What He's Poised to Do: Stories

( 5 )

Overview

Ben Greenman is a writer of virtuosic range and uncanny emotional insight. As Darin Strauss has noted, "Like Bruno Schulz, George Saunders, Donald Barthelme, and no one else I can think of, Greenman has the power to be whimsical without resorting to whimsy." The stories in this new collection, What He's Poised to Do, showcase his wide range, yet are united by a shared sense of yearning, a concern with connections missed and lost, and a poignant attention to how we try to ...

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Overview

Ben Greenman is a writer of virtuosic range and uncanny emotional insight. As Darin Strauss has noted, "Like Bruno Schulz, George Saunders, Donald Barthelme, and no one else I can think of, Greenman has the power to be whimsical without resorting to whimsy." The stories in this new collection, What He's Poised to Do, showcase his wide range, yet are united by a shared sense of yearning, a concern with connections missed and lost, and a poignant attention to how we try to preserve and maintain those connections through the written word.

From a portrait of an unfaithful man contemplating his own free will to the saga of a young Cuban man's quixotic devotion to a woman he may never have met; and from a nineteenth-century weapons inventor's letter to his young daughter to an aging man's wistful memory of a summer love affair in a law office—each of these stories demonstrates Greenman's maturity as a chronicler of romantic angst both contemporary and timeless, and as an explorer of the ways our yearning for connection informs our selves and our souls.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Fourteen very self-conscious stories from Greenman (Please Step Back) demonstrate the author's easy hand with formal manipulation, though his command over emotional terrain proves to be circumspect. The collection is bracketed by two very short stories (the title story and “Her Hand”) built around picture postcards (indeed, postmarks appear at the beginning of each story), and the varied stories between them all move with transparency; Greenman's prose is polished to a fine gloss that handily guides the reader along. While some stories only get a few details—two stories with cloyingly cute and very long titles are among the shortest; their titles virtual punch lines—others spin on, dominated less by substance than by stylistic demands, as with “Seventeen Different Ways to Get a Load of That,” which documents a relationship breakdown in short numbered cuts. The strongest story, “What We Believe We Cannot Praise,” about changing dynamics at a law firm, hints at Greenman's talent and begs for a longer treatment than it gets in this chilly if playful collection. (June)
New York Times Book Review
“Greenman offers quiet, serious stories lifted by occasional humor and linked by instances of written correspondence. ”
Jonathan Ames
“What a fine and unique writer Ben Greenman is. I love his sentences, his precision. I feel like he’s absorbed and digested so much great literature, distilling it all to create his own fantastic universe of stories and ideas.”
Daniel Handler
“This book is like a strobe light—in short, sharp bursts, Ben Greenman renders the world we know into something startling, hypnotizing, and downright trippy.”
Amy Sohn
“Romantic and compulsively readable, What He’s Poised to Do will appeal to anyone who’s ever been in love, had a broken heart, or been misunderstood.”
Jess Walter
“Ben Greenman’s What He’s Poised to Do is a terrific collection—a set of elegant, inventive dispatches that knock around space and time, and the wrenching gaps between people, to chart a world of previously unnamed moments and emotions.”
Rhett Miller
“Ben Greenman’s prose is characterized by an effortless musicality. This collection finds him in peak form, simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious. But it’s the beauty of his language that gets me.”
Simon Van Booy
“Ben Greenman’s masterwork of stories inspired by letters offers fresh insight into the mysteries of intimacy. A seriously brilliant and lyrical piece of modern fiction, with characters so alive and sincere and full of longing, they may climb out of the book and follow you home.”
Kirkus Reviews
More stories from the New Yorker editor and indie-lit notable. The title story follows a business traveler in the process of abandoning his wife and child, and it's written in a distinctly alienating-almost mechanical-tone. This work first appeared in a project of Greenman's called "Correspondences," which encompassed both a limited-edition book and a forum for reader participation. Whether or not that project was a success is outside the scope of this review, but, in the context of this collection, the story is a dud. A McSweeney's alum, Greenman is known for his willingness to experiment with form and style, and this is not the first time he has repurposed his own material (2003's Superworse was a revised version of 2001's Superbad). But too many of the stories here feel like exercises. "Barn," for example, seems to exist so that Greenman can mimic the voice of a Nebraska farmwife in 1962, and it has an ending, seemingly fraught with meaning and pathos, that's inconsequential. Some of the pieces merit the exuberant praise he has enjoyed in the past. "Against Samantha," the tale of a young man who might leave his fiancee if he wasn't so enamored of her mother, is a deep delight. It's set in 1928, and Greenman achieves an authentically upper-crust, vintage tone, and the anxiety his protagonist experiences provides a bracing dose of weirdness that keeps the proceedings from becoming precious. An uneven collection, unlikely to create a new audience for Greenman. Author tour to Boston, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and upon request
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061987403
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/15/2010
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Pages: 170
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Ben Greenman

Ben Greenman is an editor at The New Yorker. He is the author of the story collections What He's Poised to Do; Superbad; and A Circle Is a Balloon and Compass Both: Stories About Human Love, and the novels Superworse and Please Step Back. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 7, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Didn't realize it was short stories.

    Great for short train/bus rides. Nothing too graphic in case someone's reading over your shoulder.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2012

    Waste

    Waste of 99 cents

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2012

    Maddie

    Cries.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews

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