Tell Me: 30 Stories

Overview

Chosen from Robison's three long-unavailable collections, along with four new stories, Tell Me reflects the early brilliance as well as the fulfilled promise of Mary Robison's literary career. In these stories (most of which have appeared in The New Yorker), we enter her sly world of plotters, absconders, ponderers, and pontificators. Robison's characters have chips on their shoulders; they talk back to us in language that is edgy and nervy; they say "all right" and "okay" often, not because they consent, but ...
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Overview

Chosen from Robison's three long-unavailable collections, along with four new stories, Tell Me reflects the early brilliance as well as the fulfilled promise of Mary Robison's literary career. In these stories (most of which have appeared in The New Yorker), we enter her sly world of plotters, absconders, ponderers, and pontificators. Robison's characters have chips on their shoulders; they talk back to us in language that is edgy and nervy; they say "all right" and "okay" often, not because they consent, but because nothing counts. Still, there are small victories here, small only because, as Robison precisely documents, larger victories are impossible. Here then, among others, is "Pretty Ice," chosen by Richard Ford for The Granta Book of American Short Stories, "Coach," chosen for Best American Short Stories, "I Get By," an O. Henry Prize Stories selection, and "Happy Boy, Allen," a Pushcart Prize Stories selection. These stories-sharp, cool, and astringently funny-confirm Mary Robison's place as one of our most original writers and led Richard Yates to comment, "Robison writes like an avenging angel, and I think she may be a genius."
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Editorial Reviews

David Leavitt
No American short-story writer speaks to our time more urgently or fondly than Robison.
The Village Voice
NY Times Book Review
Robison is both wise and entertaining, a technician with a sense of humor, a minimalist with a good eye for what can be salvaged from lives of quiet desperation.
Publishers Weekly
Thirty brief, sharply delineated short stories written over three decades by Robison (Days) chronicle emotional dislocation with witty dispassion. Robison's characters, usually members of middle-class families, are often pictured grappling with the redefinition of roles, such as the teenaged star-gazing narrator of "An Amateur's Guide to the Night" and her pill-popping single mother who pass for sisters and go on double-dates together. Or the newly idle Helen of "Independence Day," recently returned to her father's grand lakeside house in Ohio, who halfheartedly resists the pressure of her estranged husband, Terry, to get on with her life. Epiphanies are of less interest to Robison than rendering the shimmering immediacy of situation: "I could be getting married soon. The fellow is no Adonis," establishes straightaway the art teacher of "In Jewel," whose engagement means a way out of the dead-end eponymous miner town she's always lived in. Robison locates her fairly comfortable characters anywhere from Beverly Hills ("Smoke") to Ophelia, Ohio ("While Home"), to Washington, D.C ("Smart"); they are waiting for rides in the rain or for babies to be born or for life, simply, to go on. And in every story her characters make valiant, hit-or-miss attempts to connect with one another. The brevity of these tales sometimes leaves the reader hanging, especially since their author delights in oblique details and non sequiturs. Yet nothing is superfluous, and in the spare sadness of Robison's prose entire lives are presented. As the fianc e of "In Jewel" concludes, "All that I've ever owned or had is right out here for you to examine." (Nov.) Forecast: Readers who've enjoyed Robison's stories in the New Yorker will find this a handy compendium. And those fans of realist short fiction who have yet to sample Robison may be profitably steered toward this collection. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A retrospective of three collections from prolific New Yorker contributor Robison (Why Did I Ever, 2001, etc.). Robison’s stories always have the rare intimacy of confession, as though after each subtle, blunt detail she expects to be assigned a reasonable penance. Four new pieces accompany 26 tales from the previous volumes: Days (1979), Believe Them (1988), and An Amateur’s Guide to the Night (1990). The award-winners here include "Coach," about a small-town football coach who staggers through an afternoon of domestic inebriation; "I Get By," about a woman who’s lost her husband to a somewhat mysterious flying accident but takes solace in the impression made by his replacement at the local high school; "Pretty Ice," in which the visit of a fiancée after a period of separation in may be too much for a woman forced to bring her mother along to meet the potential new man of the family; and the odd "Happy Boy, Allen," about a young man visiting a drunk and probably disturbed aunt to discuss the matter of his widower father taking a new wife--and leaving the question of who’s more disturbed, the aunt or the nephew. Robison is realism in the form of narrative non sequitur, but what is gained by strategic anti-reliance on plot is, in the lesser efforts, lost to an over-reliance on the emotional pyrotechnics of death, either random or self-inflicted. Still, good to see an important voice back in print.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582432588
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2002
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Coach 1
2 An Amateur's Guide to the Night 20
3 Smoke 33
4 In the Woods 40
5 The Help 45
6 I Get By 59
7 Daughters 68
8 Seizing Control 82
9 Kite and Paint 88
10 Father, Grandfather 95
11 Trying 105
12 Pretty Ice 117
13 While Home 125
14 In Jewel 138
15 Happy Boy, Allen 143
16 I Am Twenty-One 155
17 Independence Day 159
18 Apostasy 168
19 For Real 175
20 May Queen 183
21 Your Errant Mom 188
22 The Wellman Twins 199
23 Mirror 208
24 Care 217
25 Doctor's Sons 228
26 What I Hear 232
27 Smart 237
28 Sisters 252
29 Likely Lake 260
30 Yours 275
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