Paper Lantern by Stuart Dybek
Love Stories

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At times, these stories read almost as parodies of the au courant in American fiction: “Paper Lantern” starts with a flamboyant frame featuring a time machine and a fire and then doubles back...It's a reverie that constitutes and provides its own...A very fine book from a gifted practitioner of the short story form.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

A new collection of short stories by a master of the form with a common focus on the turmoils of romantic love

Ready!
Aim!
On command the firing squad aims at the man backed against a full-length mirror. The mirror once hung in a bedroom, but now it's cracked and propped against a dumpster in an alley. The condemned man has refused the customary last cigarette but accepted as a hood the black slip that was carelessly tossed over a corner of the mirror's frame. The slip still smells faintly of a familiar fragrance.
So begins "Tosca," the first in this vivid collection of Stuart Dybek's love stories. Operatically dramatic and intimately lyrical, grittily urban and impressionistically natural, the varied fictions in Paper Lantern all focus on the turmoil of love as only Dybek can portray it. An execution triggers the recollection of a theatrical romance; then a social worker falls for his own client; and lovers part as giddily, perhaps as hopelessly, as a kid trying to hang on to a boisterous kite. A flaming laboratory evokes a steamy midnight drive across terrain both familiar and strange, and an eerily ringing phone becomes the telltale signature of a dark betrayal. Each story is marked with contagious desire, spontaneous revelation, and, ultimately, resigned courage. As one woman whispers when she sets a notebook filled with her sketches drifting out to sea, "Someone will find you."
Some of Dybek's characters recur in these stories, while others appear only briefly. Throughout, they—and we—are confronted with vaguely familiar scents and images, reminiscent of love but strangely disconcerting, so that we might wonder whether we are looking in a mirror or down the barrel of a gun. "After the ragged discharge," Dybek writes, "when the smoke has cleared, who will be left standing and who will be shattered into shards?" Paper Lantern brims with the intoxicating elixirs known to every love-struck, lovelorn heart, and it marks the magnificent return of one of America's most important fiction writers at the height of his powers.

 

About Stuart Dybek

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Stuart Dybek is the author of two collections of short fiction, The Coast of Chicago and Childhood and Other Neighborhoods, as well as a volume of poetry, Brass Knuckles. A professor of English at Western Michigan University, he lives in Kalamazoo.
 
Published June 3, 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 225 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Romance. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Paper Lantern
All: 3 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Excellent
on May 22 2014

At times, these stories read almost as parodies of the au courant in American fiction: “Paper Lantern” starts with a flamboyant frame featuring a time machine and a fire and then doubles back...It's a reverie that constitutes and provides its own...A very fine book from a gifted practitioner of the short story form.

Read Full Review of Paper Lantern: Love Stories | See more reviews from Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Apr 25 2014

Employing a range of voices that pulse with intensity, this collection delves into the gray areas of love.

Read Full Review of Paper Lantern: Love Stories | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

NPR

Below average
Reviewed by Meg Wolitzer on Jun 23 2014

The stories are all ambitious and complicated; some more successful than others. I just couldn't get into the overlong "Four Deuces," whereas the story "Waiting," with its hilarious send-up of the Men's Movement, made me laugh, and was simultaneously oddly moving.

Read Full Review of Paper Lantern: Love Stories | See more reviews from NPR

Reader Rating for Paper Lantern
95%

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