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Oh!

A Novel

List Price: $16.95

ON SALE: February 12, 2019 | Paperback | 5 x 8, 208 pages | ISBN 9781640090910
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“At first, Oh! seems a satire, a sitcom stripped of its sentiment and foolishness. But it is far more. Mary Robison is trying to show us how the the incredibly complicated dance of family life works.” —The New Yorker

Those who know Mary Robison’s work will not be surprised that her first novel leaps from one prodigal moment to the next, for as Kenneth Burke has said of this startling writer, “Robison outguesses the shrewdest reader—even several times on a single page.”

In Oh!, these marvels have their source in a summer’s romp with a madcap Midwestern family flourishing under the eccentric protection of a father like no other. He is the wifeless Mr. Cleveland, now an enthusiast at gardening and insobriety since passing from active service as ruler of his soda-pop and miniature golf domain.

Cleveland’s is the contented life of the man who knows who he is. The same might be said for his motherless children, Mo and Howdy, though they are scarcely children still. The loutish, loafing Mo is, in fact, a young single mother to little Violet.

Like the rest of the Clevelands, Violet is nobody’s fool. For in all their seeming misadventures, the Clevelands are guided by the reliable intelligence of the heart. Beneath the pastel frames of their lives, the Clevelands have modeled a design for living with the unlucky nature of things, a way of being happy in the world.

MARY ROBISON was born in Washington, D.C. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, an O. Henry Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction. She is the author of four collections of stories and four novels. She lives in Gainesville, Florida.

Praise

Praise for Oh!

Recipient of the 2018 Arts and Letters Award in Literature

“Oh! I loved Oh! It’s hilarious. Maybe it’s brilliant. In any case, it will be one of the best funny books of 1981, and it’s serious.” —Boston Globe

“At first, Oh! seems a satire, a sitcom stripped of its sentiment and foolishness. But it is far more. Mary Robison is trying to show us how the the incredibly complicated dance of family life works, how it balances love and hate, respect and contempt, humor and self-righteousness, wisdom and foolishness.” —The New Yorker

“The Wonder of the novel is its dialogue—rich, sharp, untiring in its energy and quite unlike anyone else’s. . . . They are a resilient bunch, these Clevelands, and by the end of the books we are no longer surprised that they are still together. Once drawn into the stream of their talk, we can no more escape than they can.” —Larry McMurtry, The Washington Star

Praise for One D.O.A., One On The Way

“A riveting read.” —O, the Oprah Magazine

“. . . One D.O.A., One on the Way has all the razored style and zigzag tone one expects, but also a new connection to a bigger world, in which all of our circumstances are as desperate and hilarious as her characters’ . . . Mary Robison’s work has always felt like a glorious amenity, but One D.O.A., One on the Way is a powerful necessity.” —The New York Times

“Robison could work for a food or drug packager: she squeezes dire warnings into tiny spaces . . . [One D.O.A., One on the Way] can be read in half an afternoon, leaving plenty of room for afterthoughts about Robison’s funny and heartbreaking conversations.” —The New Yorker

“With a laconic voice and a despairing sense of humor, film location scout Eve Broussard narrates award-winning Robison’s grim yet witty novella about the dissolution of a family and a city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina . . . Robison’s narrative is jumpy but effective, interspersed with and informed by startling statistics.” —Publishers Weekly

“[Robison is] a smart, brittle novelist… [capturing] in swift, acute sentences the comic hostilities of in-law relations, or the difficulties of caring for the chronically ill… With her lists, one-liners, and bullet points, she is a kind of bard of America’s most popular suburban affliction, attention deficit disorder.” —Times Literary Supplement

“Mary Robison is a woman of few words. But what powerful words they are . . . Pushcart Prize and O. Henry Award-winner Robison’s searing novella is rendered in edgy vignettes . . . Robison is a master at delivering dark scenarios with mordant wit. One D.O.A., One on the Way is an impressive addition to her ouvre, by turns horrifying, comic, shocking, and wise.” —The San Diego Union-Tribune

“Robison’s spare, hilarious dialogue and collection of fragmented images, moments and excerpts call on readers to fill in blanks and to organize what looks at first glance like chaos glimpsed from a moving car . . . a vivid, witty ride.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Robison eloquently reveals the dissolution of a family . . . The southern novel’s bread and butter are rich descriptions, thick as humidity and Spanish moss.” —Booklist

Praise for Tell Me:Thirty Stories

“Robison’s talent for observation makes for microscopic wonders of details: the menu items at a cheap diner in Providence, R.I.; the furnishings of a Laundromat, and the text of gift-wrap stickers (“Grin and Ignore It,” “Things Are Getting Worse—Send Chocolate!“), in small-town Ohio.” —Chicago Tribune

“Mary Robison’s stories are infused with a quiet menace. The trick of her writing is the way she uses the reader’s own expectations to create that sense of unease. Her stories—published over the years in The New Yorkerand now collected in Tell Me—are made of handfuls of moments, put together without benefit of the usual revelatory short story structure… Robison is the rare minimalist whose bare-bones fiction is actually a pleasure to read.” —Claire Dederer, author of Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses

“Thirty precision-built short stories old and new by a writer who extracts a maximum of meaning and feeling from a minimum of words make for a thrilling collection. Robison’s stories… come at the reader from oblique angles, skittering like a leaf in the wind until, suddenly, everything begins to make quirky but gratifying sense. A deft conjurer of place, Robison is most intrigued with the telegraphic dialogue with which annoyed but loving family members communicate with each other and with the oddball configurations the concept of family can yield. Like Ann Beattie, Robison neatly exposes the pathos beneath the placid veneer of middle-class life, the seeds of chaos in seemingly orderly existences, and finds sweet humor and bemused hope in our stubborn quest for security, even happiness.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist

“Thirty brief, sharply delineated short stories written over three decades by Robison chronicle emotional dislocation with witty dispassion… Nothing is superfluous, and in the spare sadness of Robison’s prose entire lives are presented.” —Publishers Weekly

Praise for Why Did I Ever

Winner of the LA Times Book Prize for Fiction, 2001

“Mary Robison, almost as an afterthought, has created a novel that speaks volumes about life in Los Angeles: its stopping and starting, its rushing and emoting, its whimsy and its suspicious, subversive humor…” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Tense, moving, and hilarious…[a] dark jewel of a novel.” —Francine Prose, O: The Oprah Magazine

“An epic portrayed in miniature, a cry of cosmic pain in a voice of absurdist humor, an earnest insistence on maternal love in the language of skepticism and family dysfunction. It’s an amazing little book: all of Robison’s minimalist genius is at work here.” —Cathleen Schine, New York Times Book Review

“I wish to hell I could write prose like this…The joy in this novel is for the reader, not the characters. Read it.” —David Gates, Newsweek

“The author, who is known as a minimalist, here creates a narrative out of fragmented paragraphs, and the book works best when she strips Money’s most explicit fears away. A simple sentence fragment—’Canoe, moon, ukelele’—seems a close to perfect expression of lost beauty.” —The New Yorker

“Robison’s characters are vivid, colorful, and likable, and their story is absorbing. Her humorous presentation does not cheapen the tragic content of her novel but realistically portrays one method of survival. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal

“Robison’s incandescent soliloquy on the absurdity of existence hones fiction to a new and exhilarating measure of sharpness.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist

“[A] tour de force of minimalist yet mind-expanding prose… [Robison] makes you think—hard—about life’s unavoidable travails, while making it impossible for you to suppress a smile.” —Lisa Shea, Elle

“What makes Money memorable, and Mary Robison essential, is that her fundamental bearings are the right ones. Love and compassion are her nature, and they suffuse the page whenever she is talking about her children, even the exasperating daughter.” —Richard Dyer, Boston Globe

Why Did I Ever is a rarity: an experimental novel that’s both engaging and wholly successful.” —Time Out New York

“Robison… possesses a precocious alertness to the incongruities of life…. [A]t the center is a disciplined and clear-headed novel full of humor and an occasional glimmer of optimism.” —Rob Stout, The Charlotte Observer

“I wish to live in [Money’s] mind for a while because it’s perilously funny pratfalls make me want to laugh so badly that I cannot laugh at all.” —Molly McQuade, Newsday

“At once heartwrenching and bitterly comical… a stunning work of unbridled honesty.” —The Village Voice

“It is a rare novel that can manage to convey the coexistence of tragedy and pleasure so immediately without lessening the reader’s enjoyment of either.” —The New Leader

“While Money is the definition of sad insanity, Robison’s voice is witty and cutting, albeit undeniably weird…. It’s more than worth the ride.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Robison’s fiercely offhand banter cuts through any possible cavity of bullshit… Each passage assumes the feel of veracity of idea over unnecessary execution, as if we are being shown the tools that build a universe rather than the universe itself… Everything is treasure. And by the sheer mass of its weight in such small space, the reader is forced to slow down, to hear the lines again inside her head instead of only on the page, and to parse what those lines might be trying to communicate, if anything.” —Blake Butler, Vice

“Mary Robison is, and always has been, a wonderful writer. Why Did I Ever is startling, deft, extremely attractive, and smart—very smart—in its midnight vision of the lived life.” —Richard Ford, author of Independence Day

“Mary Robison has done for the Hollywood culture of our time what Joan Didion did thirty years ago. Spare and ruthless, precisely chiseled, Why Did I Ever is the Play It As It Lays of the twenty-first century.” —Madison Smart Bell, author of All Souls’ Rising

“Mary Robison’s stunned and plunging characters are the truth. This is pure, grim poetry.” —Barry Hannah, author of High Lonesome

“Deeply strange, hilarious, heartbreaking, and just stupidly great…. Robison is something approaching brilliant, and Why Did I Ever is hard-bound proof.” —Darcy Cosper, author of Wedding Season

Praise for Subtraction

“Robison raises sitcom wit to the level of real emotional situations, real comedy and real art.” —The Chicago Tribune

“In Subtraction Mary Robison creates a poignant, forceful tale of lovers in limbo. Her writing is rich with detail, lean with implication. When the tedium, the drudgery, the ephemera are sifted out, we’re left with the intense. Each word pulls its weight. Nothing is wasted.” —The Millions

“Robison delivers a sparkling valentine about a Harvard poetess and her great love for a drunken Dean Moriarty type, at his best when he’s on the road . . . A funny, beautifully written novel, dry and bubbly as good champagne.” —Kirkus Reviews

“There isn’t a writer working today who sees the world, or hears it, or inhabits it more fearlessly than Mary Robison. Reading Subtraction is falling in love with her—her voice, her verbs, the peculiar squinted view she has. This is the book we all wanted to write. It’s as smart as snakes. It’s a work of generosity and genius, of perfect timing and pitch, of immense sadness, and singular, driving hope. I can scarcely imagine anyone writing a novel half as stunning anytime soon.” —Frederick Barthelme, author of There Must Be Some Mistake

Praise for An Amateur’s Guide to the Night

“The writing is cool and detached, controlling a breathtaking compassion. Her subjects and characters, mostly family members, are right out of life. An Amateur’s Guide to the Night continues Robison’s practice of penetrating the heart. There is not one story in this collection that does not evoke an emotional response. . . It’s an intimate, enriching experience.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“These thirteen stories are glimpses from a moving train into lit parlors, dinettes, bedrooms and dens. Though the rider sees only fragments, he can intuit essentials from posture, from motion, and see the space that characters inhabit. Think of Robison as the engineer, blowing the whistle, calling the stops and starts; invisible when you want to ask her why we’re stalled here in the middle of nowhere, between stations, jobs, relationships and decisions. Like Ann Beattie, Robison shunts the reader off the mainline to a limbo where everyone waits for something to begin or end. As narrative, the stories are inconclusive; as commentaries on the way Americans live now, they’re absolute and final.” —Los Angeles Times

“It’s my hope that An Amateur’s Guide to the Night will win her the readership she deserves. No American short story writer speaks to our time more urgently or fondly than Robison.” —David Leavitt, Village Voice

“Mary Robison’s short stories are short, subtle, and substantial … Her ironic svise of detail bursts from every sentence.'” ––Vogue

“Hip, deadpan, it’s-cute-to-be-crazy stories from the author of Days and the novel Oh!—with vague grim undercurrents beneath the bright little pop-artish sketches of disaffected youngish people.” —Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Believe Them

“Sorrow and pain are underground messages in these finely made stories…Robison uses a minimalist discipline and barely ruffled surfaces, but her hidden pictures of childhood and other states of vulnerability can be boundless in their emotion.” —Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Robison’s methods allow the careful reader an honest perspective into lives usually dealt with either melodramatically or contemptuously by other authors.” —Larry McCaffery, The New York Times Book Review

Praise for Days

“There is an almost incredible purity of line and texture in these stories. Every phrase is lucid, every character comes alive, and every sentence suggests a calm, wise, heartbroken version of the world. Robison writes like an avenging angel, and I think she may be a genius.” —Richard Yates

“These are not stories so much as splinters of contemporary life, set under a microscope…there is humor here, as well as deadpan exactitude… Mary Robison’s style at its best is stripped, incisive, clear as a piece of glass held up the the light.” —Ann Tyler

Praise for Mary Robison

“There is much to be gained from her lean, deeply felt fiction. Bearing as her told the best ear for English since James, a sense of pacing that is nothing less than perfect, and an intensely accurate feel for American life.” —David Leavitt, author of The Two Hotel Francforts

“Robison has a poet’s eye for the unconscious surrealism of commercial America… And she has a playwright’s ear for American speech, the things one hears people say all the time but rarely sees written down.” —Katha Pollitt, The New York Times Book Review

“Mary Robison’s hard-edged, fine-tooled, enigmatic super realism is a joy.” —John Barth, author of Every Third Thought: A Novel in Five Seasons

“Robison is a master of line and texture who gets maximum information out of the glittering and intentionally deceptive surfaces of our image-dominated culture. Robison raises sitcom wit to the level of real emotional situations, real comedy as real art.” —Joseph Coates, Chicago Tribune

“There isn’t a writer working today who sees the works, or hears it, or tastes it, or inhabits it more fearlessly than Mary Robison.” —Frederick Barthelme, author of There Must Be Some Mistake

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