The stories in Tom Barbash's wondrous and evocative collection explore the myriad ways we try to connect with one another and with the sometimes cruel world around us. The newly single mother in "The Break" interferes in her son's love life over his Christmas vacation from college. The anxious young man in "Balloon Night" persists in hosting his and his wife's annual watch-the-Macy's-Thanksgiving-Day-Parade-floats-be-inflated party while trying to keep the myth of his marriage equally afloat. "Somebody's Son" tells the story of a young man guiltily conning an elderly couple out of their home in the Adirondacks, and the narrator in "The Women" watches his widowed father become the toast of Manhattan's midlife dating scene, as he struggles to find his own footing in life.
The characters in Stay Up with Me find new truths when the old ones have given out or shifted course. In the tradition of classic story writers like John Cheever and Tobias Wolff, Barbash laces his narratives with sharp humor, psychological acuity, and pathos, creating deeply resonant and engaging stories that pierce the heart and linger in the imagination.
Tom Barbash is the author of the award-winning novel The Last Good Chance and the nonfiction book On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, & 9/11: A Story of Loss & Renewal, which was a New York Times bestseller. He currently teaches in the MFA program at California College of the Arts. He grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and now lives in Marin County.
2 Stay Up with Me woman (more than she did; she was simply glad it wasn't he who'd been the target). She liked the person he was becoming, liked the way he treated others. He'd had a girlfriend in the spring and then an- other over the summer and the mother had liked how he opened doors for them, how he listened to what they said, and how he talked of them when they weren't around. Now both of those were over and done with. She didn't know much about how they'd ended, only that he'd kept in touch with one and not the other. From time to time the boy glanced toward the front door of the restaurant at the hostess station. The hostess smiled over at them. The boy's mother was getting used to this. Her son had begun to fill out in the last year, his sophomore year at college, and had be- come the sort of young man women smiled at, and not only girls his age. Recently one of the mother's friends saw a picture of him in a T-shirt and jeans and had said, “Look out.” The pizza was good and the boy ate a lot of it. The mother looked over and caught the eye of the hostess. A good ten years older than the boy, and not what you'd call pretty. Though thin and busty, she had a somewhat pinched nose and a dull cast to her eyes. The mother imagined that she often went home with men she met at the restaurant. The girls the son had dated were smart and pretty and charming. This woman was not. Her son didn't seem to notice her but was talking about the coming summer and how he wanted to travel around Eastern Europe, Romania maybe, or Hungary. He'd work half the summer and then take off. He wasn't going to ask for any money, he said. “How's the book going?” he asked the mother. She had been writing a book about Hollywood in the 1950s. She told him about the last three chapters, one on the advent of television and the other two on the end of the studio system. He
The Break 3 asked good questions, made suggestions. He was funny. He was her friend. He left for a moment for the bathroom. The mother watched the hostess watching her son as he crossed the room, as though he were a chef's special she was hoping to try. The hostess walked back toward the kitchen. The mother couldn't see either of them now. It's nothing, she told herself. But then she was peering around the partition to see what was happening. The hostess was lingering eight or ten feet from the men's room. How incredibly pathetic, the mother thought. The boy stepped out. She said something. He said some- thing. Then he was back at the table. “Should we get dessert?” “What did that woman say to you?” “Nothing.” “I saw her say something.” “Oh, you know, How's it going? How's your meal?” She was acting like a jealous wife, she thought. “I think she likes you,” the mother said, though not encour- agingly. The boy smiled, then changed the subject. They stopped at an ice-cream place on the way home, a store the boy had worked at three summers before. Back home they watched the second half of Anatomy of a Murder on TV, then the mother said she was going to sleep. The boy stayed in the family room to watch more TV. The mother read for a while. She thought of calling her hus- band, but then didn't because she would probably bring up the hostess, then feel ridiculous for doing so. She'd make it a bigger
4 Stay Up with Me deal than it needed to be. It had been a nice night, she thought. They'd have a few weeks of these and then he'd be gone again, and she'd be alone in the house. She liked his company, and lately she'd been starting to understand that this was the reward for all the work you did, these years of friendship. You watched them become the sort of people you wanted to know. In the middle of the night she heard voices and she wondered if he'd turned the volume up too loud. She walked back to the family room. The doors were partially open. She peered in and there was the hostess, her shirt off and one of her considerable breasts in her son's mouth. Her son's shirt was off, and his eyes were closed. The hostess was straddling the boy's lap, her chin resting atop his head as he nursed and nuzzled. She stepped back out and closed the door. “Shit,” she heard the boy say. The mother was surprised by what she felt then—not em- barrassed, even for him. She (Continues...)
“Stay Up With Me is a superb collection of stories-sophisticated, lyrical and moving, incisive in depicting the emotional connections between parents and children, husbands and wives, strangers and lovers. Tom Barbash is a blazingly good writer.”
Stay Up With Me 3.7 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
Like most short story books, this one had its ups and downs. When it was good, like the first story, it was very good. The story about the two
salesmen in upstate New York was very good, too. However the rest, were so-so. Overall, I thought the most of the stories fell into the
very good category. Some of the stories felt a little repetitive. If you like stripped down, real-life stories, this book is worth your time
More than 1 year ago
A wonderful collection. The stories are simple but lovely.
More than 1 year ago
Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash
This author has a very different way of writing these short stories that I have never seen.
There is one that is all letters to a father,but by the letters you get the hold story. Each are different
desire, grief of family lost and confession. Even though they were different way of written I enjoyed each for what they were. Stories of people like us in daily trails and sorrow.
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