Charity: Stories

Richard, Mark

Published by Nan A. Talese / Doubleday, 1998
ISBN 10: 0385425627 / ISBN 13: 9780385425629
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Slight rubbing to jacket; slight vertical crease to front free endpaper at top edge; else a nearly new copy as issued. [10], 147, [2] pages. Author's third book and second collection of short fiction; contains 10 short stories in all (including the popular "The Birds for Christmas"). Signed by Richard in black ink on title page (beneath printed name). Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" Tall. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: With Charity, Mark Richard again secures the distinction of poet laureate of the orphaned poor, the broken, the deceived, and the unrelieved. In stylistic brilliance, he renders their conditions with grace and compassion, and redeems and transports their tragedy with wicked humor.

In the much-anthologized "The Birds for Christmas," two hospitalized boys beg a night nurse to let them watch Hitchcock's classic thriller film on television, believing it will relieve their Yuletide loneliness. "Gentleman's Agreement" is a classic father-son story of fear and the violence of love. In "Memorial Day," a bayou boy learns the lessons of living from Death himself, a fortune cookie-eating phantom who claims to be "a people person." From charity ward to outrageous beach bungalow, Richard visits the overlooked corners of America, making them unforgettably visible.

Richard has been rightly compared to Faulkner for his language and to Flannery O'Connor for his stark moral vision, but his force and sensibility remain his own. Charity is a powerful reading experience, a true accomplishment in an already stunning literary career.

Review: Mark Richard (The Ice at the Bottom of the World, Fishboy) populates his latest collection of short stories, Charity, with a desperate cast of characters--including an old, alcohol-soaked limo driver and hospitalized orphans. And as their lack of luck would have it, charity comes to them in only sand-sized pieces: a nurse lets sick boys watch a tiny television one night in "The Birds for Christmas"; in "Gentleman's Agreement" a father takes out a son's stitches instead of cutting off his hand. From these grim lives, Richard doesn't draw grand conclusions; rather, with each story in the collection he lays out the banal, surreal, and even disgusting aspects of his characters' lives. What makes it all bearable is Richard's economy of language and utter originality.

Take "Where Blue Is Blue." Here, a gang of deadbeat men spend their days hanging around the beach in their shark-fishing town. When a contortionist from a visiting circus turns up dead and dismembered in the bay, they are the ones willing to trawl for hands, ears, etc., in exchange for a bit of liquor cash. (Mangled and deformed body parts appear in other stories, too: cleft palates, a club foot, and a boy with a tail.) As Richard sketches these men's days, he hands out just enough and just the right details. At the same time, he manages to articulate the elusive way in which these misfits have a meaningful understanding of the sea--and what it promises those close to it. Such balance is more than Charity's saving grace: it's the reason why Richard's book is a tantalizing read.

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Charity: Stories
Publisher: Nan A. Talese / Doubleday
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: Hardcover
Illustrator: 1 b/w Photograph (decorative title page)
Book Condition: Near Fine
Edition: First Edition.

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