Large Animals in Everyday Life: Stories

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9780820317946: Large Animals in Everyday Life: Stories

The eleven stories in Wendy Brenner's debut story collection concern people who are alone or feel themselves to be alone: survivors negotiating between logic and faith who look for mysterious messages and connections in everyday life, those sudden transformations and small miracles that occur in mundane, even absurd settings.

Brenner's stories range in setting from the rural and southern (a rotating country music bar, a dog track/jai alai compound, a grocery store, a natural cold springs sinkhole) to the urban and high-tech (absurdly bureaucratic companies and academic departments and a food irradiation plant). Often young and tough women seeking to hone their survival sensibilities, Brenner's characters are a mix of the everyday and the fantastic: frustrated secretaries and scientists, a young supermodel, precocious children, fierce plumbers and mechanics, a psychic grandmother, an unhappy lottery winner, a desperate grocery-store mascot in an animal suit. And then there are the animals―real ones of all kinds who turn up at unlikely moments and often seem to be trying to help.

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About the Author:

Wendy Brenner is the author of the short story collection "Phone Calls from the Dead." Her stories and essays have appeared in "Seventeen," "Allure," "Oxford American," "Best American Magazine Writing," and other publications. She teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

From Kirkus Reviews:

The latest Flannery O'Connor Award winner offers a first volume of 11 stories (most originally published in literary reviews) featuring odd young women and men dealing with loss, failed relationships, and the difficulties of adulthood. Brenner's female slackers don't cultivate their eccentricities; they're just ill at ease in the ordinary world and often find themselves attracted to men of dubious charms. The narrator of ``Round Bar,'' a lover of men and animals, follows her married boyfriend from a bar in Florida where he performs back to his native Nashville, where she waits in a hotel to spend fugitive moments with him. The young woman of ``A Little Something'' falls for an older man with a really good line, one smoothly suggesting a sense of the miraculous. The narrator of ``Easy'' finally bails out of a relation with a violent bully. Lack of ambition plagues Brenner's twentysomething young women: The typist in ``Undisclosed Location'' feels extra-worthless when the fat slob down the hall scores big in the state lottery. A drab secretary in ``Guest Speaker'' invents a new self to present to a visiting speaker whom she must chauffeur from the airport. And in ``I Am the Bear,'' a young woman who hands out ice cream samples in a supermarket while wearing a bear costume loses her job by offending a local celebrity. Brenner's hapless protagonists struggle against their own fears--of wildness, of passion, of danger, and of recklessness. The men in these tales are equally awkward and uncertain: The grad student in ``The Oysters,'' working on a project in Agricultural Science, is frustrated in his love for his married prof and begins to feel like the oysters he's studying. The college-educated waiter in ``The Reverse Phone Book'' experiences so deep a ``chronic unease with the normal pace and pitch of the world'' that people assume he's retarded. Quirky, challenging tales and an impressive debut. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Brenner, Wendy
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