The Size of the World

The Size of the World

by Joan Silber

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“A sublime and humane jigsaw puzzle of a novel.” —Boston GlobeSee more details below


“A sublime and humane jigsaw puzzle of a novel.” —Boston Globe

Editorial Reviews

Howard Norman - Washington Post
“Silber allows readers to see life as intimately knowable yet essentially mysterious.”
Washington Post
Silber allows readers to see life as intimately knowable yet essentially mysterious.— Howard Norman
Publishers Weekly

War, love and culture shock take various forms, but the size of the world, in Silber's magnificent fiction, is often no larger than the distance to the person in bed beside you. Like NBA finalist Ideas of Heaven (2005), Silber's sixth work of fiction consists of interlinked stories where minor or passing characters in one piece become the narrators of others, roaming from WWII Sicily to roaring '20s Siam, and from Vietnam-era Mexico to 9/11-era Bloomington, Ind. All six stories turn on the tensions between home, exile and otherness, but to follow any of the threads would be to give away the subtle connections among the characters, from a male Sicilian-American postcolonialist professor from Hoboken to a Florida woman named Kit who can sum up an old boyfriend as "the sort of boy who seemed startled when having sex. At the time his awe and confusion were endearing." The frankness of Silber's characters is deliciously at odds with the delicacy of their observations as they absorb children, affairs, fractured and repaired families and early death in environments familiar and alien to them. The characters' many lifetimes pass with a page-turning effortlessness that belies their intense, moving depths. (June)

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Kirkus Reviews
The size of the world turns out to be astonishingly large but also intimately connected, as this novel moves us dexterously across several generations, from Thailand to Vietnam, to Mexico and the United States. Silber (Ideas of Heaven, 2004, etc.) delicately entwines multiple narrative threads. She does so using the Faulkneresque technique of putting some characters on center stage for a time, then moving them to the side to give others the opportunity to tell their stories. There is no central unifying principle or guiding authorial consciousness. Rather, the antiphonal voices offer multiple perspectives. Many of the tensions inherent in the novel involve cross-cultural encounters. Toby, for example, is an engineer sent to Vietnam in the 1960s to figure out why planes on bombing runs are going drastically off course. After weeks of feverish activity with a brilliant colleague, they discover the mundane cause-defective screws in the gimbal of the gyroscopes. (In a deft move late in the novel, Silber introduces us to Owen, the character who sold these screws in the first place and is horrified by this discovery.) Toby marries a Thai nurse, Toon, who winds up on the periphery of another character's narrative. One story is narrated from the perspective of Corinna, Owen's sister, who develops a crush on Zain, a married Muslim. Silber gives one narrative to Kit, Toby's former girlfriend, to whom in loneliness he writes when he's in Vietnam. Annunziata narrates the story of her journey from Sicily to Brooklyn, and we find out that she's the mother of Viana, whose first husband's grandfather is Zain. Silber guides the reader expertly through the narrative maze, elegantly exploring the subtletiesof human interaction. Agent: Geri Thoma/Elaine Markson Agency

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Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Joan Silber is the author of six previous works of fiction. Among many awards and honors, she has won a PEN/Hemingway Award and has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in New York City.

Brief Biography

New York, NY
Date of Birth:
June 14, 1945
Place of Birth:
Newark, New Jersey
B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1967; M.A., New York University, 1980

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