Pub. Date:
University of Massachusetts Press
History Lessons

History Lessons

by Joan Connor


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History Lessons

The stories in this award-winning collection all bear some relationship to history, personal or communal. Several are based on iconic American figures, from William Miller to Margaret Hamilton to Ray Charles. Others evince a feminist impulse to redeem from history those women whose lives would otherwise go unremarked, such as Juana la Loca and Bridget Cleary. Still others explore the ways in which language constructs and deconstructs character — Thomas Power James engaged in completing Charles Dickens's unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood; Branwell Brönte struggling to distinguish between personal history and his family's texts; and Gérard de Nerval warring against his incipient madness. All of the stories, whether realistic or experimental, witty or solemn, acknowledge how the past continually informs the present.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781558494183
Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
Publication date: 11/28/2003
Series: Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction Series
Pages: 184
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Joan Connor is associate professor of English at Ohio University and a member of the faculty at the University of Southern Maine's low-residency MFA program.

Table of Contents

Adam and Eve at the Automat1
The Day the World Declined to End6
Let Us Now Praise Dead White Men17
The Mystery of Thomas Power James22
The Year of No Weather38
I Wouldn't Do That If I Were You44
The Poet's Lobster57
Juana la Loca69
Stone Man95
The Deposition of the Prince of Whales99
The Parrot Man108
Riding with Ray121
Good People128
This One Fact141
Branwell in Angria146
Under the Rainbow154
Writing the War Novel163
The Butterfly Effect171
Midlife Barbie184
Victor Learns to Speak190

What People are Saying About This

Frederick Busch

This collection demonstrates an enormous linguistic gift, and a passion for the possibilities of language.... Sometimes the characters are presented realistically, sometimes as aspects of American prose, often as expressions of historical events and even linguistic behavior; but the people on these pages are never mere reflections of the writer's cleverness or (remarkable) knowledge. Every story is different, every story is a voice. While the voices range in tone from stormy to reconciled, most are tinged with genuine humor. And literature is a fact of life in the world of these fictions: Charles Dickens speaks through one character while Branwell Brönte addresses us through another. Aspects of French surrealism, the passion of Spanish locutions, the midwestern solidities abandoned by Dorothy of Oz, the Wolf Boy's insights, and an Adam and Eve to rival Twain's are among the values that speak in this book of voices. But language loved and laid siege to remains the primary speaker throughout. The writer of this book is vastly talented and hungry to tell us stories. History Lessons is a sizzling collection.

Darrell Spencer

A remarkable collection of stories. It's crossbred and eccentric and smart and funny.... What Joan Connor is writing about is the declension of history in all its cases, in all its particularization. History is the idiosyncratic. It is most alive in the cracks, in the interstices, in the margins, and the narrators in History Lessons speak from these places.

Alyce Miller

Each piece is a gem, polished and flawless, full of wit and clarity of vision. Each voice is full of texture and the power of its own telling.... This is an exciting book by a deeply talented writer for whom language and image are sheer delight.

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