& Other Stories
Publisher: Mercer University Press
Date first published: September 2012
This Edition: First U.S. Edition
Lisa Alther's best stories from her fifty-year career - several never before published
Stormy Weather & Other Stories is probably as close as lisa Alther will ever come to writing an autobiography. These stories, written over the course of her career, are set in the three places that have meant the most to her.
The first five stories reflect Alther's early years growing up in the Southern mountains - close to nature, using animal imagery to make sense of her world. Four stories are set in Vermont in the milieu that shaped her as a young adult. Marinated in the politics of the 1970's - the Back-to-the-land days of hippies, communes, and the Women's Movement - these stories portray the optimistic explorations of alternative models for parenthood, relationships, and sexuality that flourished during those years. The final three stories are set in new York City, where her characters, unmoored by nature or by tight-knit communities of like-minded friends, search for meaning within the privacy of their own souls. All the stories are loosely linked, with a minor character in one sometimes emerging to play a major role in another.
Most of these stories were published in journals or anthologies, though three are previously unpublished. "Birdman and the Dancer," the novella that closes the volume, has been published in Dutch, Danish, and German, but is appearing here in English for the first time. Inspired by a series of monotypes by the French artist, Francoise Gilot, it was written while many Americans were mesmerized by the television coverage of operation Desert Storm in 1991. It embodies Alther's metaphoric response to the Gulf War, and to violence in general.
From the Carolinas to Vermont, Manhattan to the Caribbean, the settings for Alther's (Washed in the Blood, 2011) subtly interconnected stories follow the trajectory of her own life, providing a tantalizing glimpse into a career that has spanned nearly a half-century. Nature in all its vigor, furtiveness, and splendor informs the opening sequence, portraying a deceptively simplistic world in which men and beasts vie for acceptance and dominance. It proves an apt segue into New England in the 1970s, where people attempting new approaches to the challenges of sexuality, parenting, and liberation discover that a utopian vision quickly dissolves into dystopian reality. In the collection's last grouping of stories, Manhattan's seductive energy and reductive callousness are distilled in the actions and reactions of men and women seeking and discarding personal connections. Alther concludes with a novella, "Birdman and the Dancer,"a phantasmagoric allegory for alienation and brutality and an evocative rumination on one man's frenzied battle with mortality. Shrewd, surprising, and satisfying, Alther's short fiction explores the gamut of human emotion and experience with force and intelligence.
from Danish reviews of "Birdman and the Dancer":
"...an epic tale... As a reader you dance along and thus end up where everything starts - in the eternal war between the sexes."- Dansen pa et Billede
from Dutch reviews:
"...a modern parable about the power of anxiety and the possibility of dance. A sadly topical and very beautiful book." - Angsten og dansen
"...a beautiful and thought-provoking book....In its short form and unusual composition it is capable of exciting dormant thoughts about love, existence, and the meaning of life."- Billeddans
"...a beautiful, fairy-like story, full of symbolism...a miraculous narration that is experienced as a colorful dream...."- Cosmopolitan
"...a parable for contemporary adults about longing and loneliness, love and violence, and the fear for men of the feminine part of their personality. The
story begins realistically and transforms slowly, little by little, into a fantasy world." - Het Parool