Angels Go Naked: A Novel in Stories

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9781582436319: Angels Go Naked: A Novel in Stories
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Margaret Rose is a talented but nervous violinist given to bouts of stage fright and unrequited love; Webster Hale is a biologist who, on principle, refuses to kill animals in order to study them. In Angels Go Naked, a novel told in stories, Cornelia Nixon, a writer whose gift is apparent on every page, follows this vexed love story and the collision course they call their life together.

Their connection is never in doubt, though Webster is appalled by the urban underbelly of Chicago, which Margy calls home. He refuses to have children because the earth is overrun with humans, and Margy feels compelled to expiate an early abortion by having a live child. Webster’s gloomy view of global disaster threatens to triumph in the final story, as their close friend Calvin is dying of AIDS beside a moribund Lake Michigan. Meanwhile, the one child Webster has agreed to conceive appears destined for stillbirth because Margy herself was poisoned as a fetus by misguided medical intervention.

At the end of this sad, funny, moving tale, there may be hope, as life and love prove unexpectedly resilient, even in the twenty-first century.

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About the Author:

Cornelia Nixon lives in Berkeley, California. Two of the stories in this book received O. Henry Awards (one of them a first prize) and one was awarded a Pushcart Prize.

From Kirkus Reviews:

In this elegant but disconcertingly episodic novel, a husband pessimistic about Earth's future resists his wife's pleas to commit to their union by having children. As in her first book, Now You See It (1991), Nixon examines her protagonists lives in a sequence of interrelated stories that cumulatively should compose a novel. The result, though, is an awkward hybrid that never fully illuminates the marriage of violinist Margy and microbiologist Webster. Individual chapters are too self-contained to satisfactorily cohere into a full-length whole. Characters appear once, like the school friends in Women Come and Go, then never return. The narrative hopscotches through the years ahead, leaving long stretches of time unaccounted for. In college, Margy sleeps with WASP Henry, but he breaks it off when she learns shes pregnant, and in A Solo Performance, Margy has an abortion. Cut to Season of Sensuality in Venice, where Margy is vacationing with a fellow member of the Chicago Symphony, trying to get over an affair with an abusive pianist. Next, in After the Beep, she spends a summer house-sitting in Bolinas, a coastal village in California where she meets Webster, who feels so passionately about Native Americans, the environment, and Caucasians depredations that he has taken an Indian name and given up ``white man's time, the telephone and news, hamburgers and pizza, everything that came in plastic.'' As he works on his dissertation, the two fall in love and marry; Webster moves to Chicago. Married life brings its usual conflicts: Webster finds Margy extravagant and wasteful, while she is often irked by his fanaticism (he wont even kill a housefly). But as Margy's biological clock ticks away, the biggest point of contention becomes Webster's refusal to have children. An ambitious portrait of a bittersweet contemporary marriage with a particularly contemporary problem, but the impact, unfortunately, is blunted by the elliptical format. -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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