Tabloid Dreams: Stories

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9780805055894: Tabloid Dreams: Stories

A New York Times Noteworthy Paperback, 1997

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Review:

Robert Olen Butler's last short story collection, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, was a keen, piercing book told largely in the voice of Vietnamese immigrants to America. To say that his new collection is a departure is an understatement: Butler has taken actual headlines from the more outrageous of the supermarket tabloids and fashioned short fiction around them. Headlines such as "Titanic Victim Speaks Through Waterbed," "Woman Loses Cookie Bake-Off, Sets Self on Fire," and "Every Man She Kisses Dies" are the starting points for this quirky volume from one of the most original American writers at work today.

From Library Journal:

Hearing a voice from beyond the grave is usually a chilling, blood-curdling experience. However, being such a voice, issuing unheard from an improbable source (a parrot, a waterbed), offers the lost soul plenty of time to reflect on the missed opportunities of a life not fully lived. And though a lurid sensibility permeates the titles and tableaux of the "tabloid" tales in Pulitzer Prize-wining author Butler's latest collection, this vision of postmortem regret is at the heart of Butler's sad, mirthful stories. In "Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot," a woman buys the avian reincarnation of her ex-husband in a Houston pet store and takes him home, where he ruminates on his past and present failure to express his unconditional love for his wife: "I was not enough. 'Bad bird,' I say. I'm sorry." Widowed housewife Gertie in "Woman Loses Cookie Bake-Off, Sets Self on Fire" chooses self-immolation when she is forced to realize that her whole life has been sucked away, down the ungrateful gullets of men. As rumored, John Kennedy is not dead, but has merely lost his capacity for self-censorship and is kept in seclusion by the CIA to restrain him from compulsively revealing state secrets. In "JFK Secretly Attends Jackie Auction," the 79-year-old former president travels incognito to Sotheby's to retrieve a relic of his former grandeur but is woefully short of cash. Butler's wicked humor is tempered by genuine compassion for the characters' indelible misfortunes. Readers everywhere will enjoy these inventive, compelling fantasies. Highly recommended.
-?Adam Mazmanian, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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