Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories

Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories


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In this sumptuous offering, one of our premier storytellers provides a feast for fiction aficionados. Spanning four decades and three prize-winning collections, these twenty-one vintage selected stories and thirteen scintillating new ones take us around the world, from Jerusalem to Central America, from tsarist Russia to London during the Blitz, from central Europe to Manhattan, and from the Maine coast to Godolphin, Massachusetts, a fictional suburb of Boston. These charged locales, and the lives of the endlessly varied characters within them, are evoked with a tenderness and incisiveness found in only our most observant seers.

No matter the situation in which her characters find themselves—an unforeseen love affair between adolescent cousins, a lifetime of memories unearthed by an elderly couple's decision to shoplift, the deathbed secret of a young girl's forbidden forest tryst with the tsar, the danger that befalls a wealthy couple's child in a European inn of misfits—Edith Pearlman conveys their experience with wit and aplomb, with relentless but clear-eyed optimism, and with a supple prose that reminds us, sentence by sentence, page by page, of the gifts our greatest verbal innovators can bestow.

Binocular Vision reveals a true American original, a master of the story, showing us, with her classic sensibility and lasting artistry, the cruelties, the longings, and the rituals that connect human beings across space and time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780982338292
Publisher: Lookout Books
Publication date: 01/11/2011
Pages: 392
Sales rank: 334,615
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Edith Pearlman’s new and selected story collection, Binocular Vision, won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award as well as the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Story Prize. The author of three other story collections, including the New York Times bestseller Honeydew, she has also received the PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in the short story. Her widely admired stories have been reprinted numerous times in The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and The Pushcart Prize. A New Englander by both birth and preference, Pearlman lives with her husband in Brookline, Massachusetts.


: Introduction to Binocular Vision
by Edith Pearlman

To that great list of human mysteries which includes the construction of the pyramids and the persistent use of Styrofoam as a packing material let me add this one: why isn’t Edith Pearlman famous? Of course by not having the level of recognition her work so clearly deserves, she gives those of us who love her the smug satisfaction of being in the know. Say the words Edith Pearlman to certain enlightened readers and you are instantly acknowledged as an insider, a person who understands and appreciates that which is beautiful. Still, I think that Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories should be the book with which Edith Pearlman casts off her secret-handshake status and takes up her rightful position as a national treasure. Put her stories beside those of John Updike and Alice Munro. That’s where they belong.

I first read Edith Pearlman when I was the guest editor for Best American Short Stories, in 2006. Somehow two of my favorite stories in the more than one hundred I was given to chose from—“On Junius Bridge” and “Self-Reliance”—were by the same writer, a writer I’d never heard of. How was this possible? Katrina Kenison, who was then the series editor, told me that finding new Edith Pearlman stories year after year was one of the greatest pleasures of her job. After a ridiculous amount of consideration, I decided to include “Self-Reliance” in the collection, only because taking two stories by the same author simply isn’t done. From there I went straight to her backlist: How to Fall, Love Among the Greats, and Vaquita. My transcendent love for Edith Pearlman was sealed.

But even when love is sealed, it can still grow. When Best American Short Stories 2006 was published, there was a party for the book in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and for that party three actors were hired to do readings of three of the stories from the collection. It was going to be my job to do the introductions, except that two days before the event, one of the actors fell through. I was told it would be up to me to read “Self-Reliance.”

While I am no stranger to giving public readings, there’s a big difference between reading your own work and performing someone else’s work alongside two professional actors. And so I locked myself in my hotel room and, sitting in the middle of the bed, I practiced. It is not a long story and I easily read it aloud twenty times before I was sure I had it. I am here to tell you: There are very few things that hold up to being read twenty times aloud, and very, very few things that improve with every pass, but the more I subjected “Self-Reliance” to repetition, the more it bloomed. I felt like a junior watchmaker taking apart a Vacheron Constantin. I knew the story was good when I first read it, but when I had read it twenty times I could see that it was flawless. Every word in every sentence was indispensable, every observation subtle and complex. The rhythm of the language carried the reader forward as much as the plot. Every time I thought I had mastered all of the nuances, the story offered up another part of itself to me, something quiet and undemanding that had been standing back and waiting for me to find it. This is not to say that the stories in this book need to be read repeatedly in order to be fully comprehended. It’s to say that there is such richness in them, such depth of spirit, that they are capable of taking you as far as you are willing to go.

It is without a trace of vanity that I tell you I brought the house down that night. Edith Pearlman herself was in the audience, which made me feel like I had the lead in Uncle Vanya on a night that Chekhov was in attendance. My only challenge was to keep from interrupting myself as I read. So often I wanted to stop and say to the audience, “Did you hear that? Do you understand how good this is?”

A year later, I was asked to give a reading at my public library in Nashville for adult story hour (grown-ups who come together at lunch to hear grown-up fiction) and I had the chance to read “Self-Reliance” again. A repeat performance! The considerable crowd went wild. They wanted to know how they had they never heard of Edith Pearlman before. I told them I understood their confusion. I had used less than half of my allotted hour and so I suggested a discussion of the story.

“No,” someone called out. “We want another Pearlman story.”

“Read another story,” the audience cried.

So I picked up one of her books (it was a library, after all) and started to read aloud. And even though I wasn’t prepared, the brilliance of the work carried me through. It turned out to be the second¬-best reading I have ever given.

When I was asked to write this introduction, an invitation I leapt at, I sat down to read the manuscript with a pen in my hand. I thought it would be a good idea to underline some of the best sentences so I could quote them along the way, but I could quickly see the ridiculousness of that idea. I was underlining the entire book. Okay, I thought, just put a check by your favorite stories so you can be sure to mention them, but by the time I’d finished reading the book, every one of them was checked. Every story.

What you have in your hands now is a treasure, a book you could take to a desert island knowing that every time you got to the end you could simply turn to the front cover and start it all again. It is not a collection of bus crashes, junkies, and despair. Despair is much easier to write about than self-reliance. These stories are an exercise in imagination and compassion, a trip around the world, an example of what happens when talent meets discipline and a stunning intelligence. This collection offers a look at an artist at the height of her powers. Once you have read it, I hope you will go forth and spread the news. Edith Pearlman has been a secret much too long.

Author of Run and Bel Canto
Nashville, July 2010

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Binocular Vision 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
AnnGTX More than 1 year ago
I read "Self-Reliance" and the next morning, the Daily Literary Quote of the day was from Umberto Eco. "I would define the poetic effect as the capacity that a text displays for continuing to generate different readings, without ever being completely consumed." He says exactly what I was thinking and feeling about "Self-Reliance." I've read it three times and each time it is different and remains new and fresh. How does a story a person has just read, remain mysterious? "Self-Reliance" is a fabulous story and cannot believe I skipped over it in my 2006 Best American Short Story volume. I don't always, in fact, hardly ever, read every story in an anthology so it was my loss until now. It is only a few pages long and in a not very close--which might account for the lingering mysteriousness of it--3rd person point of view with a few shifts. "Self-Reliance" also reminds me how almost every subject has already been written about but that it is the style, form, and voice that make such a difference. The story was first published in Lake Effect journal, then selected for Best American Short Story in 2006 and is now included in the anthology Binocular Vision.
bostonbub More than 1 year ago
After reading Edith Pearlman's "Binocular Vision," I've become a convert to the short story. This anthology is written with such precision and perception. You'll read these stories, reread them, give copies of the book to close friends as gifts and then discuss the stories endlessly. When you near the end of the book, you'll ration yourself so as not to end the book. The book will end, and you'll read it once more....and some stories even a third or fourth time. It's really short story perfection.
Schmerguls on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There are 22 short stoires, about 5 of which I thought quite good. I read this because it won the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction for 2011. It is the 24th such winner I've read. I think the best--and a story did not have to very good to be the best in this book--was "Elder Jinks" which told an interesting story about a couple meeting, marrying, and what exciting events thereafter occurred, and how their diilemma was resolved. A real story and one did not have to imagine the ending. I also liked "Vallies" which told of an interesting woman but the story is a bit 'darker' than "Elder Jinks'. IN generaal I admit I dislike reading a whole book of short stories because one every few pages has to "start over" I would think this author might do a good novel , since she does conjure up interesting and unusual characters who do things which invite one's attention.
snash on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It took me a long time to read this book because I couldn't read more than one or two stories a day. There was too much to digest. The stories were beautiful at every depth with wonderfully drawn characters. I especially appreciated that the stories were varied in location, character types, and outcome.Not all were depressing, nor all uplifting. An excellent collection
brenzi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can¿t say I¿d ever heard of Edith Pearlman before. Have you? Probably not. So when she won the National Book Critics Circle Award for her short fiction collection, Binocular Vision, I thought it was time we acquainted ourselves. I was not disappointed.To say that Pearlman writes about the mundane would be demeaning her work. But she does write about the ordinary, the everyday, things that happen to any and all of us. Or could, in the right circumstances. And this particular book is a sort of ¿Best of¿ collection, stories that span her work of the last thirty years and another several previously unpublished stories. The stories display Pearlman¿s unique way of creating characters that show compassion and intelligence as they deal with the foibles of everyday life. They, for the most part, choose life, even with its tough roadblocks. Disappointment is the name of the game here. Pearlman herself describes her main theme as ¿accommodation.¿ As the stories take us to Maine, Central America, Hungary, Tsarist Russia, and the town of Godolphin, Massachusetts, we meet deftly drawn characters who display the kind of tenacity that is not uncommon in people I¿ve come to know.As a fairly regular short story reader, I¿m used to collections where the stories are rather uneven. Some are really good, others not so much. But in Binocular Vision, I found something to love on every page. If I had to pick out a few of my very favorites, I guess I would select ¿Self Reliance,¿ ¿Allog,¿ ¿Settlers¿ and ¿Vaquita.¿ And I suppose I should say something about the writing. There¿s not much to say except maybe to point out that it is loaded with luscious, magnificent prose. Like this:¿Tamar¿s grandmother narrowed her eyes. The indentured were often industrious. A good disposition was natural to people born in the temperate zone. Sympathy flourished in mild climates; it withered in torrid zones; and in this country, among five million wound up souls, it was as rare as a lotus. People here had mislaid civility a century ago. Mrs. Goldfinger gushed on about Joe; Tamar¿s grandmother kept her knowledge of human nature to herself.¿I found an interesting tidbit on Pearlman¿s website. Speaking of her writing, she said,¿I am slow. A sentence often takes an hour to compose before I throw it out. What can you do?¿ And we are the beneficiaries of this painstaking work. Very highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago