The Stories of Mary Gordon
By Mary Gordon
(Pantheon, Hardcover, 9780375423161, 480pp.)
Publication Date: October 3, 2006
Categories: Short Stories (single author)
The masterly stories of Mary Gordon return us to the pleasure of this writer’s craft and to her monumental talent as an observer of character and of the ever-fading American Dream. These pieces encompass the pre- and postwar Irish American family life she circles in the early Temporary Shelter series, as well as a wealth of new fiction that brings her contemporary characters into middle age; it is their turn to face bodily decline, mortality, and the more complex anxieties of modern life. Gordon captures the sharp scent of feelings as they shift, the shape of particular lives in their hope and incomprehensibility.
In “The Neighborhood,” a seven-year-old who has lost her father finds birthday parties, with their noisy games and spun-sugar roses on fancy cakes, her greatest trial. “City Life” explores the dark side of Manhattan apartment living. “Intertextuality” proposes a dream meeting between Proust’s characters and the author’s aging grandmother. Throughout, Gordon’s surprising path to the center of a story is as much a part of the tale as the self-understanding her characters achieve in the process: “What were they all, any of them, feeling?” one narrator ventures. “This was the sort of question no one in my family would ask. Feelings were for others: the weak, the idle. We were people who got on with things.”
With their powerful insights into how we make do, both socially and privately, these stories are a treasure of American fiction. Each is a joy to read and a chance to savor Gordon’s clear vision: her ability to reveal at every turn what we need and what we wish for, and her willingness, always, to address what comes of such precious wishes.
Mary Gordon is the author of six novels, including Final Payments and Pearl; a memoir, The Shadow Man; and an earlier collection of stories, Temporary Shelter. She has received a Lila Wallace—Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the 1997 O. Henry Award for Best Story, and an Academy Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She teaches at Barnard College and lives in New York City.
PRAISE FOR MARY GORDON’S FICTION:
“A demanding and rewarding brainy-brawny novel that complicates our understanding of the world instead of coarsening it, that seasons the senses instead of stupefying.”
–The New York Times Book Review
“Penetrating… Provocative… A gripping story.”
–The Christian Science Monitor
“Crystalline and energetic… The sharp intellect the author brings to all her books is here in spades.”
“[A] smart, seductive book… with an abundance of wit and charm.”
–Time Out New York
THE REST OF LIFE
“The work of a humane, masterly novelist [whose] great gift is making us care about her people.”
THE OTHER SIDE
“It’s hard to think of a more accomplished novel in recent American fiction… Mary Gordon’s irony is modern. Her knowingness is nineteenth century… She makes us see, and she gets it right.”
“[Gordon’s stories are] beautifully created and evocative.”
“A first-class writer… A splendid balancing act of the intellect and the emotions on a high-tension wire.”
–The New York Times