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Black Glass: Short Fictions Hardcover – Feb 15 1998


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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: #3,567,094 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.

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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: 31 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
Tonto at 40? Magical Unicorn Horn? What's Not to Like?! The Top Ten Things That Are Great About BLACK GLASS. May 31 2015
By E. Burian-Mohr - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I don't usually read short stories. I get involved with the characters and then it's over. But when I saw that BLACK GLASS was a work from Karen Joy Fowler, I put my short story prejudices on the shelf and dived in. Why? Because Fowler is an amazing, witty, insightful, cynical, diverse writer. I have never read subject matter she has written that didn't suck me in. Her stories here span centuries, continents, diverse people, and more.

What makes this book a must-read? Here are the Top Ten Things That Are Great About BLACK GLASS.

10. Fowler is crazy smart. She attacks a multitude of subject matters: the Lone Ranger from Tonto's point of view, a DEA Agent who may have licked one toad too many, Einstein's letters from Mileva, Berkeley days in the early 70s... And to each situation she brings insights and understanding.

9. Impeccable research. If Fowler writes about unicorn horn, you know she's read everything she can find on the subject. Carry Nation? Researched every moment of the woman's life. Hara Castle? Prepare to be enlightened.

8. Descriptions. Fowler can create a picture in your mind with a minimum of words. "'Have some of mine,' Ruiz said. He was drinking a margarita. He handed the glass to Harris. Harris tuned the glass to a virginal part of the salt rim and sipped. He rotated the glass and sipped again."

7. Diversity of subject matter. In her novels, Fowler has written about Jane Austen, growing up as the human sister of a chimp, a Chinese railway worker, women's baseball... Now we see through Fowler's window to Einstein's early love, an abducted cartographer in the Amazon, Vietnam war protests... It's a time travel, world travel adventure.

6. She writes with humor, with tragedy, with longing... There is much emotion to be experienced reading the pages.

5. She has captured Berkeley at the time of the Cambodian invasion perfectly. How? She was there. How do I know? I was there, too. I read "Letters from Home" and was struck with the same sense of tragedy I felt then. In fact, I'm pretty sure I could smell the tear gas.

4. Kids breaking into a mysterious neighbor's basement to find his secret stash? Tonto at 40? A note in a bottle, read 20 years later? What's not to like?!

3. You'll have to think. Not every story will make sense right away. Ponder and find Fowler's meaning... or your meaning.

2. Fowler is clearly a student/devotee of myth and mythology. She weaves it beautifully through her stories.

1. Sentences like this: "She regretted every tree she had never climbed."

Go climb a tree and read the book.


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