- Paperback: 186 pages
- Publisher: Graywolf Press (April 1 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1555973248
- ISBN-13: 978-1555973247
- Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 1.3 x 23 cm
- Shipping Weight: 318 g
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,734,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Celebrities in Disgrace: A Novella and Stories Paperback – Apr 1 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
A short story collection can be strangely uneven, as if several authors had contributed instead of one. Such is the case with Searle's (A Four-Sided Bed) slim second collection, composed of a novella and four stories. In the title novella, the infamous Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding scandal is reheated and served up. Celebrity-obsessed teenager Daniel Sanders is stalking smalltime actress Kathryn Byrne, who desperately yearns to be cast as Kerrigan in the TV movie chronicling the skating divas' tabloid past. While Searle's descriptions ("He stapled his face over hers"; "Then the ice, the whole rink tilted, dumping her") are sharp and clear, the rambling narrative is in need of some thoughtful pruning, and what clever social commentary she makes is upstaged by awkward pacing. The two stories that avoid the celebrity satire theme are the collection's true starring vehicles. "What It's Worth" is well developed and straightforward, and features likable single student Brigid, who wields sex like a weapon to fend off her loneliness and insecurities. The last tale, "Celebration," is a moving slice of life. Eager to have a baby, spouses Sarah (young) and Paul (older) reluctantly celebrate Paul's 52nd birthday, a reminder that yet another infertile year has passed. Their circumstances are tempered by skillfully applied humor (Sarah envisions their life as a series of tabloid headlines), creating a warm authenticity underscoring Searle's talent, yet undermining the stories that preceded. (June) Forecast: This will mostly attract small-press loyalists, though a campy, tabloid-style cover and the paperback price tag might capture the attention of browsers.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Fame lies just out of reach for many of the characters in this latest collection from Searle, author of A Four-Sided Bed as well as My Body to You, an Iowa Short Fiction Award winner. And the more fame eludes them, the harder they chase after it. In the title novella, Kathryn tenaciously pursues an acting career even though she habitually faints onstage. Still, she tries out for a film role because she wants so much to be recognized beyond her New England hometown. In "What It's Worth," doctoral student Brigid says, "OK, I told myself: if my thesis becomes famous for nothing else, it'll be famous round Brown for being the ONLY thesis no one wanted to toast." Searle's writing brims over with dashes and parenthetical phrases, sentences that dangle on the edge of a cliff and change direction a number of times before they end. This gives her writing a jerky, choppy quality, which reflects the jumpiness and anxiety of many of her characters. The reading experience is not itself choppy, however, but energetic and unpredictable. Recommended for co temporary fiction collections. Lisa Nussbaum, Dauphin Cty. Lib. Sys., Harrisburg, PA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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I received a postcard about the publication of Celebrities in Disgrace (CID) and before tossing it I noticed the quote "smart about sex, unblinking ... funny". Hay I'm a guy it said "sex" right. Pornography I like, usually found on-line or in Susie Bright style anthologies, tends to explore the way people feel about sex and relationships in an unbiased and honest way. You often need to read a story to the point where this obviously isn't in the cards and then move on in hopes of better elsewhere. Written honesty about sex and it's place in genuine relationships and inside the heads of the participants is more rare and I imagine more difficult to achieve and so more worthy of complement then most other literary subjects. It is more commonly found in upscale porn then in "real" fiction and the lack of it in my opinion makes much serious fiction unbelievable at best creepy at worst.
When I saw CID on display in a bookstore I decided to see if the quote on the postcard meant "smart" as a synonym for "Honest" or "Intelligent" rather then something entirely different as I suspected. I started on a random page and was hooked in several minutes, further after reading the entire collection I don't think this was a coincidence. I found almost all of the CID stories believable, the prose entertaining and artful, the quirks of characters remind me of people I know, the subject matter is believable, the humor is that of my real experience and the treatment of physical intimacy, it's causes, results, motivations, tangles and wonderful improbabilities are reminiscent of what I feel and have felt though it is in no way recognizable, formula or patterned.
For those other frustrated readers of modern fiction who don't find yourself or your friends and acquaintances in most serious fiction in fact find yourself saying "I would cross the street to avoid this character", CID is your kind of book. For those of you porn readers out there (come on admit it) who wonder cynically why the length of a penis is invariably mentioned (in inches), the causes and results of the action are trivially depicted and the action itself is so repetitive as to make you skip it in boredom, this is also your kind of book.
The category division between porn and "real" fiction has created a void in modern written literature into which most of the reality of the wonders of physical intimacy and its place in life disappear. In Celebrities in Disgrace Elizabeth Searle hits the center of this void resulting in refreshingly new, startlingly funny, recognizably genuine depictions of what it is like to be a normal modern human being. I suspect she is saying that we are all celebrities in disgrace something that the professional reviewers unfortunately seem to have missed entirely in the title. Any of us who shop in a grocery store know more about the supposed sex lives of many disgraced celebrities from the covers of the tabloids then we do about anyone else but ourselves. Elizabeth must have stood in her share of grocery checkout lines; her reviewers must not do their own grocery shopping.
Since there was not yet a reader review, I paused to write this while ordering Elizabeth Searle's other two books from Amazon.com. I wish she had more then two. I presume an author can't get higher praise then that.
The Mind of a Wannabe
Fiction takes us strange places, and none are stranger than a
fame-addicted mind. Searle's book is full of vivid people lacking all identity except as others see them - like a stalker looking for the next Pamela Smart, an adolescent acting out horror movies, a photography student imprinted on a charismatic professor. These are real people who will do anything - anything - to fill that gap where their self should be. Searle does us a great service in letting us see the cult of celebrity with new eyes, washed clean from the banal bios - "meteoric rise leads to substance problem but they're getting their life together" - we absorb every time we surf, watch, or read media.
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