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Sleeping Mask: Fictions
     

Sleeping Mask: Fictions

by Peter LaSalle
 

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“LaSalle’s [stories] transcend their particulars to show people with dreams, dilemmas, and disappointments that will move any reader.” —Jhumpa Lahiri, Harvard Review

“Haunting and evocative. . . . LaSalle’s prose is lyrical, at times rhapsodic, and his characters memorable.” —Kirkus Reviews

Overview

“LaSalle’s [stories] transcend their particulars to show people with dreams, dilemmas, and disappointments that will move any reader.” —Jhumpa Lahiri, Harvard Review

“Haunting and evocative. . . . LaSalle’s prose is lyrical, at times rhapsodic, and his characters memorable.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The twelve stories of Sleeping Mask, written in propulsive, fluid prose, introduce readers to remarkable characters. They include a child soldier sent to raid a girls’ boarding school, a Virginia Woolf scholar surviving cancer, a desperate writer living under fascism in a futuristic Latin America, the spirits of recently deceased college students on a tour of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and a middle-aged man transported back to his childhood, where he is led out to sea by his mother’s ghost.

LaSalle’s tantalizing “fictions” are evocative of many of the great innovators of postmodern literature, from Borges to Nabokov, while charting a path entirely their own. Through all of their stylistic pyrotechnics these stories never forsake rich characterization and plotting to probe the deepest parts of the contemporary human condition, such as the nature of erotic desire, the legacy of art and artistry, the power of grief and fear, and the horror of war and violence.

Peter LaSalle is the author of several books of fiction, including the story collections Tell Borges If You See Him, recipient of he Flannery O’Connor Award, and What I Found Out About Her, winner of the Richard Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he is a member of the creative writing faculty at the University of Texas, and Narragansett, in his native Rhode Island.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/26/2016
LaSalle’s languorous story collection rarely engages the reader’s attention fully. Despite the book’s Borges epigraph, fans of the Argentine master will find the imitations in “Southern Majestic Zone” and “Boys: A New African Fable” lacking. Rather than getting readers to buy into its Orwellian conceit, the former never convinces, and both stories tend toward whimsically simplistic voices. The personal histories are better, with moments of nostalgia obscured by unfortunate narrative choices, as in “The Flight,” where the sudden disappearance of a plane full of people manages to have less significance than the baseball glove the speaker once bought for his son, and “A Late Afternoon Swim,” in which the narrator’s recollection of a swimming excursion with his mother is undercut by an exhausting description of the French dictionary that she may have had in her bag that day. A literature professor’s fairly successful date (“A Day in the Life of the Illness”) is pleasant and the standout of the collection. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Sleeping Mask

“Extraordinary stories which, when one begins to savor their prose, plunge one into oceanic depths of language where the mirror of the sea reflects the myth of the self in dreamy distortions that shock one as revelations of truth.” —Dawn

“LaSalle’s narrative voice hypnotizes, and his enticingly evasive way of concluding each story leaves a dreamlike impression. The twelve stories in Sleeping Mask are nuanced tales of enduring subjects: desire, despair, the arts, and war.” —Missouri Review

“Haunting and evocative. . . . LaSalle’s prose is lyrical, at times rhapsodic, and his characters memorable.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Stylistically daring. . . . An entertaining, assured sampling from an endlessly inventive writer.” —Shelf Awareness for Readers

“Engaging. . . . LaSalle, a literary descendent of Borges and Nabokov, writes with the inventiveness of his predecessors.” —Library Journal

“[Sleeping Mask] features characters exploring their circumstances, expectations, and regrets and ruminating on artistry, literature, and mere existence. . . . LaSalle’s dozen multifaceted tales challenge the reader to look beyond a linear narrative, as characters are propelled toward an unraveling, bewildering void.” —Booklist

“Deftly written. . . . Very highly recommended.” —Midwest Book Review

Praise for Peter LaSalle

“A major talent.” —Providence Journal

“Masterful and idiosyncratic stories.” —BOMB magazine

“Dreamy stories, deliciously descriptive.” —Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“LaSalle is a master—his writing is so intelligent and thoughtful, so smooth and fluent, its current so strong, and his characters so easy to care about, even to love, that one forgets to look for the stylistic sleights of hand so admired by academics and instead gets caught up in the lives of people who could easily be one’s best friend, lover, aunt—or oneself.” —Foreword Reviews

“A smart and open writer with a restless intellect and infectious passion.” —Publishers Weekly

“One of our most distinguished short fiction writers.” —Jeff VanderMeer, Bookslut

“LaSalle’s [stories] transcend their particulars to show people with dreams, dilemmas, and disappointments that will move any reader.” —Jhumpa Lahiri, Harvard Review

“Peter LaSalle has worked his way deep into the storytelling place. Serious, anomalous, his narratives are set into motion by the obsessions and perturbations of living. There is no model, no recipe—each world is uniquely known and irresistibly defined.” —Sven Birkerts, author of Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age and editor of AGNI

“I’ve always believed that as a short story writer Peter LaSalle has been in the same class as Donald Barthelme and Joyce Carol Oates. . . . His style now flows with such masterly ease that he can be said to be in a class of his own, at the forefront of American creators of original prose.” —Zulfikar Ghose, author of The Triple Mirror of the Self

“LaSalle is one of our finest storytellers.” —Jay Neugeboren, author of Max Baer and the Star of David

Library Journal
12/01/2016
In "What Can't Not Happen," a typical yet not-so-typical story from this engaging collection, the supernatural finds a place as the spirits of several recently deceased teens visit a Paris art gallery. In "The Life of an Illness," a middle-aged literature professor battling cancer and self-doubt goes on the first date she's had in years. "Lunch Across the River" focuses on a Texas couple who find in the curious act of a Mexican drug lord the beginning of healing from the loss of a young child. "Boys: A New African Fable" explores the contradictory feelings of a group of teenage rebels who kidnap the students of a girl's school. LaSalle, a literary descendent of Borges and Nabokov, writes with the inventiveness of his predecessors. The danger of this approach is that the literary experimentation can sometimes overwhelm the work's emotional core, but it's a danger LaSalle wholly avoids. The characters are three-dimensional, and the plots and situations hold readers' interest. LaSalle is such a fluid writer that, in many cases, it can be easy to overlook the stylistic sleight of hand. VERDICT This work should easily find an audience beyond the academic literary departments and devotees of creative experimentation.—Lawrence Rungren, Andover, MA
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-10-19
Twelve stories in a range of styles, each haunting and evocative.In the title story, LaSalle creates a menacing atmosphere involving a sleeping mask, "black velvet on the inside...magenta satin, shimmery, on the outside." A man offers it to his lover, who is never named and who never speaks. As he talks to her smoothly and incessantly, their relationship remains dark, mysterious, and disturbing. "What Can't Not Happen" at first seems a straightforward narrative of a group of college students visiting art museums in Paris. They go to the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay, but something's weirdly out of kilter, for they're visiting late at night...and it turns out they're all dead. Two of LaSalle's experimental stories go in wildly different directions: "Found Fragment from the Report on the Cadaver Dogs of Northern Maine, 1962" consists of a single sentence in turbulent stream-of-consciousness, while "E.A.P.: A Note" reads like a scholarly article—complete with footnotes—on several telling dreams of Edgar Allan Poe. In addition to these experiments in fiction, LaSalle handles "realistic" stories particularly well, though he rarely strays far from a dreamlike atmosphere. Perhaps the best piece in the collection is the final one, "A Late Afternoon Swim," in which the narrator reminisces about a time when he was 11 or 12 and was encouraged by his mother to go swimming at a beach club in Rhode Island, an act about which he feels apprehensive. The narrator uses a French reference book his mother was reading at the time as a catalyst to move back and forth between memory and reality, chagrin and resentment, past and present. LaSalle's prose is lyrical, at times rhapsodic, and his characters memorable.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781942658184
Publisher:
Bellevue Literary Press
Publication date:
01/10/2017
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
434,989
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Peter LaSalle is the author of several books of fiction, including the story collections Sleeping Mask, Tell Borges If You See Him, recipient of he Flannery O’Connor Award, and What I Found Out About Her, winner of the Richard Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he is a member of the creative writing faculty at the University of Texas, and Narragansett, in his native Rhode Island.

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