NY Times Sunday Book Review features Ploughshares Authors

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We had a nice little surprise last week when we opened up The New York Times Sunday Book Review: all three of the featured story collection authors are affiliated with Ploughshares!

Francine Prose reviewed Colm Toibin’s new collection, The Empty Family here. We’re proud to say that Toibin is our Spring 2011 guest editor and will be visiting us in Boston on April 7th.

From the review:

As its title suggests, there’s melancholy to spare in Colm Toibin’s new story collection, “The Empty Family.” Toibin, whose novels include “The Blackwater Lightship,” “The Master” and “Brooklyn,” doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff: the deaths of parents, the end of love, the point in life at which a person begins to suspect that everything interesting and exciting has already happened. Retrospect is a major player in these dramas; regret makes its entrance onstage, and a character relives the sort of experience recalled for the obvious reason that it was so painful.

The next featured review is Gryphon: New and Selected Stories by Charles Baxter, written by literary superstar Joyce Carol Oates (a recent Ploughshares contributor who might even hold the record for 12 pieces in 17 years). Charles Baxter‘s work has appeared in Ploughshares since 1994, and he guest-edited an issue in Fall 1999.

“Mr. Scary” is Baxter’s most recent contribution to Ploughshares. It was published in the Fall 2010 issue guest-edited by Jim Shepard. Here’s what JCO had to say about its appearance in Baxter’s collection:

“Mr. Scary,” one of the previously uncollected stories in this volume, is reminiscent of those savagely comic stories of Flannery O’Connor involving psychopathic juveniles. Here, an obese, thoroughly obnoxious 12-year-old with “a double chin, making him look like a preteen Rotarian,” takes up the issue of zombie Americans with gleeful malice: “Zombies like discount stores. . . . They eat plastic when they can’t get brains.” Along with zombies are “replicants,” “pods” and human “garbage.” One waits for this nasty child to erupt into violence — but Baxter’s stories are very different from O’Connor’s nakedly religious allegories, for they resolutely draw back from melodrama, or drama. They often end in a curious sort of unresolved vision as if, though nothing profound has happened, all that is going to plausibly happen has happened: in this case, the obnoxious boy is humiliated in a softball game when his grandmother, playing in the outfield, accidentally catches his fly ball “with perfect justice.”

Last, but certainly not least, is the review of Edith Pearlman‘s Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories, by Roxana Robinson. Pearlman wrote a charming essay for our Plan B feature in the Winter 2010-11 Terrance Hayes issue titled “Someday You’ll Find Me.” You can read it on our website here.

Here’s what Robinson had to say about Pearlman:

Why in the world had I never heard of Edith Pearlman? And why, if you hadn’t, hadn’t you? It certainly isn’t the fault of her writing, which is intelligent, perceptive, funny and quite beautiful, as demonstrated in “Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories.” In the world of literary fiction Pearlman is hardly unknown: she’s the author of three previous collections, “Vaquita,” “Love Among the Greats” and “How to Fall”; she has won several prizes; and her work has appeared repeatedly in “Best American Short Stories.” So she should be known all over the place.

Of course we agree!