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From the author of Superbad and Superworse, a new collection of stories about giving, wanting, and the wonders of love. A Circle Is a Compass and a Balloon Both is a collection of stories about love, the most elusive and problematic of all phenomena. With a mix of traditional, literary prose and bold some might even say irresponsible experimentation, Ben Greenman explores the ins and outs of modern romance. Expect tears, nudity, and recrimination. Both familiar in their humanness and wholly original, these imaginative stories take us all over the map in time, place, and circumstance. From the halfhearted summer affair between a part-time bartender and a married doctor in a Miami hotel to the cryptic pseudo-erotic love letters to a friend who is more than a friend, we experience the love of pop songs, the love of cohabitation in Chicago, and love that is so transporting it takes us to the moon literally.
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Ben Greenman is an editor at The New Yorker. His short fiction has appeared in the Paris Review, Zoetrope: All Story, McSweeney s, Opium Magazine, the Mississippi Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Brooklyn.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
From “Clutching and Glancing”
The next morning, I was straightening a small conference room off to the side of the lobby. My feet hurt, so I sat down and thought of Arthur Manley. Initially, I wasn’t thinking about him as much as I was thinking about my life, and how the series of affairs that had punctuated my winter were beginning to wear on me. It wasn’t that I minded the rendezvous–I liked the excitement of them, the idea that something could still take my breath away–but I wondered more and more about whether I could spend more time with a man, whether I could be a girlfriend or even a wife. The furthest I had gotten in my own mind was mistress, an arrangement that seemed especially promising to me. I would see the man every week or so, we would share a bottle of champagne and a nice dinner, maybe catch a movie afterward, and then he would touch me everywhere. Then one of us would make a profession of love, and the other would protest, and the two of us would fall asleep together. He would love me, but he wouldn’t be able to detach himself from his life. I would see the pain etched into his face. It would deepen our time together, make it resonate with romantic impossibility. I didn’t have that in college, or in my two fruitless years of graduate school. I was the kind of girl who slept with her professors, or picked guys up at parties. I wasn’t ashamed of it. It was sex. We went into a room and we made each other feel good. That was that. Still, the notion of being loved by a man, truly loved, so much so that it threatened to tear apart the fabric of his life, was a beautiful thing. I stood back up. My feet didn’t hurt nearly as much, even after I cleaned for a while.
Later that week, I bumped into Arthur Manley as he entered the main lobby, wearing the same slate-gray suit and walking the same uneven walk. This time he came up and asked me if I would have a drink with him. “Sure,” I said. We sat in a back corner of the upstairs bar, and I asked him questions about his job, and he asked me questions about mine. Not the hotel job, I mean, but my other job, the one where I was a struggling sculptor who had just completed a prestigious but not particularly lucrative commission for a Philadelphia public park. He was twenty-nine, three years older than me, and he lived in New York, where he was a first-year surgical resident at Columbia University Medical Center. He didn’t say anything about a wife, and I didn’t ask.
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