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22 Reviews
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5.0 out of 5 stars Every story stands out
Seldom have I found a collection in which every single story is so memorable. My women's book group here in Germany discussed "Note to Sixth Grade Self" yesterday and absolutely loved it. Of all the classic and contemporary stories we have
covered in three years, this was the favorite. Congrats to Julie Orringer on an outstanding debut!
Published on Feb. 10 2004 by Marcy Jarvis

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings
I really liked "Pilgrims." There is true grit and substance in that story. But "Notes to Sixth Grade Self" is far too derivative of Lorrie Moore, and too shallow for my taste. (Junot Diaz' riff off Lorrie Moore in "How to Date a Blackgirl" is far more original, and takes up far more dangerous questions of race, class, etc.) I can't remember the other stories...
Published on Oct. 15 2003 by Adam W. Kirsch


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4.0 out of 5 stars quietly moving, May 23 2004
By 
Russell Marshalek "russ" (marietta, ga United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: How to Breathe Underwater: Stories (Hardcover)
this book is small, simple, quiet, and lush in it's treatment of the youthful emotional state. in that way, it's also vibrantly beautiful on a grand scale much larger than at first seems.
read this book, cover to cover, then sit back and reflect.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Keeps you going, April 22 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: How to Breathe Underwater: Stories (Hardcover)
Orringer's writing style is excellent, as far as the flow and the ability to lead the reader on and on.
I'm writing because of the disturbing story titled 'Stars of Motown Shining Bright'. Although the end was not tragic afterall, and although I realize that teenagers handle guns everyday, and although the author might have felt some drive, need, or responsibility to write on the topic, I hate the idea that a young girl or boy could, by reading this story, feel justified in pointing a gun at another young girl or boy, particularly ones she/he knew very well. In my opinion, the story does not emphasize the result as much as it does the girl's fondness of the gun, to possess it, to touch it, to feel it against her skin. Sounds like I'm the biggest fan for gun control, but I'm not. I'm also not a member of the NRA.
Please, Ms. Orringer, think about reader responses to your stories.
On a more positive note: My favorite story was 'The Isabel Fish', about a brother and sister working through the aftermath of a tragedy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Every story stands out, Feb. 10 2004
This review is from: How to Breathe Underwater: Stories (Hardcover)
Seldom have I found a collection in which every single story is so memorable. My women's book group here in Germany discussed "Note to Sixth Grade Self" yesterday and absolutely loved it. Of all the classic and contemporary stories we have
covered in three years, this was the favorite. Congrats to Julie Orringer on an outstanding debut!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bitter-sweet Language, Feb. 8 2004
By 
Linda M. Price "dronningbee" (Santa Rosa , CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: How to Breathe Underwater: Stories (Hardcover)
Stunningly written. This collection of short stories was so absorbing, I didn't put it down until I was finished with the entire book. Captivating, eerie and dark, yet somehow beautiful. I dare you to read it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Too good, it doesn't even need a review!!, Jan. 19 2004
By 
Jason Richman (Lake Forest, IL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: How to Breathe Underwater: Stories (Hardcover)
After listening to Julie Orringer speak at a book reading for young writers at Stanford University, I was attracted to Orringer's love for writing and her zest for life. She breathes new meaning into short story writing, redefining the mold. Her opening "Pilgrims" is haunting and very powerful, like every other story in that it leaves the reader begging for more! Of course some stories might appeal more to a certain audience, but the collection is so complete offering a wide array of genres and topics that deal with life, death, confusion, and happiness. This book is a must read- any others who may be degrading the book were not mature enough to look at the true meaning behind the opening. I loved it!
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1.0 out of 5 stars No Thanks, Jan. 14 2004
By 
Cozy Cat "At Home" (Annandale, VA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: How to Breathe Underwater: Stories (Hardcover)
I read the first story and - yeeecccchhhh - weird, hopeless, depressing and horrifying pretty much sum it up. The characters in this short story all make you want to run into the light of normalcy. Morose kids, strange house, freaky grown-ups, dying mothers, screaming bratty girl who meets a truly preposterous fate, etc. etc. One might argue that Orringer is really "deep." If this is deep, give me shallow, please! Guess it's super hip to be hung up on the dark side.
Tried to continue with the Sixth Grade Self story, just could not. Unendurable. Surely filled with angst and misery if the start was any indication.
This collection goes back to the library shelf, and soon.
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1.0 out of 5 stars overrated, Jan. 12 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: How to Breathe Underwater: Stories (Hardcover)
I read the first story and did not feel like reading any more. Writing is decent, but be forwarned it is (unnecessarily) gory (broken neck and bones sticking out)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely incredible..., Jan. 3 2004
By 
Casey "Casey" (San Francisco, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: How to Breathe Underwater: Stories (Hardcover)
Orringer creates amazing worlds and has an incredible eye for detail physical and emotional - the plastic seats at disneyland and the power of a mean childhood friend. Can't wait for more, a beautiful, beautiful debut.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, haunting stories, Jan. 1 2004
This review is from: How to Breathe Underwater: Stories (Hardcover)
These are all great stories. Julie Orringer's How to Breathe Underwater is a dark, beautiful and haunting collection of short stories. There are some rather horrific forms of tragedy and death in them. "Pilgrims" and "Note to Sixth Grade Self" disturbed me the most. But the women in these stories are fighters in so many levels. They simply deal with their lives in a unique way. I enjoyed reading this collection. I can't recommend this book enough.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't Put it Down, Dec 21 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: How to Breathe Underwater: Stories (Hardcover)
Yes, I know Julie Orringer's mentioned Lorrie Moore as an influence, but just because "Notes to Sixth Grade Self" is in second person doesn't mean she's imitating the stories of Moore's _Self-Help_ collection as someone has previously suggested. It is clearly an original vision, especially when read with Orringer's other stories which center around the same intense painful childhood (or young adulthood) situations that are so horrifying that we frequently shove them to the back of our brains.
I've followed Orringer since she published "Notes to Sixth Grade Self" in The Paris Review, and I'm glad I did. Orringer reveals childhood bluntly and with force, yet she maintains her craft story after story. The stories are character driven, but that is not to say the story plots lack action. The stories are extremely filled with tension, horror, heartache, relief. This collection is definitely haunting. Even my least favorite story in the collection ("Care") had its merits-- a definite sense of suspense and a complex protagonist. I found myself opening my mouth with surprise during this story, and it happened with more frequency in the rest of the book.
Orringer is bound to be a new voice in fiction; a first edition of this book might be a nice thing to have one day!
To those who do love Lorrie Moore, you would probably love this book. These stories aren't as humorous as Moore's; they are more subtle, which adds to that haunting quality previously mentioned. The stories are risky in the terrain they cover; the technique, however, is flawless. These are polished stories, yes. But they deliver.
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How to Breathe Underwater: Stories
How to Breathe Underwater: Stories by Julie Orringer (Hardcover - Sept. 2 2003)
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