The Woman Who Cut Off Her Leg at the Maidstone Club and Other Stories

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9780312264130: The Woman Who Cut Off Her Leg at the Maidstone Club and Other Stories
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In her debut collection, Julia Slavin conjures a world that is both familiar and limitless, where amidst our ordinary lives the banal and the unimaginable brush up against one another with startling grace and ease. From a lovelorn woman who sprouts teeth all over her body, to a man who literally falls to pieces, The Woman Who Cut Off Her Leg at the Maidstone Club is an inspiring work of the imagination, and a satiric and piercing look at the soul.

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Review:

Julia Slavin likes to start off her stories with wayward body parts. "I once loved a woman who grew teeth all over her body," begins "Dentaphilia." Things are no more comfortable in "He Came Apart": "His hair comes out in my hands." And the title story kicks off, "Word spread down East Beach that a woman had cut off her foot in front of the Maidstone Club." Slavin's people dwell in the suburbs, midway between city and country, realism and surrealism. In the title story, her cast of characters, sprouting names like Pasty Plugh and Skimpy Pimscott, watches with well-bred lack of interest as Maisie Haselkorn saws away. Slavin creates a sharp little drama here, achieving the absurdity that is her quarry.

But it is the stories that demonstrate less showmanship and more sensitivity that make Slavin a writer to watch. "Painting House" finds two hormone-addled step-siblings minding the house while their parents are away. The boy makes a gift of a pretty dress to the tough-talking girl narrator, and Slavin gets just right the way a teenage girl's sexuality is channeled through her clothing: "I felt the dress grazing the back of my thighs, the material clinging to my waist." The dress is not like a lover; it is a lover. "Pudding" mixes satire and realism to fine effect, limning the travails of that family we all know--the one that can't bear to impose rules and so lives in chaos, represented here by a glob of dessert that resides for months on the kitchen floor. "The top of the pudding is smooth and cool like marble, something children love to touch." When she goes for spectacular effects, Slavin is good. But when she goes quiet, she's even better. --Claire Dederer

About the Author:

Julia Slavin's stories have won a Pushcart Prize and GQ's coveted Frederick Exley Fiction Competition. She worked for a decade as an ABC-TV producer in New York before moving to Washington, D.C., where she lives with her husband. She is currently at work on a novel.

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