Eating Naked: Stories Hardcover – May 11 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
While Dobyns has written 20 novels (The Church of Dead Girls) and 10 books of poetry (Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides), this is his first story collection, and he proves himself an adept at the form. In these 16 tales he unveils a landscape of adultery, divorce, abandonment--a vista of dysfunctional relationships in which domestic bliss is rare and dark humor flourishes. In "A Happy Vacancy," a man is killed by a falling pig. After his bizarre, well-publicized death, his widow, a professor named Harriet, finds people chuckling whenever she enters the room. She quits her job, moves to the Midwest and tries to put the strange event into perspective: "For her, death had become a joke, a dreadful buffo, and she needed to make it big again." In "Part of the Story," a 63-year-old waitress prepares to meet, for the first time, her five children (each the product of a backseat or motel-room affair, each given up for adoption). The reunion is complicated by her latest lover, Burt--sitting dead in her bedroom, stricken by an in flagrante heart attack. Other stories feature a cuckolded poet who tries to get revenge by kidnapping his wife, only to be cut to the quick by her insults, and a gas man who breaks his leg while reading a meter and gets stuck in long conversation with a cruel man caring for his dying wife. What keeps these stories fresh, despite the regularity of misfortune, are Dobyns's deadpan humor and his characters' wry, unpredictable personalities, plus the sheer oddity of their dilemmas. Despite the often wretched combinations of hope, failure and pride experienced by Dobyns's characters, readers will be moved with compassion for their vigorously human lives. (May) FYI: Stories from this collection have appeared in the 1996 Pushcart Anthology and the 1995 and 1999 Best American Short Stories.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
The 20 novels and ten collections of poetry penned by Dobyns represent a hefty oeuvre. Eating Naked is this master writer's collection of short stories. Pushing the boundaries of the genre, Dobyns writes in a natural, compelling, and convincing voice about ordinary people and people on the edge. In the title story, a disenchanted young man hits and kills a deer with his pickup truck, changing the lives of three people forever. "A Happy Vacancy" presents the farcical situation of an esteemed poet meeting his death when a pig falls from a helicopter overhead and crushes him. His bereft widow and sons must face the snickering of townspeople, who view his death as a joke. "Cynthia, My Sister" is the story of a charming misfit's attempts to connect with his father. Two of the 16 stories appeared in Best American Short Stories (in 1995 and 1999). These are tales that live on in the reader's mind. Recommended for all libraries.
-Mary G. Szczesiul, Roseville P.L., Fraser, MI
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
The first few stories I read in Stephen Dobyns', Eating Naked, I was really impressed. The stories flowed nicely, the characters were interesting, and the stories made you think.
Then, I realized, Dobyns has a fascination on marriages and/or relationships that are falling apart, cheating, and dreams of murdering a loved one (or used to be loved one). Having one or two or even three stories like this in a collection is fine, but having almost all of them repeating the same pattern, with just the characters and circumstances changing all the time, gets slightly tiring. I even had to check the author's bio to see if it said whether he was married or not because his characters seem so bitter about their marriages (possibly a reflection on his life?).
I was most impressed with the last story in the collection, mostly because it strayed a bit away from the theme of marriage as a wreckage in life, and centered on younger people. While the theme of ruined relationships was still there, it was tucked away a bit more than the others.
All in all, I did enjoy Dobyns as a writer, and would like to read some of his longer fiction. If you can get past all the stories being somewhat similar in nature, then Eating Naked is a great find.
The book is filled with images which will stay with you long after finishing the book -- from pigs hurling from the sky to a lovingly propped-up old dead man. You'll smile as you recall the vivid pictures painted by Dobyns.
If you've never tried this kind of book before, give it a shot -- you'll enjoy the adventure!
Most recent customer reviews
and boy was it a bargain. I found these stories to be mesmerizing and I barreled through them in just a few days. Read morePublished on Jan. 26 2003 by William M.
This collection of short stories tells the tale of otherwise normal human beings, explaining their lives in matter-of-fact and humorous voices. It is truly a delightful read. Read morePublished on Feb. 13 2001
This is the first Stephen Dobyns book I've read, but it won't be the last. These stories, about ordinary people thrust into extraordinary situations, sing to me. Read morePublished on July 18 2000 by J. Bodor