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Jill McCorkle's new collection of twelve short stories is peopled with characters brilliantly like us-flawed, clueless, endearing. These stories are also animaled with all manner of mammal, bird, fish, reptile-also flawed and endearing. She asks, what don't humans share with the so-called lesser species? Looking for the answer, she takes us back to her fictional home town of Fulton, North Carolina, to meet a broad range of characters facing up to the double-edged sword life offers hominids. The insight with which McCorkle tells their stories crackles with wit, but also with a deeper-and more forgiving-wisdom than ever before. In Billy Goats, Fulton's herd of seventh graders cruises the summer nights, peeking into parked cars, maddening the town madman. In Monkeys, a widow holds her husband's beloved spider monkey close along with his deepest secrets. In Dogs, a single mother who works for a veterinarian compares him-unfavorably-with his patients. In Snakes, a seasoned wife sees what might have been a snake in the grass and decides to step over it. And, in the exquisite final story, Fish, a grieving daughter remembers her father's empathy for the ugliest of all fishes. The success behind Jill McCorkle's short stories-and her novels-is, as one reviewer noted, her skill as an archaeologist of the absurd, an expert at excavating and examining the comedy of daily life (Richmond Times-Dispatch). Yes, and also the tragedy.
Published: Workman eBooks on Mar 28, 2003
ISBN: 9781565127203
List price: $13.95
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The short stories in this collection are entitled with the names of animals. One of the conceits of McCorkle's collection is the intricate relationship humans have with their animal counterparts; how similar we act and behave.The story entitled "Chickens", where the protagonist gets into a relationship to avoid her first love; "Dogs" is the comedic look at a woman whose major relationships are with dogs, real and allegorical. "Snakes" is a tale of betrayal, of watchfulness, of a woman's jealousy and dishonor.The most moving story, "Fish", is told in the second person, from a daughter to her father, as he lay dying. As he sleeps, the daughter relates to him the story of his life, a life caught on a hook by depression, only to be let go by the love of his family. Lyrical, evocative and true-to-life, Jill McCorkle infuses her stories with the strengths and weaknesses of real people. Some stories work better than others. The story "Turtles" is a piece about a woman left alone in a nursing home, seeing all the men who have ever loved and left her. Its a bit messy at times, often predictable, and doesn't quite match the artistry and precision of her other stories. Each story is a gem, however, meant to be relished and savored for the tale it tells. Recommended.(Read January 2002)read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
(08 January 2012 – from Gill)I discovered McCorkle about 14 years ago, but she’s very hard to find in the UK, so I was thrilled when Gill presented me with this US-sourced copy at Christmas. McCorkle’s usual takes of small town life feature nothing very much out of the ordinary: that’s their joy. The stories in this collection are pinned on the human life story, from being a child cycling after the town mosquito truck to old age, memory loss and death. There’s also a distinct and interesting animal theme, with even a stepfather taking the role of a rather dull pet in one story. Beautifully observed and heartbreaking as well as funny: extraordinarily written stories about ordinary families, and just, satisfyingly, as I’d expected.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This group of stories is primarily set in a nursing home, many framed through the recollections of aging narrators. The themes are similar to previous collections of McCorkle stories: women are still wishing for the perfect love or caught in bad relationships; dysfunctional families all, they are still looking for acceptance and comfort. The creatures from the title are cats, dogs, goats, woodpeckers whose behaviors often remind of us human equivalents. There is a certain nostalgia and bitterness that comingle in these stories. In "Hominids," an outspoken feminist narrator is married to the usual cave man type. She is expected to put up with sexist talk at parties as though the childishness and piggishness of grown American men ought to be tolerated with a smile. Boys will be boys after all. Even her women friends are uneasy with her calling a pig a pig. But the narrator expresses her dismay with the kind of perfect wit McCorkle is known for. I am of the age where men's stupidities no longer amuse me. And the narrator seems to reside in a similar canyon, ready to hike out and off to some lone mountain. She says, "I'm thinking I will have myself a restaurant known as Peckers, and as my model I will use Hooters, where one of Bill's buddies likes to go on Friday night. I will have a woodpecker instead of an owl and waiters instead of waitresses. They will wear uniforms that are, shall we say, a bit revealing below the belt and as manager my job will be saying who looks good in the outfit and who doesn't. Sorry, that's business. It's not harassment if you say right up front that Peckers is all about peckers. The Pecker Burger, the Pecker Shake, the foot-long Pekerdog, the Pecker who serves you. There will be lots of cute puns about wood, redheaded, etc. I think it will be a huge success." Oh, I want to say those things! Her husband and even her girl friends see her feminist sarcasm as an unwanted intrusion into the expected social propriety of the male-female world, i.e. women just need to suck it up and laugh and smile, flirt and carry on as though being polite in public makes up for a universe of outrageous male behavior, as though the creatures with whom we reside are merely animal after all, merely creatures of habit. Ah, the perversity of politeness. I love McCorkle. She always gives me permission to laugh.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

The short stories in this collection are entitled with the names of animals. One of the conceits of McCorkle's collection is the intricate relationship humans have with their animal counterparts; how similar we act and behave.The story entitled "Chickens", where the protagonist gets into a relationship to avoid her first love; "Dogs" is the comedic look at a woman whose major relationships are with dogs, real and allegorical. "Snakes" is a tale of betrayal, of watchfulness, of a woman's jealousy and dishonor.The most moving story, "Fish", is told in the second person, from a daughter to her father, as he lay dying. As he sleeps, the daughter relates to him the story of his life, a life caught on a hook by depression, only to be let go by the love of his family. Lyrical, evocative and true-to-life, Jill McCorkle infuses her stories with the strengths and weaknesses of real people. Some stories work better than others. The story "Turtles" is a piece about a woman left alone in a nursing home, seeing all the men who have ever loved and left her. Its a bit messy at times, often predictable, and doesn't quite match the artistry and precision of her other stories. Each story is a gem, however, meant to be relished and savored for the tale it tells. Recommended.(Read January 2002)
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
(08 January 2012 – from Gill)I discovered McCorkle about 14 years ago, but she’s very hard to find in the UK, so I was thrilled when Gill presented me with this US-sourced copy at Christmas. McCorkle’s usual takes of small town life feature nothing very much out of the ordinary: that’s their joy. The stories in this collection are pinned on the human life story, from being a child cycling after the town mosquito truck to old age, memory loss and death. There’s also a distinct and interesting animal theme, with even a stepfather taking the role of a rather dull pet in one story. Beautifully observed and heartbreaking as well as funny: extraordinarily written stories about ordinary families, and just, satisfyingly, as I’d expected.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This group of stories is primarily set in a nursing home, many framed through the recollections of aging narrators. The themes are similar to previous collections of McCorkle stories: women are still wishing for the perfect love or caught in bad relationships; dysfunctional families all, they are still looking for acceptance and comfort. The creatures from the title are cats, dogs, goats, woodpeckers whose behaviors often remind of us human equivalents. There is a certain nostalgia and bitterness that comingle in these stories. In "Hominids," an outspoken feminist narrator is married to the usual cave man type. She is expected to put up with sexist talk at parties as though the childishness and piggishness of grown American men ought to be tolerated with a smile. Boys will be boys after all. Even her women friends are uneasy with her calling a pig a pig. But the narrator expresses her dismay with the kind of perfect wit McCorkle is known for. I am of the age where men's stupidities no longer amuse me. And the narrator seems to reside in a similar canyon, ready to hike out and off to some lone mountain. She says, "I'm thinking I will have myself a restaurant known as Peckers, and as my model I will use Hooters, where one of Bill's buddies likes to go on Friday night. I will have a woodpecker instead of an owl and waiters instead of waitresses. They will wear uniforms that are, shall we say, a bit revealing below the belt and as manager my job will be saying who looks good in the outfit and who doesn't. Sorry, that's business. It's not harassment if you say right up front that Peckers is all about peckers. The Pecker Burger, the Pecker Shake, the foot-long Pekerdog, the Pecker who serves you. There will be lots of cute puns about wood, redheaded, etc. I think it will be a huge success." Oh, I want to say those things! Her husband and even her girl friends see her feminist sarcasm as an unwanted intrusion into the expected social propriety of the male-female world, i.e. women just need to suck it up and laugh and smile, flirt and carry on as though being polite in public makes up for a universe of outrageous male behavior, as though the creatures with whom we reside are merely animal after all, merely creatures of habit. Ah, the perversity of politeness. I love McCorkle. She always gives me permission to laugh.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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