The Man Who Loved Levittown (Drue Heinz Literature Prize for Short Fiction)

Overview

This book is characterized by narrative vitality and emotional range.  In Wetherell’s stories a suburban retiree’s assumptions about the ethos of Long Island life are challenged and dismissed by a younger generation, a young English woman achieves miracles by dancing with wounded soldiers during World War II, a tennis-mad bachelor plays an interior game as real to him as an actual match, and a black drifter converts an Asian couple to his bleak vision of American life and ...

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The Man Who Loved Levittown

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Overview

This book is characterized by narrative vitality and emotional range.  In Wetherell’s stories a suburban retiree’s assumptions about the ethos of Long Island life are challenged and dismissed by a younger generation, a young English woman achieves miracles by dancing with wounded soldiers during World War II, a tennis-mad bachelor plays an interior game as real to him as an actual match, and a black drifter converts an Asian couple to his bleak vision of American life and finds strange kinship with them.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Wetherell’s fertile imagination brings us an array of struggling characters to laugh about, shiver over and sometimes identify with. . . . The key to Wetherell’s narrative success is his masterful use of conflict. It weaves in and out of each story like a fine thread—and catches the reader from start to finish.”

United Press International

“The title story . . . is a brilliantly realized inversion of that old, tired literary maxim: nothing ever happens in the suburbs except another affair, another martini and one more trot around the back nine . . . This is powerful stuff, a brilliant weaving of personal and political themes told in a colloquial voice that is both plaintive and funny and is ultimately haunting.”

New York Times Book Review

“Nearly always, Wetherell makes us care. That’s because he refuses to condescend to his characters, because he achieves a voice appropriate to the story and because he has a sure sense of plot. . . . Wetherell writes cleanly and well as though E. B. White, counseling clarity and simplicity, has been peering over his shoulder.”

Newsday

“Original and highly entertaining. Wetherell’s characters may be losers, but they’re battlers, with a cranky dignity that sets them sharply apart from the spoiled whiners, quitters, and self-indulgent identity-seekers so frequently encountered in today’s increasingly anemic fiction.”

Washington Post

“DiMaria’s [a character from the title story] solitary battle with his new neighbors is almost epic in scope. He is one of the most forceful and realistic voices I have listened to in recent fiction; in speaking to no one in particular, he speaks to us all . . . Willy Loman with guts.”

The Southern Review

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This year's winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize for short fiction is an engaging collection of tales featuring sympathetic characters caught up inbut not brought down bythe pathos, absurdities and disappointments of life. The title story, which also won the O'Henry Award for short fiction, recounts the frustrations of a Long Island retiree who must watch his lifelong neighbors put their houses on the market, forced out by rising costs. At the same time, he fends off real-estate brokers harrassing him on the heels of his wife's death. In other stories, a young boy is torn between his unemployed father's pessimism and his grandfather's attempts to instill in him some measure of confidence and hope; a teenager tries to hide his love of fishing from the girl he is infatuated with, when he discovers too late that she thinks fishing is ``dumb'' (he loses the girl and a big bass); and a sensitive sixth grader, swept up in his role in an operatic tragedy, is prevented by his overwhelming emotions from finishing the performance. In each, Wetherell (Souvenirs) effectively adopts a suitable narrative voice. November 20
Library Journal
McGarry, Jean. Airs of Providence. Johns Hopkins. (Poetry & Fiction Series). Nov. 1985. c.130p. LC 85-8905. ISBN 0-8018-2909-7. $12.95. Wetherell, W.D. The Man Who Loved Levittown. Univ. of Pittsburgh Pr. Nov. 1985. c.145p. LC 85-1172. ISBN 0-8229-3520-1. $12.95. f Good stories offer a detailed map of secret, interior territories. For McGarry the territory mapped is an Irish, Catholic, working-class parish in Providence, R.I. Her characters begin or end here. Some of the stories deal with the same characters: two sisters, Margery and April, and their parents. In an early story the girls are young, in the last story about them April is in college and Margery is preparing for her wedding. An accumulation of telling detail presents the texture, the confinement, and especially the language of this world. In Wetherell's collection (winner of the 1985 Drue Heinz Literature Prize) people are caught in a moment of internal or external disaster: a man sets fire to the house he loves; a boy rejects the mindless optimism of his grandfather; in a tennis game, an adult brother and sister battle to dominate the family. In the title story (an O'Henry prizewinner) a World War II vet buys a house in Levittown where he spends the best years of his life. His wife has died, his grown children have left, and one by one his neighbors are selling out and moving to Florida. Beneath the talky, narrative voice of this story you discover the internal logic of a man pushed beyond reason to a desperate act. Burke's stories (he has also written four novels) seem inevitable, style and content superbly merged. In ``Uncle Sidney and the Mexicans'' a young man, out of school for the summer, is picking tomatoes with a partly Mexican crew. The boy learns about honor, learns how to differentiate between accepted prejudice and his own inner feelings. In ``Losses'' a young boy must learn to accept and forgive the human weakness hidden behind adult authority. Any one or all three collections would be a good addition to contemporary story collections. Marcia Tager, Tenafly, N.J.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822935209
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1985
  • Series: Drue Heinz Literature Prize Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

W. D. Wetherell has published a novel, Souvenirs, and a book of essays, Vermont River. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in many national magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. He has twice won O. Henry Awards and has been awarded an NEA fellowship in fiction.

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