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Black Glass: Short Fictions Hardcover – Feb 15 1998


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Amazon.ca First Novel Award - 6 Canadian Novels Make the Shortlist



Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (Feb. 15 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805055576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805055573
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 2.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,471,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Gifted novelist Fowler (Sarah Canary and The Sweetheart Season) delights in the arcane, and, as a result, these 15 clever tales are occasionally puzzling but never dull. In the long title story, temperance activist Carry Nation is resurrected in the 1990s ("We're talking about a very troubled, very big woman," says one shaken barman to reporters) and becomes such a nuisance that the DEA is forced to dispatch her with voodoo. Other plots are only slightly less outrageous in conceit. In "Lieserl," a lovesick madwoman dupes Albert Einstein into believing he has a daughter; in "The Faithful Companion at Forty," Tonto admits to second thoughts about his biggest life choice ("But for every day, for your ordinary life, a mask is only going to make you more obvious. There's an element of exhibitionism in it"). "The Travails" offers a peek at the one-sided correspondence of Mary Gulliver, who wants Lemuel to come home already and help out around the house. The homage to Swift makes sense, for, when Fowler doesn't settle for amusing her readers, she makes a lively satirist. The extraterrestrials who appear in her stories (whether the inscrutably sadistic monsters in "Duplicity" or the members of a seminar studying late-1960s college behavior in "The View From Venus: A Case Study") seem stand-ins for the author herself, who, in elegant and witty prose, cultivates the eye of a curious alien and, along the way, unfolds eccentric plots that keep the pages turning.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This stunning collection of stories by the author of Sarah Canary (LJ 5/1/92) so carefully intertwines the ordinary with the extraordinary that what should seem incredible is fully believable. Though the stories may appear to be about a DEA agent who unwittingly revives the spirit of Carry A. Nation, two women held captive by aliens in the Brazilian rain forest, a magic potion made from a unicorn's horn, or a classroom of Venusians learning about Earthly love, at their core they are about human relationships and all the more startling for their insight from seemingly unrelated points. A few pieces puzzle more than they enlighten, but the reader may be motivated to return to them for a slower reading. Highly recommended.?Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Idaho Lib., Moscow
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Hardcover
As wonderful as Fowler's novels are, her short stories pack an even bigger punch. The blurb on the inside front cover wants you to notice that there are stories here about Gulliver's Travels, Carry Nation and the Lone Ranger and Tonto, but don't let the publisher's name-dropping turn you off; Fowler doesn't need to invoke names of legend or other fictions to tell her stories. She's got wit and intelligence and a total lack of mercy when it comes to her characters.
Take a story like "Duplicity," where a pair of women are captured by what might or might not be aliens, who manage to slowly and chillingly turn the captives against each other. Or a story like "The Elizabeth Complex," a multi-faceted meditation on women and their fathers. Or the way Fowler uses history to paint unpleasant pictures of our own present, as she does with "Shimabara." Fowler is as much at ease with stark and unsanitized childhood remembrance ("Go Back," "The Brew") as she is with ironic reflections on radical Berkely ("Letters From Home," "The View From Venus: A Case Study"). Her stories are funniest when they are biting, her characters cut deepest when they are smiling, and she is never, ever, one hundred percent reliable.
This is a great collection. I await more.
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By A Customer on Aug. 22 1998
Format: Hardcover
Other than the longest, first, and book titling short story being my least favorite, "Black Glass: Short Fictions" is varied and filled with surprises. I'm glad I got past "Black Glass" and kept reading. I would much preferred to have the volume titled after another story, "Lily Red." Karen Joy Fowler is able to capture our imaginations quickly, develop the story, give us enough twists and leave us satisfied but wanting more. Many of these stories have a science fiction flare. Lily Red was perhaps my favorite. I could see it developed into a haunting romantic film script. Lily is stopped by a police officer, directed to "Mattie's," a little bed and breakfast, where everyone asks her if she's come to see "the caves." The police officer turns out to be an American Indian named Henry who is quite older than his appearance of 33 years. The torrid love story of Henry and Lily in the cave comes as somewhat of a surprise, and then more twists of reality occur. I did not care for "Black Glass" because of the issue of drugs, but appreciate the way Fowler twists language and traditional story structure to reflect a hallucinogenic experience. It was quite individually done. "The View from Venus: A Case Study" was an excellent exploration of the conundrum of romance. My second favorite story was "The Brew" which connects the magical traditions of the past, witches and unicorns, to the real story of friendship in present day. Mr. McBean is such a drunken and delightfully crotchety character that he scares us and makes us curious at the same time. He begs to be put on the stage. I honestly don't know what to make of "Game Night at the Fox & Goose," but I liked it.Read more ›
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By A Customer on Aug. 12 1998
Format: Hardcover
Inventive, assured writing makes each story in this collection a delight. Interesting characters, unusual settings, always something new to discover. Highly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 15 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Fifteen Dark Gems Sept. 30 2001
By David J. Schwartz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
As wonderful as Fowler's novels are, her short stories pack an even bigger punch. The blurb on the inside front cover wants you to notice that there are stories here about Gulliver's Travels, Carry Nation and the Lone Ranger and Tonto, but don't let the publisher's name-dropping turn you off; Fowler doesn't need to invoke names of legend or other fictions to tell her stories. She's got wit and intelligence and a total lack of mercy when it comes to her characters.
Take a story like "Duplicity," where a pair of women are captured by what might or might not be aliens, who manage to slowly and chillingly turn the captives against each other. Or a story like "The Elizabeth Complex," a multi-faceted meditation on women and their fathers. Or the way Fowler uses history to paint unpleasant pictures of our own present, as she does with "Shimabara." Fowler is as much at ease with stark and unsanitized childhood remembrance ("Go Back," "The Brew") as she is with ironic reflections on radical Berkely ("Letters From Home," "The View From Venus: A Case Study"). Her stories are funniest when they are biting, her characters cut deepest when they are smiling, and she is never, ever, one hundred percent reliable.
This is a great collection. I await more.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Lily Red more than Black Glass Aug. 22 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Other than the longest, first, and book titling short story being my least favorite, "Black Glass: Short Fictions" is varied and filled with surprises. I'm glad I got past "Black Glass" and kept reading. I would much preferred to have the volume titled after another story, "Lily Red." Karen Joy Fowler is able to capture our imaginations quickly, develop the story, give us enough twists and leave us satisfied but wanting more. Many of these stories have a science fiction flare. Lily Red was perhaps my favorite. I could see it developed into a haunting romantic film script. Lily is stopped by a police officer, directed to "Mattie's," a little bed and breakfast, where everyone asks her if she's come to see "the caves." The police officer turns out to be an American Indian named Henry who is quite older than his appearance of 33 years. The torrid love story of Henry and Lily in the cave comes as somewhat of a surprise, and then more twists of reality occur. I did not care for "Black Glass" because of the issue of drugs, but appreciate the way Fowler twists language and traditional story structure to reflect a hallucinogenic experience. It was quite individually done. "The View from Venus: A Case Study" was an excellent exploration of the conundrum of romance. My second favorite story was "The Brew" which connects the magical traditions of the past, witches and unicorns, to the real story of friendship in present day. Mr. McBean is such a drunken and delightfully crotchety character that he scares us and makes us curious at the same time. He begs to be put on the stage. I honestly don't know what to make of "Game Night at the Fox & Goose," but I liked it. The story seemed to leave off just as it was beginning, leaving my mind to suggest how it might have worked out. Fowler's language is hardly lyrical, but is rooted in the conversational patterns and idioms of the present. This volume offers plenty of material for oral literary performance; and the often used first person enhances the stories when read aloud. I might have wished for a bit more of a spiritual level, a couple stories of faith and joy, but as is, these stories are fresh, well written, and greatly entertaining.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Superb Early Collection of Karen Joy Fowler's Elegant Tales Now Revisited April 28 2015
By John Kwok - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This updated edition of "Black Glass: Short Fictions" demonstrates why Karen Jay Fowler is one of the greatest living American writers of fiction. The title story, "Black Glass", is a superb example of her intelligent, deliberate, often poetic, prose, in which she does a memorable job in melding 19th Century American history with the present and the mysteries of Voudon in conjuring the epic return of Carry Nation, haunting present-day America, attacking bars, discos and any other form of establishment that allows the sin of alcoholic drinking. In the title story and in many of the others in this superb collection, Fowler takes readers on some odd, but well traveled, journeys through what Jeff VanderMeer has dubbed "weird fiction". Imagine Tonto yearning for 40th birthday wishes from none other than the Lone Ranger, as he tries to psychoanalyze his relationship in "The Faithful Companion at Forty". Or two friends imprisoned by aliens in a setting so odd and familiar that it will force them into betrayal in "Duplicity". Or Lemuel Gulliver's wife writing letters to him for years without getting answers, telling him of his family's deplorable state in "Letters from Home". "Black Glass" is a rich, quite elegant, collection of stories from an early period in Karen Joy Fowler's career when her work was little known to many in the mainstream literary fiction community, and yet a collection whose tales remain some of the finest ever written by a contemporary American writer of fiction. "Black Glass: Short Fictions" remains an important literary milestone in her career, and one that is worth reading again, not only for superb stories like "Black Glass" but also for her introductory essay written for this new edition in which she recounts the artistic and other influences which led to her noteworthy, now distinguished, career in letters.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Ingenious and provocative April 28 2015
By Miss Barbara - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Author Karen Joy Fowler is a wordsmith who proves herself a titan in the literary community with this collection of fifteen short stories. She had me caught up in her grips in the introduction with the insightful quote: “We all think we had the childhoods we think we had”. She then moves on to present her stories which are mostly about women and their thoughts, feeling and loves; all while staying far away from any sappy Hallmark Channel visualizations.

Black Glass is the title story in which Carry Nation demolishes The Senate Bar while a bewildered DEA agent looks on. Although this story is the one that carries the most critical acclaim I found it to be my least favorite in the collection. The others seized my interest more with succinct and unique storytelling.

There are stories about letters: “The Travails” – these are letters to an absent husband circa 1699 to 1715. In “Letters from Home” - Vietnam, Cambodia, Kent State and Nixon are revisited. “Lieserl” is told in semi-epistolary format to Albert Einstein about his illegitimate daughter.

Father and daughter relationships are explored in “Go Back” via the reading of Uncle Wiggly cards and in “The Elizabeth Complex” in which Elizabeth’s father tells her “You should have been a boy”.

There are imaginative stories of Tonto’s birthday, “The Faithful Companion at 40” and “The Brew”, a tale of Christmas in the Hague with remembrances of Indiana and a neighbor who may have been a British spy.

This collection of vignettes showcase Fowler’s ability to look through a rare lens at the lives of women and their dealings with “the lives they think they have”. The stories are ingenious and provocative.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Black Glass May 27 2015
By Brendan Moody - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This collection, reissued with a new preface in the wake of Fowler's award-winning novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, was originally published in 1998, but its stories feel as fresh and startling as if they were brand-new. Fowler is both a co-founder of and a multiple nominee for the Tiptree Award for science fiction and fantasy that explores gender, and some of the collection's most memorable stories work in that territory, including its first and last. The opening and title novella has a premise that would sound silly if stated flat-out, but it makes for a sharp exploration of the dearth of historical heroines, the fault lines that society builds into even those marriages committed to equality and fairness, and the appeal of uncompromising, audacious action in support of one's beliefs. It's also a marvelously entertaining story, with delightfully surreal overlapping plotlines and flashes of the humor that makes some readers underestimate the serious of Fowler's literary purpose. At the other end of the collection is "Game Night at the Fox and Goose," a bleaker look at similar themes, in which Fowler's eye for revealing historical moments leads to a very literal take on the battle of the sexes.

I mention historical moments. Some of the stories here are so thoroughly derived from fact that they could almost be speculative essays. These include "Shimabara," an exploration of motherhood and religious zealotry based on a seventeenth-century Japanese rebellion; "Lieserl," an eerie imagining of the long-unknown, still-mysterious first child of Albert Einstein; and "The Elizabeth Complex," a dizzying look at the parallel lives of several famous and unconventional women of that name. Pop culture, literature and myth are also inspirations, whether fairy tales ("Lily Red" and "The Black Fairy's Curse"), Gulliver's Travels ("The Travails"), or the Lone Ranger ("The Faithful Companion at Forty"). Whatever her source, Fowler is both playful and thoughtful, pointing out the implications of tropes we often take for granted.

Several stories draw on Fowler's childhood in Indiana and her time as a college student in 1970s California. "Go Back" meditates on memory, shifting from a kaleidoscope of pleasant recollections to something darker, while "The Brew" gives a supernatural twist to that familiar childhood figure, the mysterious and crotchety neighbor. It's one of the collection's less successful stories, only because its theme is the sort of tried-and-yet-possibly-not-true thing Fowler usually takes apart. "Letters from Home" seems to be a memoir of what the Vietnam War meant to a young man who fought in it and a young woman who protested it, but as with much of Fowler's work, a final turn reveals the emotional desperation at the heart of the recollection. And "The View for Venus" is both a gently comic account of single life in 1969 Berkeley and a smart reflection on the way ideas about gender shape women's self-perception.

Despite my arbitrary sorting of these stories, the overall impression they give is not of discrete groups but of an imagination that is versatile yet rigorous, interested in everything and able to see to the heart of anything. Even readers who admired We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves will, I think, be surprised by the variety and the audacity of Black Glass. This genre-defying collection is required reading for anyone interested in the interplay of gender, memory, history, and fiction in our ever-tentative, ever-fallible attempt to understand the world in which we live.


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