Final Vinyl Days: And Other Stories

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9781565122048: Final Vinyl Days: And Other Stories

When Jill McCorkle feels a short story coming on, she goes right ahead and "wastes" wonderful ideas instead of hoarding them for a novel. The result is another extraordinary collection of stories and characters. In "It's a Funeral! RSVP," the storyteller is a woman who takes up self-styled "careers" that suit her circumstances. Now she's stumbled onto one that's so successful that she just can't quit. It's planning funerals, what she calls Going Out Parties, in which the clients are the soon-to-be-deceased themselves. In "Life Prerecorded," perhaps McCorkle's finest short piece to date, the pregnant narrator finds the real meaning of new life by visiting with a very old neighbor who's waiting, too, for his own new life. In these and the rest of the nine stories, Jill McCorkle acts on her penchant for taming the outrageous, humanizing the forbidden, and grounding the hilarious.

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Review:

With titles such as "Dysfunction 101," "Your Husband Is Cheating on Us," and "It's a Funeral! RSVP," it's clear that when you open Jill McCorkle's Final Vinyl Days, you're not signing up for Remembrance of Things Past. Still, if Proust grew up in the newly air-conditioned South, listening to Marvin Gaye and sneaking contraband cigarettes in the local graveyard, who knows, he might have produced tales like these. Garrulous, earthy, and firmly grounded in the most mundane details of life, McCorkle's stories strain at the edges of their slight plots. The pleasure here lies mostly in listening to these voices run on--and they do run on, in monologues both withering and affectionate. "He was real handsome, when he was all cleaned up, but I couldn't stop thinking of his head as a maraca, like the ones I loved to shake in elementary school; he had little tiny specks of information rolling around in his head and making enough sound that he didn't seem like a zombie," one narrator recalls of an old boyfriend. McCorkle is a master of both the properly placed italic and the telling pop-culture detail; the mistress of "Your Husband Is Cheating on Us" announces, "I'm the test wife and he tries everything on me first, I mean everything. Remember when he got hooked on the massage oil that heats up with body temp? Now maybe you liked it, but I sure didn't. I got a rash, but of course, I have extremely sensitive skin and always have. I mean, I am Clinique all the way." Not all of these stories are funny--the divorced mother of "A Blinking, Spinning, Breathtaking World," for instance, runs on little more than fear and adrenaline--but even those that are have strong undercurrents of tragedy. The narrator of "Your Husband Is Cheating on Us" wryly trashes her own big "peasant" feet, tells the wife to make her husband behave, confesses her loneliness, then makes herself disappear: "But don't let him off easy. Pitch a blue blazing fit. Scream, curse, throw things. Let him have it, honey. Your husband is cheating on us. Let him have it. And when all is said and done, please just forget that I was ever here; that I ever walked the earth. After all, I'm Big Foot. Who knows if I even exist." Divorce, sibling rivalries, missing parents, and deathbed advice: only McCorkle could shine a light into these dark corners of the human heart with such good grace and wit. --Mary Park

From the Back Cover:


"This is fiction with a languid ease and assurance. . . . Formidable wit . . . Moments of true lyricism . . . Sheer McCorkle."
--The New York Times Book Review

"AMAZINGLY, McCORKLE IS ABLE TO MAKE YOU CHUCKLE EVEN AS SHE BREAKS YOUR HEART."
--People

"Whether she's telling the story of a woman who throws funerals for people before they're dead or of a music-store employee who can't reconcile himself to the fact that records are extinct, McCorkle manages to make the reader feel like an old friend sitting with her around the kitchen table gossiping about the neighbors. . . . [Her] stories plunge into her characters' souls and mine the truths about them they themselves can't admit and can't help revealing."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"IT'S PART OF McCORKLE'S GIFT AS A STORYTELLER HOW QUICKLY WE'RE DRAWN INTO THE WORLD OF HER CHARACTERS."
--Chicago Tribune

"You reap a great many voices in this small book: male and female, cynical and uplifting, innocent and sinner. And all of the voices in this short-story collection will make you feel--good and bad, happy and sad, blessed and bereaved--the full range of human emotion from a gamut of humankind."
--Southern Living

"ANOTHER HIT IN A PROLIFIC CAREER."
--Time Out New York

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