Safety of Objects

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Overview

Published to overwhelming critical acclaim, this extraordinary collection of short stories established A. M. Homes as one of the most provocative and daring writers of her generation. Here you'll find the cult classic "A Real Doll," the tale of a teenage boy's erotic obsession with his sister's favorite doll; "Adults Alone," which first introduced Paul and Elaine, the crack-smoking yuppie couple whose marriage careens out of control in Homes's novel Music for Torching; and "Looking for Johnny," in which a ...

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The Safety of Objects: Stories

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Overview

Published to overwhelming critical acclaim, this extraordinary collection of short stories established A. M. Homes as one of the most provocative and daring writers of her generation. Here you'll find the cult classic "A Real Doll," the tale of a teenage boy's erotic obsession with his sister's favorite doll; "Adults Alone," which first introduced Paul and Elaine, the crack-smoking yuppie couple whose marriage careens out of control in Homes's novel Music for Torching; and "Looking for Johnny," in which a kidnapped boy, having failed his abductor's expectations, is returned home.

Brilliantly conceived, sharply etched, and exceptionally satisfying, these stories explore the American dream in ways you're not likely soon to forget. Working in Kodacolor hues, Homes offers an uncanny picture of a surreal suburbia-outrageous and utterly believable.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In these 10 stories of unstable suburbanites, a couple experiments with crack cocaine while their sons are away, a man loses self-definition upon finding his office unexpectedly closed, and a teenager becomes erotically attached to a demanding Barbie doll. ``Though occasionally given to straining for shocking effect, Homes has here demonstrated a quirky and original flair,'' said PW. Nov.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060564513
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/18/2003
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

A. M. Homes

A.M. Homes is the author of the novels The End of Alice, In a Country of Mothers, and Jack, as well as the short-story collection The Safety of Objects and the artist's book Appendix A. Her fiction has been translated into eight languages, and she is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Her fiction and nonfiction appear in magazines such as The New Yorker and Artforum, among others, and she is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, Mirabella, Bomb, Blind Spot, and Story. She teaches in the writing programs at Columbia University and The New School and lives in New York City.

Biography

The book Homes is perhaps best known for is her novel The End of Alice -- chiefly because it caused such a stir.

The narrator, a middle-aged sex offender in prison for murdering a little girl, develops a correspondence with a college girl who's obsessed with a 12-year-old boy. The result was a compendium of behavior -- real and imagined -- that was largely so violent, sickening or "show-offy dirty," as the New York Times put it, that its prose and events were excerpt-resistant and left mainly to the brave and curious. The book spurred a flurry of protests and attempted bans.

In 1999, Homes followed up The End of Alice with Music for Torching, a novel of kink and circumstance in the suburbs of New York in which an unhappy couple sets fire to their own house, then moves in with neighbors whose seemingly perfect marriage reveals its own subterranean faults. A high school hostage situation that is part of the book's coda had coincidental parallels to the Columbine tragedy that same year. The New York Times had a typical response: "The fact is, I was at times appalled by the book, annoyed by it, angered by it. Its ending struck me as cynical and manipulative. But even so, I found myself rapt from beginning to end, fascinated by Homes's single-minded talent for provocation."

For many readers, summaries like this are a signal to run, run, run in the other direction. But first, consider that Homes's books are not just big Pandora's boxes -- they can be a funny Pandora's boxes. In the story "Real Doll," for example, collected in 1990's The Safety of Objects, a boy's -- er, relationship -- with a Barbie doll bears some humorous gibes ("I [Barbie] if she wanted something to drink. ‘Diet Coke,' she said. And I wondered why I'd asked.").

Homes's earlier work is also almost sweet by comparison. Her well-received debut novel Jack chronicled the struggles of a 15-year-old to cope with his parents' divorce and the revelation that his dad is gay; In a Country of Mothers deals with a middle-aged counselor's deepening relationship with her 19-year-old female client. Both books contain poignant explorations of identity.

In her second story collection Things You Should Know, Homes continued to develop her singular, eclectic voice. A biracial marriage suffers a rift created by an addled, deteriorating mother-in-law in "Chinese Lessons"; Nancy Reagan's current life is devilishly imagined in "The Former First Lady and the Football Hero"; a woman endeavors to inseminate herself with the leftovers from beach trysts she espies in "Georgica." As with Homes's previous works, the collection is a testament to the author's talents for portraying the depths of human pain and depravity with humor and unabashed honesty.

Good To Know

Homes is an adjunct assistant professor of creative writing at Columbia University.

Perhaps tired of the scrutiny that arose from The End of Alice, Homes often comes across as a difficult interview subject, flatly refusing to indulge (or even validate) the natural curiosity about any personal connection to her work. She dressed down an interviewer in The Barcelona Review in 1997 thusly: "I have no experience with ‘recovery.' Again, you're applying your own notions about abuse, recovery, personal narrative, to the work. These are not areas I work from, they are not relevant. ...You seem to have a recurring question or concern about how I assimilate what goes on in my stories into everyday life. I am a fiction writer, I work from my imagination, in response to things going on in the culture."

The Safety of Objects was adapted for film by director Rose Troche in 2001, with stars including Glenn Close and Dermot Mulroney.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 18, 1961
    2. Place of Birth:
      Washington, D.C.
    1. Education:
      B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1985; M.F.A., University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



Adults Alone



Elaine takes the boys to Florida and drops them off like they're dry cleaning.

"See you in ten days," she says as they wave good-bye in the American terminal. "Be nice!"

She kisses her mother-in-law's cheek and, feeling the rough skin against her own, thinks of this woman literally as her husband's genetic map, down to the beard.

"Go," her mother-in-law says, pushing her towards the gate.

It is the first time she's left her children like that. She gets back onto the plane thinking there's something wrong with her, that she should have a better reason or a better vacation plan, Europe not Westchester.

Paul is waiting at the airport. He's been there all day. After dropping them off this morning, he took over the west end of the lounge and spent the day there working. She knows because he paged her at Miami International to remind her to bring oranges home.

He seems younger than she remembers. His eyes are glowing and he looks a little bit like Charlie Manson did before he let himself go. Elaine is sure he's been smoking dope again. She imagines Paul locking himself in an airport bathroom stall with his smokeless pipe and some guy who got bumped off a flight to L.A.

She wonders why he doesn't find it strange, pressing himself into a tiny metal cabinet with a total stranger. He once told her that whenever he got stoned in a bathroom with another guy it gave him a hard-on and he was never sure if it was the dope or the other man.

She can't believe that in all these years he's never been busted. She used to wish it would happen; she thought it wouldstraighten him out.

"Let's go home," Elaine says.

"We don't have to go home, we can go anywhere. We can...." He winks at her.

"I'm tired," Elaine says.

They drive home silently. The car is so new that it doesn't make any noises. Paul pulls carefully into the driveway. Branches from trees surrounding the house scrape across the car. Elaine thinks of campfire horror stories about men with hooks for arms and women buried alive with long fingernails poking through the dirt.

"Got to cut those branches back," Paul says and then they are silent.

Paul follows her up the steps, talking about the steps. "If we're going to paint them, we should go ahead and do it before it snows."

"Maybe tomorrow," she says, but honestly she doesn't want to do anything else to the house. She's given up on it. It's too much work.

She feels like she's been having an extramarital relationship with their home. It isn't even an affair, an affair sounds too nice, too good. As far as she's concerned a house should be like a self-cleaning oven; it should take care of itself.

The last time she was happy with the house was the day before they moved in, when the floors had just been done, when it was big and empty, and they hadn't paid for it yet.

Elaine pushes open the front door.

"I wish you'd remember to lock the door," she says. "In the city you never forgot to lock the door."

It is dark inside. Elaine stands in the front hall, trying to remember where the light switch is. In the six months they've lived there, she and Paul have never been alone in the house. It's nice, she thinks, still feeling the wall for the switch. She turns on all the lights and begins picking up things, Daniel's clothing, Sammy's toys. She straightens the pillows on the sofa and goes upstairs to take a bath. The phone rings and Paul answers it. She falls asleep hearing the sound of voices softly talking, thinking Paul is a good father; he is down the hall, reading a story to Sammy.

As usual they both wake between six-thirty and seven, listening for the children. They are alone together, trapped in their bed. They don't have to get up. They don't have to go anywhere. They are on vacation.

Eventually, between seven-thirty and quarter-to-eight, when there is no more getting around it, she looks at him. He is balding. She thinks she can actually see his hairline receding, follicle by follicle. He has told her that he can feel it. He says his whole head feels different; it tingles, it gets chilled easily, it just isn't the way it used to be. She thinks about herself. Her face is caving in. She has circles and bags and all kinds of things around her eyes. Last week she spent forty dollars on lotion to cover it all up.

When she comes downstairs, he has already eaten breakfast and lunch.

"Maybe we should go to a movie later?" he says.

Paul doesn't really mean they should go to a movie; he means they should make a time to be together, in some way or another. Usually they have to get a sitter for this.

"Pick you up around four," he says.

"Does that mean you're taking the car? I have things to do."

"We can go together," he says.

In his fantasy about suburban life the whole family is always in the car together, going places, singing songs, eating McDonald's. He loves it when they pull up in front of a store and he goes in while she waits in the car for as long as it takes.

"Forget it," she says.

Late in the afternoon, Paul comes into the bedroom where Elaine is resting.

"I brought you something," he says, handing her a porno tape he rented in town.

"For me?" she says.

She can't imagine that he brought this for her.

The Safety of Objects. Copyright © by A Homes. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2001

    Brilliant, observant and thought provoking

    This is one of the best collection of short stories I have ever read. Having lived in the suburbs I can relate to all these stories. This is the second book by Ms. Homes that I have read after 'The End of Alice', and it was quite different. Very much enjoyed and highly recommend it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2005

    absolute literature glory

    i read the boook front-2-back then saw the movie; as close to the novel as can be for such an inspirational/articulate author. if your interested in a book to honestly never put down because of the mental stimuli it contains, then this book is work reading! ~Elimeana

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2005

    My new favorite author

    I first read 'The Safety of Objects' a while ago and enjoyed it cover to cover. Each story was brilliantly written and completely relatable. After reading this book, i followed up on others writen and have enjoyed them all.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2014

    Dante

    Boy and i heard you do it better than anyone around

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2014

    Kayla

    Res five.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2014

    Morbid

    Great little morbid and dark tales. Highly recommend.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2013

    Ice ♚

    She dragged Deathheart in...

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2013

    Johan Brauer: OoC

    Let us not quarrel about who has the greater cybering ability. It's an odd subject, and one I find would only lead to disaster. Besides, who really wants to talk about this?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2013

    G

    H

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2010

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    Posted February 9, 2011

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