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The Whore's Child And Other Stories (2003)

The Whore's Child and Other Stories (2003)
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3.69 of 5 Votes: 1
ISBN
009943752X (ISBN13: 9780099437529)
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English
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vintage books usa
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The Whore's Child And Other Stories (...
The Whore's Child And Other Stories (2003)

About book: Richard Russo, once a teacher of writing himself, opens his debut collection of short stories, The Whore’s Child, in familiar territory: the classroom. Sister Ursula, who is “nearly as big as a linebacker,” deposits herself in the narrator’s advanced writing workshop, uninvited and unregistered. Despite the professor’s insistence that she write fiction -- “In this class we actually prefer a well-told lie,” he tells her -- she submits for the class’s consideration several hefty installments of rock-pure memoir.She patted my hand, as you might the hand of a child. “Never you mind,” she then assured me, adjusting her wimple for the journey home. “My whole life has been a lie.”“I’m sure you don’t mean that,” I told her.But of course she did. Sister Ursula is constitutionally incapable of writing what is not true. On the other hand, she is equally incapable of seeing clearly what she writes—and this is what provides Russo’s story, if not the nun’s, the thrum of good fiction.In a post-modern and un-Russo-like twist, “The Whore’s Child” is both the perfect short story and the blueprint for such a story. As the professor summarizes Sister Ursula’s bitter and lonely take (he provides only her knife-edged first lines, like “It was my hatred that drew me deeper into the Church”), we also hear the class’s response. It is in this unlikely arena, marked by PC angst and academic jargon, that Sister Ursula discovers a secret she has been hiding from herself her entire life.Sister Ursula, we come to understand, is the ideal practitioner of the “well-told lie.”Russo’s regular beat, it should be said, is men, not nuns, sons, not sisters. Through five fat, summer-perfect novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls, the author has explored, with wonderful humor and pathos, that great American, impotent male. From the down-and-out Sully in Nobody’s Fool to the hapless but good-hearted Miles in Empire Falls, Russo’s protagonists are mere skeletons of the 1950s ideal they were weaned on. Where their fathers lived in an age of straightforward, powerful men, they have reached middle age in a time of ironic self-contempt.

A consistently good collection of short stories by Richard Russo. It is easy to understand why "The Whore's Child" was chosen as the title story. A nun from a dwindling order that has been moved to an old home shows up at a university's writing class. The nun writes of her early life as if it was fiction, the professor understands it is memoir but not her fellow students who critique the story as it is written and read out loud on different days in class. The story is bleak, a prostitute's baby(the story narrator) is dropped off at a convent and is treated cruelly by the nuns and fellow students. The despair of the nun's life story is broken into pieces as Russo shifts from that story to his life to the reaction of the college students. The story comes together ending with one of the best lines I've ever readThere are other great stories, "Monhegan Light" involves a "Russo" who was recently widowed traveling to an artist's colony after learning after her death that she had an affair with a famous painter in the artist's colony. Again, the storyline does not go as predicted."The Farther You Go" has the Russo narrator with an adult daughter who wants his help in forcing her husband to leave; during this "eviction" the narrator's love for his own wife is reenforced and he learns that his daughter and son in law look at his life in envy. "Joy Ride" has the Russo character recalling that when he was in middle school his mom left his father taking him along with her on an escape from Maine to California. The Joy Ride takes unexpected turns and is put in perspective by the narrator, recounting the joyride from years later and summarizing their lives after the joyride. In "Poison" the Russo narrator is a successful writer and a longtime friend/fellow writer and professor comes to stay with his wife who makes their envy of Russo's success very clear and very uncomfortalbleThese were my favorites, but all the stories are great, all feature the same type of Russo character that he is so expert at in developing. A very good read
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Reviews
Emily
Russo's collection of short stories began with something akin to a bad first impression. I wrote my many outbursts in the margin like, "Did he really write this??" because I was shocked that the same writer who wrote EMPIRE FALLS wrote sentences like," The woman in question had closed her eyes and reclined her head over the back of the seat so that her smooth throat was exposed to the weakening September sun." Which to me, though I LOVE description, seems way too much of nothing. There were parts of the beginning stories where I got this eerie feeling that he was describing himself, and his wrongdoings, although, I know nothing of him and have no proof. Like the reoccurrence of cheating on one's spouse within the first few stories. Mainly because the cheating and those being cheated on were hyped up and almost too perfect, too fabricated.But then I read on, because the plots were indeed interesting. And after the first two stories I began to get sucked in, but then was left sort of disappointed because some of the stories' conflicts were WAY too similar. Like I said, his collection started off with a bad first impression, but ended up having a few beautiful surprises mixed in between. Of the good stories I left feeling inspired even envious. Overall, I enjoyed reading the book, even if the author does give off an air of being a straying, shallow jerk.And once again:Favorite Story-- Joy RideLeast Favorite-- Whichever story was about the old couple on that island, Monhegan Light?
Catherine
I started to read this book and thought, why does anyone write short stories? why not write a whole novel? Isn't this copping out? And then, in the penultimate story of the book, a character chastises another - isn't writing short stories just cowardice? Isn't it copping out?I laughed, and enjoyed the dialogue, and realized how utterly playful these short stories were, not only because they played with me.Russo's a wonderful wordsmith, and he captures characters and places with what appears to be incredible ease. (I'm sure it's actually a long and diffcult process.) The stories share an interest in writing - someone's always writing something, or a writer, or an ex-writer, or a critic of writers - but the stories had great enough variation within them that they didn't feel overly autobiographical. Each story has a different take on love, also - marriages gone sour, marriages made in haste, marriages that are whole and solid and warm, marriages made to God - and since many of the couples in the book are of an age, it makes for a set of fascinating comparisons as a whole.My favorite story was, I think, the last one, told from the perspective of a ten-year-old boy. Russo gets inside his head so thoroughly, describes a ten-year-old's philosophy of life so well, that I was absolutely enchanted. I could read that story over and over and over again, and still love as well as I did the first time, I think.
Ariel
Wham Bam, another book read in two days. I must say this reading pace is quite satisfying. The book, eh. The first (title story) and last story were both unique and engaging. In between those the stories all seemed to be about middle aged professors and islands. Most of these men don't relate to the women they are with and almost all of them have some scene that involves the male lead character being shocked or worried about their female companion taking off their clothes in public. This was an odd mantra to have repeated over and over and in the end it's quite irritating. She can take her clothes off if she wants to is all I kept thinking.
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