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Touchy Subjects: Stories (2006)

Touchy Subjects: Stories (2006)

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3.49 of 5 Votes: 1
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0151013861 (ISBN13: 9780151013869)
houghton mifflin harcourt

About book Touchy Subjects: Stories (2006)

I hadn’t read any Donoghue, so thought a collection of short stories would be a good introduction and safer than investing in a novel (burned by Sarah Waters, I won’t assume a mainstream writer will necessarily be good).These are terrific. If there had been more lesbian stories, it would have gotten the full five stars. I was disappointed by that at first, so flipped through and read all the lesbian ones first. Charmed, I went back to read the rest and found no lack of interest. Even the ones with only a male character are delightful. Oh, and she breaks a “cardinal rule” by switching POVs—in a short story! This is a book to be examined by those who wish to write and write well. See, when you know what you are doing, you can break rules. In this case, she did it with one POV in roman and the other in italic. And here’s another thing she pulls off in the story—we know what each woman is thinking. Does that ruin the tension? No! A cover blurb from the New York Time Book Review claims her “greatest talent is for humor.” It is a subtle humor. I found myself smiling or chuckling often, but might not have characterized these as humor stories. But she can take the absurd and make it feel normal then take normal and point out its absurdities. There’s a funny one about a woman, traveling alone, on a cave tour in France with a group of “Specials” and the man who holds her hand. And another of a woman trying to get pregnant. Not the kind of stories that are meant to change your life, but maybe your perspective for a few minutes. And a good lesson for me, these stories really are short, 2,000-5,000 words. She packs in only the information you need, but everything you need. In most cases we know very little about the characters, yet these are fully fleshed stories. Oh, and “WritOr” is alone worth the full cover price! Consumed by debt while waiting for his Great Novel to make him rich, “the writer” takes a job as a writer in residence at a small community college. Week after week, he deals with the worst of the worst, unable to get through, slowly decomposing down to their level. Then he finds a true gem. Naturally it doesn’t go well. And since I’m obsessed with covers, I decided this one needed some examination. Two girls on a swing. It took a while before I noticed they are both wearing roller skates. OK, that’s odd. Then just now it occurred to me that one is looking right into the crotch of the other. Anyway, very highly recommended.

A collection of short stories from Emma Donoghue that I enjoyed. The nineteen stories are divided into five segments: Babies, Domesticity, Strangers, Desire and Death. Babies get the lions share of the proceedings, with six stories, followed by Death with four. My favorite segment, given my sometimes-morbidity, was Death. I enjoyed all stories within it, with Necessary Noise, a story of two young sisters faced with the prospect of their younger brother's overdose, being my favorite. My absolute favorite of the whole bunch was from the section Babies. Expecting is a hilarious story of a woman who accidentally finds herself in the maternal section starts lying to a solicitous old man about pregnancy. From this segment, I also liked The Man Who Wrote On Beaches, a poignant story of a born again Christian trying to conceive a baby with his unsaved 43 year old wife. Another one that I liked was The Welcome, about a woman's co-op and a woman who does not fit.There are two stories that deal with pets, both of which caught my attention. The Cost of Things, from Domesticity, deals with a couple who own a cat that suddenly falls sick. They're doing badly financially, and the cat needs extensive tests. One of them, the least practical of the two is all for it, and the other considers the cost of things. Do They Know It's Christmas? deals with a childless couple with three dogs, increasingly alienated by their family who cannot and will not understand why they care for the dogs as their offspring. I have the horrible feeling that this is exactly how my parents think of me and my cat. All stories in the collection deal with touchy subjects, embarrassing, awkward, at times unspeakable subjects. It's well done for the most part, but as in any collection, there are some that don't belong. Some are shoe-horned into fitting. This is the reason I only enjoyed it in parts, but it's still a collection worth checking out.

Do You like book Touchy Subjects: Stories (2006)?

This collection started off strong, for me. The delay in knowing what was happening in that first hotel room (between a woman and her friend's husband) intrigued me. The second story was less intriguing, but the awkardness of the situation (a woman mistakenly identified as pregnant) did make me squirm and want to yell at the main character. The last three stories, the Death section, I found my interest dwindling, but for the middle stories, I mostly came out in favor of Donaghue's voice and storytelling. Most of the Desire section was compelling, though if you are uncomfortable with homosexual sure won't like that section! I think I most enjoyed the first story, the Hands story taking place in the cave tour, and WritOr. No, there's not a big wrap up to each story, no morals...just vignettes of life in some defining or sensitive moments. I loved Room. I like short stories. So this one was right in my wheelhouse.
—Jill Furedy

This is a 3.5 from me.I like to inhabit the worlds that Donoghue creates in her stories. You generally know how the stories will wind up fairly early on, but that is not the point. What is far more interesting are the set-ups for each little world. Writing this a month and a half after reading the book, I would say the stories that really stick out in my head are "The Man Who Wrote on Beaches," "The Sanctuary of Hands," and "Speaking in Tongues."In fact, I think "Speaking in Tongues" may be the best story in the whole collection. I made my husband read that one right after I finished.I will happily inhabit Donoghue's worlds any time.

This book is made up of short stories about ordinary people caught in unexpected situations and how they react to them. Filled with self-deprecating humour, the stories poke innocent fun at the cute and loveable characters who find themselves in helpless circumstances and awkwardly fumble to cope with or escape their predicaments.For example, in ‘expecting’, a stranger misheard that a woman is pregnant. In that fleeting moment, the woman thinks it is not necessary to correct the perception of someone whom she’s not likely to meet again. When she repeatedly runs into the same man, she finds it harder and harder to clear up the misunderstanding, and ends up having to enter into a charade about her condition.In ‘good deed’, a man accidentally notices a homeless man lying injured on the street, stops to check on him, and is unable to bring himself to walk away even though his logical mind regrets his stopping. I love the way his self-consciousness is brought to light through little details like the man placing his coat on the homeless man, then wanting to take it back when he himself feels ill, but does not dare to do so for fear that passersby would think he is stealing from the homeless.In ‘WritOr’, a small-time writer takes on a job as writer-in-residence at an inconsequential college. He meets a gamut of aspiring writers who seem to lack in equal measures self-awareness and talent. In response to one of his would-bes saying “No matter how many people have told me I’m an amazingly talented person, I can’t quite believe it.”, “The writer nodded, unable to believe it either.” Classic!The magic of these stories is that they describe very normal, average Joe sort of behaviour, and thus sound so honest and believable. It makes me laugh at the characters, while half aware that I’m also laughing at myself. The stories are so successful that I wonder if Donoghue has lived her whole life in a state of perpetual awkwardness and embarrassment, or if she had simply made it a point of collecting interesting dinner party anecdotes!
—Pixie Dust

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