The Washington Post
Shakespeare's Kitchen: Storiesby Lore Segal
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The thirteen interrelated stories of Shakespeare’s Kitchen concern the universal longing for friendship, how we achieve new intimacies for ourselves, and how slowly, inexplicably, we lose them. Featuring six never-before-published pieces, Lore Segal’s stunning book evolved from seven short stories that originally appeared in the New Yorker (including the O. Henry Prizewinning "The Reverse Bug").
Ilka Weisz has accepted a teaching position at the Concordance Institute, a think tank in Connecticut, reluctantly leaving her New York circle of friends. After the comedy of her struggle to meet new people, Ilka comes to embrace, and be embraced by, a new set of acquaintances, including the institute’s director, Leslie Shakespeare, and his wife, Eliza. Through a series of memorable dinner parties, picnics, and Sunday brunches, Segal evokes the subtle drama and humor of the outsider’s loneliness, the comfort and charm of familiar companionship, the bliss of being in love, and the strangeness of our behavior in the face of other people’s deaths.
A magnificent and deeply moving work, Shakespeare’s Kitchen marks the long-awaited return of a writer at the height of her powers.
The Washington Post
The New York Times
What began as seven interrelated short stories published in the New Yorker(including the O. Henry Prize-winning "The Reverse Bug") is now a full-length collection of 13, the first major work of fiction in 20 years from the acclaimed author of Her First American. Filled with all the pomp and depressed glory of a modern-day Great Gatsby, each installment delivers an entertaining glimpse into the dysfunctional lives of a group of hoity-toity Connecticut think tank intellectuals as they philosophize over wine and cheese, fall in and out of love, and go about their daily lives with reckless abandon. Most of the action takes place (or is retold, properly discussed and drunkenly digested) in the kitchen of the institute's director, Leslie Shakespeare, while Leslie's wife alternatively entertains and lambastes their friends. Although the plot centers on nothing more than everyday comings and goings, Segal gives readers a peek into the sausage factory of daily routine, in which humdrum but necessary minutiae belie the intrigue and angst stirred up in her self-absorbed characters' internal monologues. When stacked together, these vignettes are hilarious and telling. Segal exhibits a rare insight into the human character that is at once humbling and shamelessly enjoyable to behold. (Apr.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
A surprising and gratifying treat for literary fiction readers, Segal's (Other People's Houses) collection of 13 stories includes the O. Henry Prize-winning "The Reverse Bug," as well as several never-before-published pieces. All are vignettes from the life of Ilka Weisz, a teacher of college-level ESL. The first story sets the scene: Ilka is a newcomer to the Concordance Institute, a Connecticut think tank made up of a tight-knit group of academics. While she struggles to be accepted into the exclusive staff clique, she manages to charm institute director Leslie Shakespeare and his wife, Eliza, beginning a lifelong friendship as well as an affair. As Ilka is welcomed into the institute's fold, she becomes privy to her colleagues' little secrets and struggles and they to hers. The writing style is spare, leaving out exposition during conversations so that the characters' spoken words regulate the story's ever-changing tone. Fans of modernist works will enjoy the free-flowing stream of conversation; postmodern devotees will appreciate being able to fill in the lacunae between stories. Highly recommended for literary fiction collections.
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Meet the Author
Lore Segal was born in Vienna and educated at the University of London. The author of Other People’s Houses, Her First American, and Shakespeare’s Kitchen (all published by The New Press) and other works, she is a regular contributor to the New Yorker, the New York Times Book Review, the New Republic, and other publications. Between 1968 and 1996 she taught writing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, Princeton University, Bennington College, Sarah Lawrence College, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Ohio State University, from which she retired in 1996.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Disconnected characters--not easy to identify with writing style--nothing special---lacks vibrancy. I would not recommend the book--does not lead to lively discussion--would not read other books by this author.
Shakespeare's Kitchen is a collection of thirteen interconnected short stories. The theme that runs throughout the collection is one of human need. A need to be loved, to have friendships and to belong to someone or something. Is there a plot? No, not really. At times, I felt as though I was watching a bad episode of Seinfeld. I did not enjoy the protagonist, Ilka Weisz, and did not see much in her emotional growth. My main turnoff to Ilka come fairly early in the book. In the second short story, An Absence of Cousins, we clearly see her loneliness and her need to belong; however, she is rude and dismissive of secondary character, Gertie Gruner, who is just looking for the same. The secondary characters were just that. I could find no relevance for their inclusion in the stories and would have preferred them to be absent altogether. Ms. Segal's writing style was okay. There were several times where I felt that the writing faltered - sentences just did not 'roll' off the tip of my tongue and I found the banter (intellectual or not) that occurred between the characters irritating. She did have some insights about how one navigates through life; however, not enough to hold my interest. I would recommend to those who have read Lore Segal in the past.