Patricia Lear - Eight short stories that strain after the colloquial in familiar ways: occasional sparkle and one gem in a mostly uninspired debut. Lear has it down pat: the neo-literary non-literary voice with its awkward syntax, likes, you knows, the sudden unmoored entry into stories, and narrators who tell their lives flat out






























Patricia Lear, Stardust, 7-Eleven, Route 57, A&W, and So Forth, BookSurge Publishing, 2008.

The New York Times Book Review calls "After Memphis", one of the stories in this debut collection, "Surely one of the finest American stories ever written." Nothing wrong with reading a writer. But how much better to her a storyteller. Which is all Patricia Lear asks of you, that you open her book and listen to her voice in the very manner you would hear it were she sitting across from you in such close reach that she could tap your knee for emphasis. These are the kinds of tales Patricia Lear wants to tell you--an assortment of confidences and remembrances, make-do ways of commemorating ordinary life for its extraordinary visions and lessons.

Patricia Lear is a wonderful writer. She is also a wonderful storyteller. When you begin to read these stories in this collection, you will think you are sitting across from her, cozied up someplace, listening to her tell you story after story in a way that seems as if she will die if you don't listen, for they are that important. This assortment of confidences and remembrances and make-do ways of commemorating ordinary life for its extraordinary visions and lessons, rush on with a charm and invention entirely their own. As Michiko Kakutani said in the New York Times, " it's clear from 'Stardust, 7-Eleven' that Ms. Lear knows how to dazzle the reader with words. She knows how to make her prose spin, dance and loop back on itself, like an ice skater executing impossible moves."

Lear's lyrical first book, a collection of eight stories, transports readers to languorous Southern towns where families find air-conditioned comfort at the local Dairy Queen and the mail's daily arrival is viewed as an event. The descriptions here are remarkably synesthetic: we seem surrounded by the thick air of a motel room, where a vacationing group bickers and eats greasy fried chicken; we are immersed in summer sun on a lawn where a man and his pack of hyperactive dogs congregate; we feel the humid air and the coolness of ice cream while sluggishly lounging in a living room. Throughout, there is a sense of time relentlessly oozing by, of kids growing up and of individuals adjusting to adversity. Healthy people frequently witness or experience the fragility of the infirm; for instance, in "Ironman," an athletic woman sustains an injury that tempts her to relinquish goals and surrender to a drab life with her estranged husband, while in "Graceland" a dissatisfied city dweller fearfully suspects her own life might not improve with either time or experience after visiting a terminally ill, elderly friend. Mortality, boredom and change are explored in a collection whose leisurely pace contrasts with its characters' desperation. - Publishers Weekly

Eight short stories that strain after the colloquial in familiar ways: occasional sparkle and one gem in a mostly uninspired debut. Lear has it down pat: the neo-literary non-literary voice with its awkward syntax, likes, you knows, the sudden unmoored entry into stories, and narrators who tell their lives flat out (``How it usually goes in the mornings is...'') with cute assessments (``The way we are is a couple....''; ``Boredom is what I tell myself I feel''). In the novella-length ``Solace'' (which provides the collection's title: Stardust, 7-Eleven, etc., being the names of the protagonist's dogs), musician C.W. tries to live out a beer- commercial-inspired vision, taking his aspiring trumpeter son and two sexy divorc‚es on a weekend gig; the son--resentful of losing practice time--turns hostile while the women--left in front of the hotel TV with nothing to do--soon, like the reader, grow bored. Characters, dropped into situations touching on life and earth, remain essentially unchanged. In ``After Memphis,'' the lively responses of southern children moving to Yankeeland and a plot involving snakes get lost as the story goes on too long. Only ``Angels''--about the funny, tender but ephemeral relationship between a woman who's recently had a mastectomy and the actor working briefly as her handyman--manages to be contemporary, quirky, and moving. Lear subordinates depth and plot to style, which might work if the style were not by now so familiar. - Kirkus Reviews 

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