Referrred Pain and other stories by Lynne Sharon Schwartz

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Synopsis

From one of our ablest chroniclers of marriage, middle age, and urban myth, a collection of stories that subverts the standard domestic drama with an outrageousness that mixes tragedy with black humor.

In Referred Pain Lynne Sharon Schwartz surpasses her reputation as a scrupulous stylist who writes with both passion and discipline. Here, as in her earlier collections, the stories, whether realistic or fanciful, are distinguished by their intensity and their impeccable attention to the nuances of language. Her characters confront inner demons, playing out fantasies they crave and dread. On the surface, they are living ordinary lives, but Schwartz reveals their subversions and perversions with wicked wit and psychological acuity.

In the title novella, Koslowski, beset by a kind of survivor's guilt, insists to the point of absurdity that his elaborate dental work is emblematic of his immigrant parents' suffering in a German concentration camp and in the siege of Leningrad. In "Francesca," a mild professor finds himself calmly contemplating incest. In "Hostages of Fortune," a seemingly conventional couple live out an extend ed fantasy of raising two imaginary children. In "Sightings of Loretta," a journalist realizes he has spent years pursuing a chimerical, unfulfilled romance, while oblivious to his own wife. Several of the stories take place in the surreal realm of fantasy itself.

Schwartz, an award-winning writer, has been lauded for her precisely observed domestic dramas and comedies and described as having an anthropologist's eye for her characters and their stories. This collection will give further resonance to her already distinguished literary reputation.

Author Biography: Lynne Sharon Schwartz is the author of fourteen books of fiction and nonfiction, including the novels Disturbances in the Field, Leaving Brooklyn (nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award), Rough Strife (nominated for the PEN/Hemingway First Novel Award), and In the Family Way: An Urban Comedy; the memoir Ruined by Reading; and the poetry collection In Solitary. She has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Foundation for the Arts. She lives in New York City.

 

About Lynne Sharon Schwartz

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Lynne Sharon Schwartz Lynne Sharon Schwartz grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1950s, in a middle-class family. Her father was a tax lawyer, her mother a homemaker. Strongly influenced by her immigrant grandparents, Schwartz had a large, extended family with strong traditions and European values. As a child, she remembers noticing the details of things -- conversations, emotion, faces. By age seven, she was a writer, her themes were often philosophical and moral. "I wrote one about how the world came into being," she says. "And it was a kind of a deist vision of God who was...a kind scientist....I wasn't a genius or anything, I mean, I wrote like a seven-year old. But I thought about things. And my parents were wonderful. They encouraged me." With a Bachelor's degree from Barnard and a Master's degree from Bryn Mawr, Schwartz completed her course work for a Doctorate in comparative literature, when her life changed direction. She says, "I was just about to write my thesis, in 1972, and I couldn't face it; every topic I thought of was no good, and every time I went down in the NYU stacks I'd just get sick. Then suddenly it dawned on me: I was a little over thirty, and if I was going to write, I'd better write. I had thought it would happen -- I would wake up one day and be a writer -- but I didn't do it. That has a lot to do with the way women are brought up: you expect that things will happen to you, not that you should go and pursue them. So I dropped the Ph.D., went home, and wrote." For many years she wrote short stories, and in 1972 was approached by an editor who suggested she string a series of shorts stories together into a longer novel. The result was her brilliantly acclaimed first novel, "Rough Strife", an intimate psychological portrait of a marriage in trouble. Perhaps because of her family background, as well as her years of studying European literature, Schwartz feels an affinity to 19th-century writers. Marcel Proust and Henry James are her literary idols and she was also influenced by the poets, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Keats. "The way they use language has remained in my ear," she says, "and in my writing I try to keep a sense of the stages the language has passed through, and the way poets use it." She acknowledges that she is going against the current literary trend with its spare style but isn't particularly concerned about the criticism. She says, "I can't write that way because I simply don't see life that way. For me, every gesture, every sentence, every interaction is taught with meaning, with layers of complexity, and I can't write as if that weren't true." "The Fatigue Artist" is Schwartz's fifth novel, and her most autobiographical. In 1991, after a period of great stress, she found herself sick with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. For three or four months, she lay in bed with only the strength to talk on the phone. In many ways, the calls were life sustaining, and as she gradually felt better. She began to write down the anecdotes and stories her friends told her, as well as her own observations of what was going on around her in the contemporary world. Determined to use what life had to offer, she turned the illness into a witty and humorous novel of introspection and healing. "When I noticed all these...things happening around me, I kept thinking, I'll use it, I'll use it," she says. "It's not going to be a waste of time. I have a friend, a very old, close friend, and whenever we're going through anything difficult, we say to each other, 'Why worry? Why? Some day all of this will become literature.'" Lynne Sharon Schwartz currently lives in New York City with her husband and has taught writing and literature at Columbia, Boston, and Rice universities and at the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. She has received numerous awards, and has been given grants for her fiction by the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her newest book, "Ruined by Reading", will be published in May.OTHER WORKS BY LYNNE SHARON SCHWARTZ: "Rough Strife""Balancing Acts""Disturbances in the Field""Leaving Brooklyn""A Lynne Sharon Schwartz Reader: Selected Prose and Poetry""The Melting Pot and Other Subversive Stories""Aquatinted with the Night" Reading Group Discussion PointsOther Books With Reading Group Guides
 
Published January 1, 2004 by Washington, D.C., U.S.A.: Counterpoint.
Genres: . Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Referrred Pain and other stories

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In the unsettling title novella of Schwartz's latest collection of stories, the deluded son of Holocaust survivors feels that he can finally understand the anguish his parents have experienced

Jan 19 2004 | Read Full Review of Referrred Pain and other stories

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