A Good Day for Seppuku: Stories

A Good Day for Seppuku: Stories

by Kate Braverman


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Haunting new stories about girls on the brink of adulthood, women on the verge of breakdowns, and families undone by past deceptions.

"Kate Braverman is a writer of astonishing versatility and lyricism. Her stories are brilliantly rendered, painfully intimate portraits of individuals who come alive on the page as if illuminated by strobe lighting. With remarkable precision she tracks the restless motions of a mind searching for its reflection in the world—a continuous interrogation of the self that sweeps us along with it, as in a mysterious adventure."—Joyce Carol Oates

"If fame did not find Braverman when the moment was right, perhaps it will make amends now that the moment is wrong. . . . Braverman excels at flooding readers in images that throb with menace or pleasure, as if descriptive language were a vein into which our most primal fears and desires could be injected."—Katy Waldman, The New Yorker

"The book feels timeless, think Transparent, sans the trans . . . Kate Braverman, an underground literary icon through decades of razor-sharp writing, returns with a gorgeously observed collection of stories about contemporary Jewish identity. It's profound, realistic, and funny in equal measure."—David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly

"Braverman daringly, ravishingly, and resoundingly dramatizes the profound consequences of delusions, lies, ignorance, anger, cruelty, poverty, disappointment, conformity, inebriation, and violence with high imagination, sensual precision, cutting humor, and bracing insight."—Donna Seaman, Booklist *Starred review

"Braverman writes forthright but beautiful sentences. Her details are so vivid that they feel like memories . . . "Publishers Weekly, *Starred/Boxed review

"Kate Braverman is an original. Reading her is like hitching a ride on a runaway train, always dangerous, always thrilling, always a knockout. Seppuku is all that and more."—Frederick Barthelme, author of There Must Be Some Mistake

"Braverman is the godmother of literary bad girls and a connoisseur of the shattered beauty glittering in the wreckage of her characters' lives. A Good Day for Seppuku celebrates the Braverman vision, and frames her legacy."Janet Fitch, author of The Revolution of Marina M.

A thirteen-year-old girl must choose between her mother in Beverly Hills or her pot-growing father in the Allegheny Mountains. Dr. Bernie Roth and his wife Chloe reside in a grand hacienda in La Jolla. Their children are in college, and their disappointments are profound. But Bernie has his doctor's bag of elixirs for the regrets of late middle age. Mrs. Barbara Stein, a high school teacher, looks like she'd sacrifice her life for Emily Dickinson's honor. That's camouflage. Mrs. Stein actually spends summers in the Sisyphean search for her prostitute daughter in Los Angeles.

These are some of the tales told in Kate Braverman's audacious new story collection. These furious and often hilarious tableaus of American family life remind us of why she has been seducing readers ever since her debut novel Lithium for Medea shook the literary world nearly forty years ago.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780872867215
Publisher: City Lights Books
Publication date: 02/27/2018
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Kate Braverman (1950–2019) was the author of numerous books including the memoir Frantic Transmissions to and from Los Angeles, the novel Lithium for Medea, the story collection A Good Day for Seppuku, published by City Lights, and more. She was the recipient of the Economist Prize, an Isherwood Fellowship, and the O’Henry Award. Her classic short fiction has appeared in New American Short Stories (edited by Ben Marcus), The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories (edited by Tobias Wolff), McSweeney’s, Best American, Carver, The Paris Review, and other esteemed anthologies and award-winning collections.

Table of Contents

Annotated Table of Contents

Part I

"What the Lilies Know" (published as “The Woman Who Sold Communion” in McSweeney’s, 2005 and Best of McSweeney’s, 2006.)
Amy Cruz, a history professor just denied tenure, hasn't been home in 20 years. She finds her narcissist mother, the Hydra of her memory, is a woman aging in solitude in a small yellow trailer near Taos, New Mexico. The commune of her childhood is falling in pieces around her. “When Bob Dylan dies, I’ll be a widow,” her mother says. They drive to sacred Indian ruins and then Laughlin, Nevada. In a casino on the Colorado River, with the tinny percussion of chips tumbling from slot machines, Amy finally understands the essence of history.

"Cocktail Hour" (published in Mississippi Review, Volume 33 #1 & 2, winner of the Mississippi Review Prize)
Dr. Bernie Roth and his wife Chloe reside in a grand hacienda on the cliffs above the beach in La Jolla. Their children are in college, they’ve followed the conventional rules with discipline and integrity, and their disappointments are profound. But Bernie has his doctor’s bag of elixirs for the regrets of late middle age.

"Women of the Ports" (published as “The Neutral Zone” in San Francisco Noir, Akashic Books, 2005)
Two fortyish women meet episodically at Fisherman’s Wharf. There’s nothing festive about their reunions. They shared a childhood of impoverished neglect and abuse that even cosmetic surgery can’t remove. They practice the strategies of the battlefield, with a special affection for ambushes and betrayal. As Clarissa observes, “Don’t romanticize. We were slippage. And the immigrant experience can kiss my ass.”

"Feeding in a Famine" (published by Connotation Press online, June 2015)
Each summer, Megan Miller, an LA lawyer, returns to her family’s farm in Idaho. It’s a pilgrimage in reverse where she expects nothing and views her annual visits as an ethnographic exercise. Her parents shun her, and her sister is enraged. “You don’t come to see us,” she accuses. “You come for us to see you. Wed up to a Jew boy. Getting an abortion, a divorce, now red hair and lips that look like somebody punched your mouth.” In Megan’s home town, “It’s a perpetual cycle of poor harvests and drowning the girl children.” It’s the August hay-stained drought yellows of the barley and potato fields that speak to Megan in the squalls and sudden lightning she recognizes as the transcendent language of liberation.

Part II

A 13-year-old girl must choose between her mother in Beverly Hills or her pot growing father in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. It's summer at Camp Hillel, she's covered with insect bites, can’t select which foreign language she’ll study, and coolly realizes her decisions will be defining and inexorable.

"Skinny Broads with Wigs" (published as Mrs. Jordan’s Summer Vacation “Editors Choice” Carver Award, Carver Magazine, Volume 5, 2005)
Mrs. Barbara Stein, a Wood’s End High School teacher, favors navy and cranberry clothing from catalogues, and looks like she’d sacrifice her life for Emily Dickinson’s honor. That’s camouflage. Mrs. Stein actually spends summers in the Sisyphean search for her prostitute daughter in Los Angeles, in a region of lost women, renegades and runaways where no one remembers her. “They’re all skinny broads with wigs,” she is told.

"The Professor’s Wife"
Malcolm McCarty, a professor with an affection for biking, gardening, Shakespearean sonnets and NPR has no concept of who his wife of decades really is. Or what she is capable of. Meanwhile his colleague, Bob Lieberman, succumbs to open mic poetry nights. "When I'm an adept, I'll birth royal lepers," he insists.

"A Good Day for Seppuku"
Tom Sutter returns to Wood’s End for the unequivocal final ritual of manhood, the funeral of his father. His father, the town’s veterinarian and a professional poker player, was a runaway from an Amish colony in Manitoba who didn’t file a Missing Person Report when his mother vanished. His father raised him, but was a man inhabiting multiple lives simultaneously. Tom couldn’t penetrate his masks then and he can’t recognize him, even in death.

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