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Jill Bialosky's first collection of poems is an exceptional one--moving, very accomplished, marked by an unflinching realism and a sharply observant eye combined with great technical skill. Childhood and adolescence shattered by a father's death and the struggles of a mother to raise her daughters are among its concerns. The poems have a dignity and magic that are quite distinctive.
"It is so nice to be happy. It always gives me a good feeling to see other people happy. . . . It is so easy to achieve." --Kim's journal entry, May 3, 1988 On the night of April 15, 1990, Jill Bialosky's twenty-one-year-old sister Kim came home from a bar in downtown Cleveland. She argued with her boyfriend on the phone. Then she took her mother's car keys, went into the garage, closed the garage door. She climbed into the car, turned on the ignition, and fell asleep. Her body was found the next morning by the neighborhood boy her mother hired to cut the grass. Those are the simple facts, but the act of suicide is anything but simple. For twenty years, Bialosky has lived with the grief, guilt, questions, and confusion unleashed by Kim's suicide. Now, in a remarkable work of literary nonfiction, she re-creates with unsparing honesty her sister's inner life, the events and emotions that led her to take her life on this particular night. In doing so, she opens a window on the nature of suicide itself, our own reactions and responses to it--especially the impact a suicide has on those who remain behind. Combining Kim's diaries with family history and memoir, drawing on the works of doctors and psychologists as well as writers from Melville and Dickinson to Sylvia Plath and Wallace Stevens, Bialosky gives us a stunning exploration of human fragility and strength. She juxtaposes the story of Kim's death with the challenges of becoming a mother and her own exuberant experience of raising a son. This is a book that explores all aspects of our familial relationships--between mothers and sons, fathers and daughters--but particularly the tender and enduring bonds between sisters. History of a Suicide brings a crucial and all too rarely discussed subject out of the shadows, and in doing so gives readers the courage to face their own losses, no matter what those may be. This searing and compassionate work reminds us of the preciousness of life and of the ways in which those we love are inextricably bound to us.
A first novel by an acclaimed American poet, House Under Snow is a story of mothers and daughters, of sexual identity, of a family slowly disintegrating after the premature death of its patriarch. Anna Crane, soon to be married, reflects back on her childhood in Ohio during the 1960s and '70s with her two sisters and her charismatic, self-destructing mother. Evoking the claustrophobia of small-town life, Anna's first passionate love affair with a troubled boy who works as a groom and trainer at a horse track, and her mother's endless stream of suitors and a failed marriage, the novel races toward a chilling conclusion when Anna is betrayed by the two most important figures in her young life. Not since Alice McDermott's That Night has there been such a telling portrait of first love. And not since Mona Simpson's Anywhere But Here have we witnessed the destructive, seductive nature of a mother who insists on competing with her children. An unforgettable tale of the power and vulnerability of sex and family, history and the past, House Under Snow is a lyrical and brilliant fictional debut.
Eleanor Cahn is a professor of literature, the wife of a preeminent cardiac surgeon, and a devoted mother. But on a trip to Paris to present a paper on Anna Karenina, Eleanor re-connects with Stephen--a childhood friend with whom she has had a complicated relationship--that forces her to realize that she has suppressed her passionate self for years. As the novel unfolds, we learn of her hidden erotic past: with alluring, elusive Stephen; with ethereal William, her high school boyfriend; with married, egotistical Adam, the painter who initiated her into the intimacies of the "life room," where the artist's model sometimes becomes muse; and with loyal, steady Michael, her husband. On her return to New York, Eleanor and Stephen's charged attraction takes on a life of its own and threatens to destroy everything she has.Jill Bialosky has created a fresh, piercingly real heroine who struggles with the spiritual questions and dilemmas of our time and, like Tolstoy's immortal Anna Karenina, must choose between desire and responsibility.
The strongest collection yet from this widely praised poet is about the central players in our lives, our relationships over time--between mother and son, mother and daughter--and how one generation of relationships informs and shapes the next.The opening sequence, "Manhood," looks at the insular world of baseball, shedding light on the complexities of gender, boyhood, and coming-of-age. The poet captures the electrifying, proud language of baseball talk, channeling the tone and approach of the young men she observes as a mother, and bringing poignancy and deeper understanding to the transaction between herself and the young men she sees growing into adulthood. "American Comedy" is a sonnet sequence about the absurdities and realities of modern domestic life, while figures in literature are the players in "Interlude." The final section, "The Players," becomes a forceful and searing revelation about the legacy of generations. Exploring the nature of attachment on many levels, The Players brings us Jill Bialosky at her best, in poems that find a new language to describe the rich and universal story that is modern motherhood.From the Hardcover edition.
Jill Bialosky follows her acclaimed debut collection,The End of Desire, with this powerful sequence of poems that probes the subterranean depths of eros. Gerald Stern has called Bialosky "the poet of the secret garden, the place, at once, of grace and sadness," and here she enters that garden again, blending the classical with the contemporary in bold considerations of desire, fertility, virginity, and childbirth. Written against the idealizations of romantic love and motherhood, she tells of the loss of one child and the birth of another, the fierce passions of life before children, the seductions of suicide, and the comforts of art. Throughout, she braids and unbraids the distinct yet often inseparable themes of motherhood, love, and sexuality. "When he comes to me," she writes, half-filled glass in his hand, wanting me to touch him, I hear you stir in your crib. I know what your body feels like. The soft skin of a flower, not bruised, not yet in torment . . . Subterraneanis the moving and intimate account of the emergence of a female psyche. Like the figures of Persephone and Demeter, who appear in various forms in these poems, Bialosky finds a strange beauty in grief, and emerges from the realms of temptation with insight and distinction. From the Hardcover edition.
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