How She Knows What She Knows About Yo-Yos: Stories

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9781889330372: How She Knows What She Knows About Yo-Yos: Stories
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In these five luxuriant short stories, the acclaimed author of Come and Go, Molly Snow searches out the complex truth of critical moments in the lives of five women.

The central figures in these stories range in age from a young single ESL teacher in "Todo el Mundo"-Leila, bent on resisting the advances of a fast party set of middle-aged mainland married couples in Puerto Rico-to Rosa of "Banana Boats," a Chicago Czech overheard in the midst of her reflections on a longtime marriage to a vain man of genteel Southern airs and irremediable fakery.

Like the human predicaments delineated in them, the settings of the five stories are memorably rendered. In the title story, Undella defies Baptist opinion in Ellenberg, Kentucky, when she takes up with a yo-yo salesman, an archetypal trickster who both snares and liberates her. In "The World's Room," trekking to a prehistoric hill-fort and along the stony beach of southern England in winter, Gin, a vulnerable young American poet, puzzles her way through two romantic involvements to accept the reality of her own history. Taylor-Hall devotes herself not only to satisfying the reader's hunger for story-for just the right action, gesture, event, saying-but also to the reader's pleasure in interior moments, in idiosyncratic monologue and unforgettable voices.

In portraying women of intelligence and moxie, Taylor-Hall's authorial wit is almost always perched close upon the verge of hilarity. With a wonderfully keen eye and a shrewd ear, Taylor-Hall addresses the strait gate of women's choices, giving a wise, sorrowful, and deeply funny cost-benefit analysis of erotic experience and attachments.

Mary Ann Taylor Hall's short fiction has appeared in The Sewanee Review, The Colorado Quarterly, The Kenyon Review, The Paris Review, The Florida Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Shenandoah, and Ploughshares. It has won a PEN/Syndicated Fiction Award and has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Kentucky Arts Council. Her first novel, Come and Go, Molly Snow, was published in February 1995. Hall lives on a farm on the county line between Harrison and Scott C

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"Everybody out here knew that she was a woman without a man," Jana, the narrator of "Advanced Beginners" realizes about her small farming community, then admits: "it was only natural that they should wonder why--she wondered why herself." The protagonists in Mary Ann Taylor-Hall's How She Knows What She Knows About Yo-Yos are all women without men, yet one would never mistake any of them for Bridget Jones. In fact--most pleasant of surprises--these stories aren't really about men at all: they're about place, and the complex web of personal history that binds people to it. Whether her fiction is set in Kentucky or the Caribbean, Chicago or England, Taylor-Hall's women enact a complex dance of movement and stasis, lighting out for the territory or setting down roots. Alone but not lonely, they crave sex but not necessarily companionship, a piece of earth to call home but not necessarily domesticity.

In the delightful title story, a young woman raised as a fundamentalist stretches her wings in the wake of her mother's death. Unfortunately, the only way she can think to rebel is by building a stone wall between her property and the Baptist church. To convince her otherwise, it takes an itinerant yo-yo salesman (would that such a creature actually existed!), some dancing, candlelight, and a painful--and somewhat belated--loss of innocence. "Banana Boats" follows an elderly first-generation American as she grows forgetful, mourns her Chicago girlhood, and tends her ailing husband with his dreams and lies about distant lands. ("Her faraway place had always been a man," she remembers.) Other stories follow a writer's love affair with a remote English village and a young woman's quixotic efforts to become a farmer, leaving her "sometime lover and spiritual advisor" behind in town. Throughout, Taylor-Hall has such a lovely, light touch with character and scene that it's easy to forget how perceptive she is about women's lives. Read these stories once for enjoyment, then once again to sound their considerable depths. --Chloe Byrne

From the Publisher:

How She Knows What She Knows About Yo-Yos is the twenty-fifth title to be published by Sarabande Books, a nonprofit literary press headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. Since the 1996 debut of the press, Sarabande Books titles have received positive review attention from nationally distinguished media including The New York Times Book Review, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, American Book Review, Small Press, The Nation, and Library Journal.

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