Primitive Heart: Stories

Overview

A Primitive Heart is a collection of stories that moves into areas untouched in David Rabe's previous work, cutting to the quick of American manhood and revealing the distance within the most intimate relationships. Whether he is writing about a marriage shadowed by the unacknowledged discord of a risky pregnancy, about a group of men whose attempt to settle an account launches them toward unexpected violence, or about a young journalist who believes he's escaped his Catholic roots, but is forced again to ...
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A Primitive Heart: Stories

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Overview

A Primitive Heart is a collection of stories that moves into areas untouched in David Rabe's previous work, cutting to the quick of American manhood and revealing the distance within the most intimate relationships. Whether he is writing about a marriage shadowed by the unacknowledged discord of a risky pregnancy, about a group of men whose attempt to settle an account launches them toward unexpected violence, or about a young journalist who believes he's escaped his Catholic roots, but is forced again to confront them by a priest who once was his mentor as a writer, Rabe's voice tenders an inimitable portrait of America and offers a benediction to her struggling souls.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Playwright Rabe (Hurlyburly, etc.), in this collection, navigates the troubled lives of men set adrift by economic hopelessness, traumatic childhoods and their own inability to connect. The narrator of the title story becomes obsessed with the development of his unborn child, even as he drifts further apart from his strong-willed wife. "Veranda" describes both the failed beginning of a new relationship and a failed attempt to make amends to a child for the end of an old one. "Holy Men" and "Some Loose Change" stand out as powerful evocations of contemporary manhood, the former in a successful writer's fraught reunion with the Catholic priest who mentored him, the latter through the attempts of a group of boozy dot-com casualties to even an old financial score. "Early Madonna," the only story with a female protagonist, features an aging club kid attempting to escape the shadow of her brainy younger sister. Abstracted inner monologues and minute descriptions sometimes come at the expense of pacing and dialogue in these often multi-chaptered first-person stories, and the solipsism of Rabe's emotionally immature characters blinds them to the reality of their interaction with others. But these stories-occasionally tedious but also marked by strikingly good observational prose-perceptively sketch the experiences of 21st-century misfits. Agent, Deborah Schneider. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
From a playwright who knows his fiction, too: uncompromising stories focused mainly on the hearts of men. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Brightened sometimes by compassion or deft psychological insight, this collection mainly induces headaches brought on by convoluted, show-off prose and plotless ambivalence. Hurlyburly playwright Rabe would do better to stick to penning plays. Recalling slightly the noir lyricism of Hemingway's "The Killers," the story "Some Loose Change" finds boozy losers Red and Macky seeking revenge on a real-estate bigwig who's reneged on a debt. There's mood aplenty in this lean tale: cut-rate strip clubs, busted Fords, Vietnam vet paranoia and the kind of dialogue that's generally categorized as "taut." And there's real poignancy in "Holy Men," wherein a young writer and lapsed Catholic returns home to visit his priest and mentor. In college, he'd tried out mildly experimental work; the good father encouraged it, provoking the ire of his order's superiors. After suffering a nervous breakdown, he'd been banished from teaching and exiled to ecclesiastical Siberia, ministering to aging nuns. And the writer blamed himself for the priest's collapse. While he can't resist the reference to the Inquisition that's obligatory in angry ex-Catholic fiction, Rabe carefully renders the provisional reconciliation of teacher and student, a moment of genuine grace. But even the best of his stories seem written as though someone had misread a thesaurus. "Guilt brought on a threatening regression whose only counteraction was to escalate the severity and terms of my quarantine" isn't atypical of his tortuous style. The title story meanders through upper-middle-class malaise to a wishy-washy conclusion; "Early Madonna" goes on and on about a girl's fixation on the pop star; "Veranda" deals with a neglectful dad andattempts to be heartbreaking, but manages mainly to annoy. Tedious, prolix tales: Unsympathetic characters may have become a staple of the self-consciously iconoclastic story. But they sure are hard to take.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802142771
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2006
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

A primitive heart 1
Early Madonna 37
Some loose change 85
Veranda 119
Holy men 181
Leveling out 245
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