From one of our ablest chroniclers of marriage, middle age, and urban myth, a collection of stories that subverts the standard domestic drama with an outrageousness that mixes tragedy with black humor. In Referred Pain, Lynne Sharon Schwartz surpasses her reputation as a scrupulous stylist who writes with both passion and discipline. Here, as in her earlier collections, the stories, whether realistic or fanciful, are distinguished by their intensity and their impeccable attention to the nuances of language. Her characters confront inner demons, playing out fantasies they crave and dread. On the surface, they are living ordinary lives, but Schwartz reveals their subversions and perversions with wicked wit and psychological acuity. In the title novella, Koslowski, beset by a kind of survivor’s guilt, insists to the point of absurdity that his elaborate dental work is emblematic of his immigrant parents’ suffering in a German concentration camp and in the siege of Leningrad. In “Francesca,” a mild professor finds himself calmly contemplating incest. In “Hostages of Fortune,” a seemingly conventional couple live out an extended fantasy of raising two imaginary children. In “Sightings of Loretta,” a journalist realizes he has spent years pursuing a chimerical, unfulfilled romance, while oblivious to his own wife. Several of the stories take place in the surreal realm of fantasy itself. Schwartz, an award-winning writer, has been lauded for her precisely observed domestic dramas and comedies and described as having an anthropologist’s eye for her characters and their stories. This collection will give further resonance to her already distinguished literary reputation.
And Other Stories
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"After romping playfully in her most recent novel, In the Family Way, through relationships that are tangled enough for the next Woody Allen movie, Lynne Sharon Schwartz displays her serious side in this new collection of short fiction... Always an astute observer of family dynamics..." —New York Times
LYNNE SHARON SCHWARTZ is the author of nineteen books, including Leaving Brooklyn (nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award) and Rough Strife (nominated for the PEN/Hemingway First Novel Award). She has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Foundation for the Arts. She lives in New York City.
“After romping playfully in her most recent novel, In the Family Way, through relationships that are tangled enough for the next Woody Allen movie, Lynne Sharon Schwartz displays her serious side in this new collection of short fiction. But just as the novel’s comedy was anchored by an underlying hint of melancholy, so the generally somber tone of Referred Pain: And Other Stories is lightened by flashes of dark humor… ”Referred Pain” is the most ambitious and complex statement of a theme that resonates throughout the collection: our need to find the sort of meaning that will keep our lives from becoming little more than aimless parades of incidents. Always an astute observer of family dynamics, Schwartz reminds us in some of these autumnal stories that marriages relying solely on children for that meaning rest on shaky ground.” —New York Times
“With echoes of Cheever, early Updike, even Shirley Jackson, Schwartz (In the Family Way, 1999, etc.) is master of stories that reflect an era’s uneasy psyche: sad yet wryly comic, told at a slight remove yet deeply moving.” —Kirkus
“Schwartz is the author of 14 works of fiction and nonfiction, but never before has she so fully disclosed both her incisive use of language and penetrating understanding of the human psyche as in this collection of eerie short stories. Life appears to be oppressively normal as Schwartz establishes typical domestic situations, but things quickly take a turn toward the weird as characters struggle against insidious forces that prevent them from doing what they need and want to do. As situations grow strange and characters strive to find explanations for the inexplicable, Schwartz enters Kafka’s nightmarish realm and crafts fables that reach archetypal depths.” —Booklist
“With precise economy, Schwartz makes her characters’ pain both familiar and felt.” —Publishers Weekly