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That's True of Everybody

That's True of Everybody

by Mark Winegardner

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The proprietor of a bowling alley whose artist daughter paints only phalluses. A ninth-grade girl who marries in haste only to be faced with her husband's impotence. A libidinous poet who learns the meaning of harassment. The life and loves of a professional lawn-mower. These are just a few of the distinctive stories that make up Mark Winegardner's remarkable


The proprietor of a bowling alley whose artist daughter paints only phalluses. A ninth-grade girl who marries in haste only to be faced with her husband's impotence. A libidinous poet who learns the meaning of harassment. The life and loves of a professional lawn-mower. These are just a few of the distinctive stories that make up Mark Winegardner's remarkable debut short-story collection.
Winegardner, whose rich and epic novel Crooked River Burning gave the much-maligned city of Cleveland a fresh and vibrant aspect, now returns to the Midwest that he knows so intimately and casts a piercingly compassionate eye on its denizens. The result is a kaleidoscopic picture of a people who are arrogant and humble, faithful and disloyal, driven and floundering-a people who are finally, America itself.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Manages to find humor and moments of hope amid the chaos."
-The Washington Post Book World
"These stories have a ring of truth, as if Winegardner were not inventing their dramas but dredging them up from someplace deep inside him."-Chicago Tribune
"The stories might be grand in scope, but it is attention to nuances of settings, plot and character that ultimately makes the difference in Winegardner's fiction."-The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

Publishers Weekly
Laced with acid wit and withering realism, the 13 stories collected here describe lives of aimlessness and muted disaster in the Midwest. In a section called "Tales of Academic Lunacy: 1991-2001," Winegardner (Crooked River Burning; The Veracruz Blues) satirizes bureaucratic hijinks at a small college with great humor but only middling originality. In "Keegan's Load," a poet who has self-published all his poems receives an endowed chair and a cushy course load; in "The Visiting Poet," a teacher who seduces bohemian female students is exposed but ultimately given tenure and a significant pay raise. Elsewhere, individuals wander from psychological trough to trough without ever collapsing completely, sometimes even achieving triumphs. The burned-out radio sportscaster who narrates "Halftime" leads a life so unsatisfactory that he can't even keep himself awake at the wheel of his car although his drowsiness is partially a medical condition, its metaphorical aspect looms over the story like a hungry python. In "Rain Itself," a gigantic young teenager working as a landscaper bests a bullying co-worker in a perverse game of "chicken" played out on a bridge over a railroad track a small victory in a simple life. In "Travelers Advisory," a maladjusted young woman goes to a job interview in a blizzard instead of attending her father's memorial service, atoning by leaving messages on her father's answering machine. The homey, relaxed voice telling the stories is one you've probably heard before while it is readable, it becomes rather monotonous. These lyrical, down-to-earth tales of loss and emptiness in the heartland could probably have reached farther but then again, so could their characters. (July) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Winegardner follows up his successful Crooked River Burning with a collection of stories set mostly in the Midwest and featuring working-class men and women, with a few college professors thrown in for good measure. Thus, we meet folks like Harry Kreevich, who owns a bowling alley and has been abandoned by both his wife and his new lane girl even as his artist daughter paints phalluses because she considers her former work too austere. Another tale features a nameless ninth grader who gets married only to discover that her newly minted husband is impotent. There is a trio of stories about some academics, including a randy poet whose lover teaches him some lessons about harassment. An account of the Valentine Theatre, the most successful drive-in in the state of Ohio, is a look at our not-so-recent past and the innocent pleasures therein. Often written in the first person, which adds to their intimacy, these stories are touching vignettes of everyday people trying to live their lives while coping with divorce, heartache, and depression the usual detritus of life that gets in the way of true happiness. Here, Winegardner ably captures America through tales of its ordinary citizens. Recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/02.] Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From novelist Winegardner (Crooked River Burning, 2001, etc.), a debut collection of 13 stories, mostly set in Cleveland or the rural Midwest. There's a gritty realism to Winegardner's tales that never lets them sink into the airy pointlessness of so much contemporary academic fiction, partly because his characters tend to be blue-collar midwesterners rather than eastern intellectuals. Harry Kreevich, in "Thirty-Year-Old Women Do Not Always Come Home," is a Croatian-American from Cleveland who runs a bowling alley and becomes concerned when one of his lane girls disappears mysteriously. The nameless heroine of "Song for a Certain Girl," on the other hand, is a country-bumpkin Baptist from backwoods Ohio who is so innocent that she doesn't know how to consummate her marriage. There are some smarty-pants types too, of course, but Winegardner doesn't let us take them too seriously. Murtaugh, the philandering professor in "The Visiting Poet," is an oaf, pure and simple-a has-been writer whose life revolves around seducing his students-until a jilted colleague blows the whistle on him to the sexual-harassment board. In "The Untenured Lecturer," we meet Phil Workman, another campus hack, who is more of a sad sack than a buffoon ("There was once an earnest man who, in his late thirties, had a heart attack, remarried, bought a high-end personal computer, left his job as a statehouse reporter, and, despite a lack of talent, was admitted to a creative-writing program at a big concrete university in one of the rectangular states, where he wrote the longest master's thesis in school history"). The real virtue here is that Winegardner is able to portray an ordinary but intriguing world that's rarelythe subject of literary fiction-as in "Last Love Song at the Valentine," which sketches an entire generation in the life of a small town by following the history of its one drive-in theater. A short string of gems in a beautifully constructed and well-ordered collection.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
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Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt

Thirty-Year-Old Women
Do Not Always Come Home

Bowling wasn't what it used to be and neither was Harry Kreevich. Once, the pro bowling tour got good ratings, tape-delayed, Saturdays on network television; back then, Harry's place, Cuyahoga Lanes, hosted important events. The great Nelson Burton Jr. once bowled a 300 game there. Harry considered him a personal friend. But Burton retired. So did the great Earl Anthony. There were no more giants in the sport. Tour events moved to newer facilities. As bowling's TV ratings dwindled, so did Harry. His wife Anna, whom Harry had loved until the end but who had been, in Harry's opinion, frigid, bought a book about masturbation called Women: Selfloving, and left him. His older daughter Debra, the painter, moved to New York and married a creep. His younger daughter Jane spent ten years in college and finished with an unfinished Ph.D. in English and no discernible skills, so Harry invited her home and groomed her to take over the alley. To his surprise, Jane turned out to be a frugal, careful manager. Theft went down. Profits rose. Harry began to date. No one special, but it was a start. Things started looking up. Then the new lane girl disappeared.

She had reminded Harry of Debra, though not in the looks or personality departments. The lane girl was a big midwesterner with a husky voice and white, American teeth, plus long thick legs and a stunning amount of blond hair, styled in a way that screamed Parmatown Mall! Debra, like her mother, was dark, thin, smart, and pretty, with a lone shock of white hair that arrived, overnight, in her late twenties. But both Debra and the lane girl had the pout. When Harry told the lane girl she was hired but, sorry, he had a policy against pay advances, boom! Debra's pout. Lower lip barely stuck out, eyes blinking only twice. Harry gave her the money (she said she needed it for the deposit on an apartment) on the condition that she please not mention it to Jane. For two weeks, Harry had the lane girl of his dreams: smiling, quick, graceful with the drunks. Anything went wrong with an order, she flashed the customers the pout, and boom! all was well. She hit it off with Ray, the bartender, who was black and seemed honest but was hard to get to know. (Ray had been there a year; about all Harry knew was that he was pursuing a teaching degree at a pricey Catholic school on the east side.) The new lane girl made enough tips on just two league nights to pay Harry back. But on the day of her first payday, she didn't show up.

At first, Harry just thought she was late. Who misses work on payday? An hour passed. A senior citizens group from Rocky River began to arrive. "We're about to be butt-slammed, Dad," said Jane. She'd pressed herself into service at the main counter. "Where's the new girl, what's-her-face?"

"Karen," said Ray, overhearing. "She has a name. Karen." He sat in front of the bar. He was reading a library book by someone with an Asian name. The dining lounge was empty.

"Can someone call Karen?" she said. "Dad?"

Harry went to his office. The number on the lane girl's employment application was in Cleveland Heights. The phone had been disconnected. No further information, a voice said, about this number. "Any minute, probably," Harry told Jane, "she will be here."

Cuyahoga Lanes was filling up with old people, tottering in, lugging their own shoes and balls. Last of an era. The average American home, Harry had read in a trade magazine, no longer contained a bowling ball.

Harry decided to wait the tables himself. The seniors didn't order much. When they did, he was often forced to say sorry, no no-salt, no-fat chips, but he'll look into it. No veggie burgers. No soy milk. Sorry.

The seniors went home sharply at nine. For the next two hours, the alley was dead except in lane eight, where three young men in goatees and polo shirts were getting noisily drunk. Ray asked Jane if she'd talked to Karen. "Yesterday at work," she said. "But we didn't really talk talk."

"Does anyone know where she lives?" Harry asked.

"God knows," said Ray. "But I don't." He sang: "'That's the difference between God and me.'"

Jane found this very funny. Harry didn't know the song.

"What do we know about her?" Harry asked. "Boyfriends and whatnot. What," he said, looking at Jane, "do the women know?"

"Oh, Daddy," Jane said. "You're so cute."

Mrs. Urancek, the ancient Slovenian cook, couldn't even remember Karen's name. Harry called his other lane girl, a married young redhead named Maureen. A baby wailed in the background. "Sorry, Mr. K," Maureen said. "She and I never said more'n hi and bye."

Jane and Ray told screw-in-a-lightbulb jokes for a half hour. Then she said he could go home.

At eleven, Harry ushered out the college boys, making sure they returned their shoes. The janitors arrived, a fiftyish Mexican couple. The only conversation Jacinto and Luisa remembered having with Karen concerned Elvis. She felt many of Elvis's movies were underrated. Luisa agreed; Jacinto disagreed. "All crap," he said. "Every one." Luisa elbowed him, and he chuckled. "Our first date," Jacinto said, "it was Girl Happy."

Jane closed out the register, and Jacinto let Harry and Jane out the locked side door. As they crossed the parking lot, Jane waved the canvas bank-deposit bag in the summer moonlight. "Maybe you're right, Dad," Jane said. "Maybe something's wrong."

"Probably it's nothing," said Harry. "Don't worry."

Two days later, Harry flew to New York to see Debra. She had an opening in what she called a small, influential gallery, in a warehouse in TriBeCa. "Brace yourself, Dad," Debra had said on the phone. "My new work is a real leap from my old work."

"What am I, a philistine?" he said. "Artists are supposed to make leaps."

"Mom was shocked."

"Your mother isn't me." He was hurt Anna had seen the paintings first. Harry was a Sunday painter. He painted scenes on old saws, scenes of old farm women, wagons, scythes, frolicsome boys and girls in fields of grain: images of his childhood in Croatia. His family had emigrated in 1947, when Harry was eight. Things had been bad in Croatia then, but now! He could only imagine. He wouldn't have the heart to go back. He painted the pictures in his mind. He knew it wasn't really art, like what Debra did. Debra had training, the best schools. She'd been written up in New Art Examiner. She'd won a grant from the United States government. Still, Harry was proud that, each June, when he set up a tent at a craft fair, his saws sold briskly.

The gallery was in the basement of the warehouse, and the opening did not begin until 11 P.M. Beforehand, he, Debra, and her husband-the-creep had dinner upstairs, in a restaurant owned by three famous actors Harry had never heard of. Today there were so many new stars. Too many.

"When was your mother here?" Harry asked. The pointlessly huge tables forced diners almost to shout.

"Last month," said the creep. He did that, answered for her.

"She and Jack were en route to Paris," Debra said. Jack was the new husband. "A layover."

"Paris," Harry said. "Huh."

The creep, Eric, a record executive, told a tiresome story about Parisian rock music. He was tall, with a high voice, and had never, in Harry's opinion, taken Debra seriously as a painter. In their apartment, Eric had a home office and a fitness room. Debra was forced to share studio space in a part of Brooklyn where she'd been mugged twice.

Dinner was served before Harry had an opening. "So," he said, "what's shocking about your work?"

"You'll see," said Eric. "Man, will you see."

"Maybe my daughter would like to answer."

"I'm right here, Daddy," she said. "No need to call me 'my daughter' with me right here."

Harry nodded, in concession.

"A year ago," Debra said, "when I got the NEA, I made a list of the things I liked about my work and all the things I didn't."

"Good idea," said Harry. Harry was a list-maker.

"What I liked was the light and the space," she said. "I didn't like how austere my work was. How serious."

"Not too serious, I never thought." She had been doing odd still lifes-bowls of fruit and cheap toys, with dozens of TV sets in the background. Harry loved them. "But to grow is important."

"Well, I'm doing nudes now."

"So?" said Harry. His stomach lurched. "There is a long tradition, nudes."

"Mom was shocked."

"Enough already with your mother."

The check came while Debra was in the bathroom. The waiter left it near Eric, who looked away, as if forgiving a rudeness. The table was so large, Harry could not reach for it. "Here," Harry said, pointing. "Let me."

Eric frowned. "This?" He picked it up and looked at the total. "I got it," he said. "When we're in Cleveland, you can get it."

Harry gamely protested. Eric-though he was in the music business, and Cleveland now had the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (of which Harry was proud, and kept meaning to visit)-was the sort of man who bragged about never having set foot in Cleveland.

Debra took them downstairs for an early preview. Two young women were setting out wines and adjusting the lighting.

The nudes were penises.

Close-up, painted in shades of gray. Erect and limp, all races, circumcised and not, dangling from squatting positions, fat men and thin. One penis was so alarmingly small, Harry wondered if it was a freak. The paint was thick, purposefully cracked.

"People you know?" Harry said, trying to sound cosmopolitan.

"Models," Debra said. "Plus a few friends. The friends said it helped their self-esteem."

Harry did not want to know how.

"There hasn't been as much done with the penis," she said, "especially by women." She laughed. "Women painters."

The laugh put Harry at ease. "Right," he said. To his surprise, he found himself able to study the paintings, with appreciation. It was not what he'd hang at the alley (which featured four of Harry's saws, two of Debra's still lifes, six posters of Cleveland sports figures, and an aerial photo of the city he'd bought at the Cleveland bicentennial celebration). Still, though he didn't have the training to explain what impressed him, his instincts were that this would help Debra make a name for herself. The penis, Harry thought, truly is a sad, slouchy little guy. "This work is amazing, sweetheart."

Copyright © 2002 by Mark Winegardner

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Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Meet the Author

Mark Winegardner is the author of the novel The Veracruz Blues and three books of nonfiction. A regular contributor to GQ, he has also published work in the New York Times Magazine, Playboy, Esquire, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, Doubletake, and other magazines. He is a professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program at Florida State University in Tallahassee, where he lives with his wife and daughter.

Brief Biography

Tallahassee, Florida
Date of Birth:
November 24, 1961
Place of Birth:
Bryan, Ohio
B.A., Miami University, 1983; M.F.A., George Mason University, 1987

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