Spectacle: Stories [NOOK Book]

Overview

An inventive new collection from the author of Hydroplane and The End of Free Love


* A San Francisco Chronicle, Complex, Flavorwire, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Largehearted Boy and Slaughterhouse 90210 Best Book of the Year *


In these innovative linked stories, women confront loss and grief as they sift through the wreckage of their lives. In the title story, a woman struggles with the death of her friend in a plane crash. A daughter decides whether to...

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Spectacle: Stories

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Overview

An inventive new collection from the author of Hydroplane and The End of Free Love


* A San Francisco Chronicle, Complex, Flavorwire, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Largehearted Boy and Slaughterhouse 90210 Best Book of the Year *


In these innovative linked stories, women confront loss and grief as they sift through the wreckage of their lives. In the title story, a woman struggles with the death of her friend in a plane crash. A daughter decides whether to take her father off life support in the Pushcart Prize-winning "Cowboys." And in "Underthings," when a man hits his girlfriend, she calls it an accident. Spectacle bears witness to alarming and strange incidents: carnival rides and plane crashes, affairs spied through keyholes and amateur porn, vandalism and petty theft. These wounded women stand at the edge of disaster and risk it all to speak their sharpest secrets.


In lean, acrobatic prose, Susan Steinberg subverts assumptions about narrative and challenges conventional gender roles. She delivers insight with a fierce lyric intensity in sentences shorn of excessive sentiment or unnecessary ornament. By fusing style and story, Steinberg amplifies the connections between themes and characters so that each devastating revelation echoes throughout the collection. A vital and turbulent book from a distinctive voice, Spectacle will break your heart, and then, before the last page is turned, will bind it up anew.

"Experimental but never opaque, Steinberg's stories seethe with real and imagined menace." --Publishers Weekly

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Steinberg’s newest collection defies category. The book could be called “linked short stories,” but unlike other collections that attempt this, the whole here is much, much greater than the sum of its parts. Narrated entirely by women whose voices merge, divide, recur, and dissipate into one another, it feels like a solid statement, novelistic in scope and ambition. Steinberg (Hydroplane) is a maestro of stylistic innovation, conducting orbits of narrative and motif, coaxing meaning and music from each line. In the opener, “Superstar,” a woman steals a car stereo from a man who is the center of her conflicted infatuation. There are echoes of this voice in the Pushcart-winning “Cowboys” in a woman’s blunt thought processes as she considers taking her father off life support. In both stories, sentences most often stand alone as paragraphs, creating an urgent and fiercely propelled narrative. In “Underthings” a woman rationalizes her boyfriend’s physical abuse into an accident, while in “Signifier” the narrator observes herself sleeping with her lover’s friend: “I wish I could give you a climactic moment. But there is no climactic moment in this. There is no such thing here as climactic. In a story about a hike, there is only circling around and around.” What one realizes as the collection continues is, despite the stylistic differences between stories, at the center of each is the same unnamed woman, constantly set against male counterparts: abusive or aloof boyfriends, a controlling and damaged father, a hostile brother. Steinberg subverts the feminist critique of women identified only by their male-counterparts and delivers a multifaceted female protagonist who whispers her secrets, shouts her confusions, and rends her relationships to find some meaning in the wreckage. With its literary inventions and sharp storytelling, this is a masterpiece of contemporary short fiction. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Spectacle

"In pithy, rhythmic sentences that sound like biting poetry, Steinberg's all-female narrators tell stories of loss, abandonment, failure to love, and failure to 'perform' in the ways the people in their lives expect them to." Page-Turner, the blog of The New Yorker, "Books to Watch Out For"

"[Steinberg] takes bold risks, exploring the boundaries of narrative and the possibilities of language and syntax. . . Steinberg's prose is rhythmic, hypnotic—teasing out confessions and revelations in stream-of-consciousness language. . . . Spectacle is a marvel." San Francisco Chronicle

"Readers of Lydia Davis and Anne Carson will welcome Steinberg's spare, innovative prose imbued with the cadence of verse. Rendered with formal originality, these hard-to-put-down stories explore the wounds that turn desire for love into performance art. This is a vulnerable book, gorgeously attending to grief, to lust, courageously bearing witness to all of life's deprave and human spectacles." Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

"Written with a sparse and grim tone, Steinberg's stories all have individual rhythms, and call to mind Lydia Davis trimming down Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son." Flavorwire, "The 10 Best Short Story Collections of 2013"

"What makes Susan Steinberg's story collection so refreshing is how concentrated the prose feels. Every sentence feels loaded, almost like a line of poetry." Complex, "The Best Books of 2013"

"[A] linked-story extravaganza. . . . [A] devastating cluster of uncompromising, funny, and eye-opening stories about women trapped in a male-centered world." Village Voice

"Both [Steinberg's] characters and [her] narratives store meaning in the spaces between the conventions, where the silence of a line break or an unspoken thought speaks volumes. At once vibrant and violent, Spectacle takes on unexpected territory and reveals it is all too familiar. . . . Deeply illuminating." Shelf Awareness for Readers

"Narrated entirely by women whose voices merge, divide, recur, and dissipate into one another, [Spectacle feels] novelistic in scope and ambition. Steinberg is a maestro of stylistic innovation, conducting orbits of narrative and motif, coaxing meaning and music from each line. . . . With its literary inventions and sharp storytelling, this is a masterpiece of contemporary short fiction." Publishers Weekly, starred review

Kirkus Reviews
An unconventional approach to storytelling makes this third compilation of short tales by Steinberg (Hydroplane, 2006, etc.) difficult to navigate. Utilizing repetitive phrasing and a free-flow writing style paired with violent undertones and psychosexual themes, these 12 interconnected pieces explore a multitude of negative sensations that are emotionally draining. How we cope with guilt, anger and loss or commit actions that damage our own lives and relationships are some of the recurring themes that bind these tales together. In one story, a woman goes hiking with a man she likes, and they are accompanied by his friend, a stranger whom she doesn't like, and she ends up having a sexual encounter with the stranger. Steinberg challenges our ideals of femininity and masculinity as she writes about a young woman, seething with anger and jealousy, who steals her boyfriend's car radio and smashes it, only to discover that the act of revenge doesn't have the satisfying effect she anticipated. When an acquaintance dies in an explosive plane crash in the title story, the narrator struggles with her own complex feelings, including resentment toward her father, who wouldn't allow her to study abroad. And in "Cowboys," a woman deals with the decision to take her father off life support but doesn't want to bear the responsibility, and thus the guilt, of making the decision on her own. Terse and angry, introspective and raw, Steinberg's experimental writing style will not appeal to everyone. Her focus is on the emotion rather than on the character or action; the author hits the reader head-on with candid language and uncomfortable themes, and she does this well. Modern fiction aficionados will most likely embrace Steinberg's technique and vision; lovers of traditional short stories may find her writing difficult to follow.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555970642
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 1/8/2013
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 152
  • Sales rank: 1,157,842
  • File size: 515 KB

Meet the Author

Susan Steinberg is the author of the short-story collections Hydroplane and The End of Free Love. She was the 2010 United States Artists Ziporyn Fellow in Literature. Her stories have appeared in McSweeney's, Conjunctions, The Gettysburg Review, American Short Fiction, Boulevard, and The Massachusetts Review, and she is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize. She has held residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Vermont Studio Center, the Wurlitzer Foundation, the Blue Mountain Center, Yaddo, and New York University. She has a BFA in painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art and an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She teaches at the University of San Francisco.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 18, 2014

    Give me a second. Because when I tell you that this book amazed

    Give me a second. Because when I tell you that this book amazed me I have to explain why and I need a moment to figure out where the book becomes more than simple pleasure reading. I can tell you it doesn't happen in the form. Steinberg flouts every convention: she confuses her own meaning, she overuses the semicolon--on purpose!--she writes choppy narrative, she writes about things too personal for entertainment, etc. But it's all so gripping and I can't tell you why. Maybe her mantra-like prose sucks you in: you think you're just running your eyes over the lines but all of a sudden the thoughts are pounding through the wires pushing blood from head to toe. Spectacle amazes. Give me a second to come up with an explanation for why.

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