled relationships with a refreshing clarity and sensitivity.

In between publishing short stories, Colwin delivered a number of unforgettable novels. Her first novel, Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object (1975), tells the touching story of a widow's attempts to cope with a life she never imagined. She soon released her second novel, Happy All the Time (1978), which critics and readers loved for the amusing portrayal of the love lives of middle and upper-class men and women. Newsweek said of the book, "the successful depiction of happiness is rare enough to qualify Colwin's novel as daring experimental fiction." Her third novel, Family Happiness (1982), deftly explores the nuances of an extra-marital affair, and Goodbye Without Leaving (1990) is a hilarious look at a woman baring her rock-and-roll soul.

Food and its rituals play a precious role in Colwin's life and career; given her talent for exploring the comic, vulnerable side of humanity in her fiction, it's no surprise that her non-fiction does the same. She wrote regular columns for Gourmet magazine -- insightful and soothing articles and recipes that celebrate the joys of cooking for one or many. More essays and recipes were published in the book Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen (1988). Part memoir, part cookbook, Home Cooking is full of honest and downright funny essays with titles such as "Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant," "Repulsive Dinners: A Memoir" and "Stuffed Breast of Veal: A Bad Idea."

In October 1992, Laurie Colwin suffered a fatal heart attack in her home in Manhattan at the young age of 48. She is survived by her husband and daughter, as well as millions of devoted readers who have been missing her sparkling wit ever since. Her last two books were published posthumously in 1993. More Home Cooking, her second book of culinary essays, continues Colwin's passion for discovering what makes good food great. A Big Storm Knocked It Over, her final novel, once again attempts to unravel the comic mysteries of human relationships.

Ultimately, Colwin wrote both fiction and non-fiction in a quest to get at the core of humanity – to understand love wherever it existed, recognize the humor in humans, and to give readers something they might not have realized they were missing: a happy ending.

Good To Know

A talented chef, Colwin cooked for student protesters occupying campus buildings during the 1968 uprisings at Columbia University, and later volunteered as a cook for the Coalition for the Homeless and the Antonio Olivieri Shelter for Homeless Women.

Among her achievements as an editor, Colwin discovered author Fran Liebowitz while at Dutton, and she edited and translated works by Isaac Bashevis Singer, winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize in Literature.

From fan and fellow columnist Nancy Pate's touching tribute to Colwin:

"None of us had ever met Colwin except through her writing. But we felt as if we knew her from those stories.

"We knew that she liked animals and small children, quilts and pretty plates, family and friends, men who were good dancers and good kissers.

"We knew that she loved music, from classical greats like Boccherini and Brahms, to rock 'n' roll legends like the Everly Brothers and Jerry Lee Lewis. She knew all the words to the Crystals' 'He's a Rebel.'

She loved to read, and to cook."

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    1. Date of Birth:
      June 14, 1944
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      October 25, 1992
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Bard College; M.A., Columbia University

Read an Excerpt

Animal Behavior

Nothing is more easy than to tame an animal and few things are more difficult than to get it to breed freely in confinement, even in the many cases when the male and female unite.

— Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

On the roof of the East Wing of the American Naturalist Museum wasa greenhouse, blocked from public view by turrets and facades. The skylights could be opened with a brass pole. Every third pane was a window. In midmorning, and sometimes in the afternoon, Roddy Phelps went up the spiral staircase to the finch room of the greenhouse and took a nap.

It was the middle of March, and Roddy was feeling slightly but constantly chilled. The weather made no sense to his body, although he knew it was supposed to be cold before the beginning of spring. Even on the coldest, rainiest days, the greenhouse was warm and faintly tropic. Birdcages were arranged on rows of pine tables, and on an empty table in the farthest row, by the window, Roddy took his naps. He had stashed a car pillow under a shelf in a paper bag.

The greenhouse was filled with potted ferns, palms, and heather. Ivy hung from crossbeams in mossy wire baskets. Each species of bird had its own room. Drifting off to sleep, Roddy was soothed by the diminutive, random noises the birds made — twitters, clacks, and cheeps, which he thought of as auditory litter. Once in a while, he brought a transistor radio with him and listened to the birds counterpointing Mozart.

The year before, Roddy's wife, Garlin, had lefthim, taking their child, Sara Justina, and retired to the country. At Thanksgiving, New Year's, and Easter, Roddy drove to Templeton, New Hampshire, and collected Sara Justina, who spent these holidays and a part of the summer with Roddy and his parents in Westchester. The rest of the time, silence was generally maintained between NewYork and Templeton, except for legal occasions when separation, alimony, divorce, and child-support papers passed between Roddy and Garlin. These entailed long conversations with the lawyers for both sides, and expensive, jagged long-distance calls from New York to New Hampshire.

The last week in March there was a brief hot spell, and Roddy's chill became more acute. Dampness settled in his bones. He began to think that he was suffering from eyestrain and spent dizzy, unfocused, and dislocated days feeling as if he were hung over. The naps in the finch room sometimes helped, but often they made his unfocused condition worse and he staggered off the table while the room went black, yellow, and dazzling gray in front of his eyes.

After Garlin's departure, Roddy had gone into a work spurt that produced two papers on the social behavior of caged finches — one for Scientific American and one for American Birds. The uncorrected galleys of both had been lying on his desk for several months. Then he started on the breeding and nesting patterns of the African finch in captivity. He had been studying this aspect of the finch since December but had run into trouble, as his finches seemed unwilling to breed in their large Victorian cages and appeared uninterested in building nests out of the pampas grass, string, and clover he provided for them.

Roddy had a corner office on the sixth floor of the museum, which housed the Department of Animal Behavior. He kept two pairs of finches there — Aggie and Bert, Gem and Russell — pets, not experimental birds, who had been left by a colleague departing for the Galápagos. When Roddy arrived in the morning, he let them out of their cage, and in the evening he spent an hour getting them back in.

The finch room was his exclusively. There was a greenhouse caretaker, José Jacinto Flores, whose job it was to clean the cages and feed the birds, but, by friendly edict, in the finch room Roddy took care of this himself. José Jacinto had appropriated a back room where he kept a tank of tropical fish and a pair of lovebirds who warbled tenderly to each other. He was a wiry, squat man, the color of cherry wood, and Roddy often saw him smoking a cheroot with the windows open, speaking softly in Spanish to his birds.

The table Roddy napped on was the last in a series of four. He was blocked by cages of birds and pots of palm and heather that shut him off from view, he thought, since he could never see anything through them.

On the last Thursday in March, Roddy left his office and went up to the greenhouse. He had not slept well the night before, tossing and brooding about his experiments, settling finally into a brief, unrefreshing sleep. A few minutes before in his office, the telephone rang and it was Garlin to tell him that Sara Justina had bronchitis.

"Did you call just to tell me that?" Roddy asked. Garlin almost never called him when Sara Justina was sick.

"Bronchitis isn't a cold," said Garlin.

"What am I supposed to do? Do you want me to come up to Templeton?"

"I thought you should know she's sick, and, by the way, did your lawyer call mine about the final papers?"

"I have to check," said Roddy.

"It's your life," Garlin said.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that you should have checked a month ago. You have no idea what's serious and what isn't. Your marriage is being disbanded and you haven't even bothered to call your lawyer."

"I've been working very hard, Garlin, and I think this whole thing is unpleasant enough without remarks like that."

"That's why your marriage is being disbanded," said Garlin, and she hung up.

The finches peered from the curtain rod. Aggie, his favorite, flew down and sat on his dictionary...

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