The Identity Club: New and Selected Stories

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In 20 stories (both new and selected from his four previous collections), Richard Burgin explores our quest for identity and love, truth and family, as well as darker themes of betrayal and crime. In The Identity Club we meet an extraordinarily variegated cast of characters, including prostitutes and businessmen, a famous young writer and a homeless basketball player, an ambitious but thwarted composer. There are love stories, murder stories, as well as stories of transcendence, both imagined and real. The 20 ...
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Overview

In 20 stories (both new and selected from his four previous collections), Richard Burgin explores our quest for identity and love, truth and family, as well as darker themes of betrayal and crime. In The Identity Club we meet an extraordinarily variegated cast of characters, including prostitutes and businessmen, a famous young writer and a homeless basketball player, an ambitious but thwarted composer. There are love stories, murder stories, as well as stories of transcendence, both imagined and real. The 20 songs on the accompanying CD, while not directly related to the stories, express many of the same moods and emotions found in The Identity Club, from the darkly lyrical to the exultant.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A master of elevating perversity, callousness and loneliness to the level of story premise, Burgin offers shorts that read as if Raymond Carver and Edgar Allan Poe shared a body and had to write about it. In "The Spirit of New York," a man "gets through his twenties" by inducing, through a variety of creepy contrivances, the startle response in passersby; in the title piece, a secret club takes on the identities of the famous dead and holds meetings of the minds. Matter-of-fact renderings of drugs, STDs, prostitution, alcohol, guns, money, threats, cruelty, shame, desolate public space (often Philadelphia) and depraved indifference shape some stories; others rely on the inherent alienation of boring or dead-end jobs, as when, in "Miles," a fight between a supervisor and trainee results in illicit sex for the eponymous witness. Burgin's style is similarly (and intentionally) prosaic, but it's also the problem: despite fresh-seeming contortions, the people of these 20 stories end up an indistinct, pathological amalgam. Burgin (Ghost Quartet), who has written seven novels and edits Boulevard, selects from four previous collections along with new work, and, oddly, includes a CD of his art songs, praised by composer Ned Rorem. (Oct. 17) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This omnibus collection of 20 stories is packaged with a CD containing 20 love songs also written by Burgin. That is this unnecessary volume's only distinction. For Burgin, who teaches at Saint Louis University and has published three earlier collections (Fear of Blue Skies, 1997, etc.), is a monotonous writer who strikes the same chords repeatedly. Most of his characters are inchoate loners and losers, driven by the need for romantic or sexual connection, obsessed with defining, and thereby understanding, themselves. And they all sound the same: the timid ad man who finds initial stimulation, then confirmation of his darkest fears, among a group of men who emulate admired celebrities ("The Identity Club"); the vacationing banker who indulges fantasies of power and control in a brief borderline-homoerotic encounter with a clueless young stud ("Bodysurfing"); a would-be Lothario who picks up a beautiful girl in a bookstore but fails to ensnare her by concocting a story about his nonexistent marriage and his losses ("The Liar"); and the famous conductor who artfully seduces an admiring young journalist ("Song of the Earth," which was later developed into Burgin's 1999 novel, Ghost Quartet). There's hardly a graceful image or an engaging turn of phrase here. And too many of its stories begin with hopeful meetings of strangers who've come together anticipating sex or love but end up either perpetrating or suffering verbal or physical abuse ("Vacation," "The Horror Conference," "With All My Heart," "Carbo's," "The Urn," etc). Only two stories rise above the general level of mediocrity: an unhappy husband's fantasizing of hiring an unlikely new acquaintance to murder his wife ("Ghost Parks");and a gradually exfoliating realization, in "The Victims," that the seemingly brilliant friend whom its narrator admires and envies is, in fact, "a thirty-five-year-old man who's never accomplished anything in his life."Depressing, banal, forgettable fiction.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780865381155
  • Publisher: Ontario Review Books
  • Publication date: 10/5/2005
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Burgin is the author of 11 books including the novel Ghost Quartet and four other collections of stories, the most recent of which are The Spirit Returns and Fear of Blue Skies. Four of the stories in the present volume have won Pushcart Prizes, while the title story is included in Best American Mystery Stories 2005. A composer of 5 CDs and over 100 songs and pieces, some of which have been praised by Ned Rorem, Burgin is a professor of communication and English at Saint Louis University, where he edits the award-winning literary journal Boulevard.
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