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Reviews of My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead by Jeffrey Eugenides

My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead

Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro

by Jeffrey Eugenides

My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead by Jeffrey Eugenides X
My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead by Jeffrey Eugenides
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2008, 608 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2009, 600 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva
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About this Book

Book Summary

"Read these love stories in the safety of your single bed. Let everybody else suffer."— Jeffrey Eugenides, from the introduction to My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead.

"When it comes to love, there are a million theories to explain it. But when it comes to love stories, things are simpler. A love story can never be about full possession. Love stories depend on disappointment, on unequal births and feuding families, on matrimonial boredom and at least one cold heart. Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name ... .

It is perhaps only in reading a love story (or in writing one) that we can simultaneously partake of the ecstasy and agony of being in love without paying a crippling emotional price. I offer this book, then, as a cure for lovesickness and an antidote to adultery. Read these love stories in the safety of your single bed. Let everybody else suffer."— Jeffrey Eugenides, from the introduction to My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead.

All proceeds from My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead will go directly to fund the free youth writing programs offered by 826 Chicago. 826 Chicago is part of the network of seven writing centers across the United States affiliated with 826 National, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

INTRODUCTION



1: Lesbia's Sparrow

The Latin poet Catullus was the first poet in the ancient world to write about a personal love affair in an extended way. Other poets treated the subject of "love," allowing the flushed cheeks or alabaster limbs of this or that inamorata to enter the frame of their poems, but it Catullus who built his nugae, or trifles, around a single, near-obsessional passion for a woman whose entire presence, body and mind, fills the lines of his poetry. From the first excruciating moments of infatuation with the woman he called "Lesbia," through the torrid transports of physical love, to the betrayals that leave him stricken, Catullus told it all, and, in so doing, did more than anyone to create the form we recognize today as the love story.

Gaius Catullus was born around 84 B.C., in Cisalpine Gaul, the son of a minor aristocrat and businessman with holdings in Spain and Asia Minor, and lived until roughly the age of thirty. It was as a very young man, then, that...

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Reviews

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With his artful curating, Eugenides has conquered one of the biggest problems of the short story collection. Reading anthologies can often be a dust-collecting, bedside-lingering process. Usually grouped by time period, nationality, publication, or award, they often serve primarily as a reference, introduction, or catalog, and editors are careful to make their personalities invisible. This makes them useful, reliable, and enjoyable for their parts, but unremarkable as a whole. My Mistress's Sparrow is exactly the opposite. It's not intended as a comprehensive survey of the greatest love stories of all time. Nor is it a treatise on love, as Eugenides warns in his excellent introduction. ("Please keep in mind: my subject here isn't love. My subject is the love story.") Instead, these are the selections of a reader; an impassioned, expert, committed, and discriminating reader; one who remembers that the best kind of reading comes from picking favorites...continued

Full Review (627 words)

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(Reviewed by Lucia Silva).

Media Reviews

Cleveland Plain Dealer - Tricia Springstubb
Love is many splendored, but the love story is simple. Pain, bliss, new pain is the basic outline. Which doesn't mean, of course, that love isn't at the heart (yes) of the most gorgeous, revelatory fiction ever written. Joy! Jealousy! Delight! Despair! In this wonderful new anthology, love stories large and small, familiar and exotic, heap up like bouquets left at the scene of a fatal highway accident.

Los Angeles Times - Louisa Thomas
The plots are wildly different; the range in tone, form and style is immense. This brings unexpected delights. It is, for example, a small thrill to go from the solemn, lapidary language of "The Dead" straight into Denis Johnson's "Dirty Wedding," with its rush of words and inarticulate speed ("yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah"). And it is a bigger thrill to realize that however painful the heartbreak, love offers real rewards -- and these stories are among them.

Miami Herald - John Mark Eberhart
I can in good conscience recommend one very good gift for this Valentine's Day: "My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead: Great Love Stories, From Chekhov to Munro," edited by Jeffrey Eugenides.

St Louis Post-Dispatch - Steve Giegerich
Falling somewhere in the middle of the canon is the English translation of "Tonka," Robert Musil's wrenching account of the entanglement between an Austrian aristocrat and an emotionally absent Czech peasant.

By every measure of prose and content, "Tonka" — a slow dance toward intimacy ultimately marred by infidelity — exemplifies the quality work found on every page of Mistress's Sparrow.

"How little one knows what one knows, or wants what one wants," the 20th-century Austrian author writes in a coda that eloquently captures the sum and substantive heart — in the contextual sense of the word — of this fluent retrospective on love.

Library Journal - Patrick Sullivan
Some of the best moments come from younger writers, who somehow manage to match the masters here step for step. An essential acquisition.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

All proceeds from My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead will go directly to fund the free youth writing programs offered by 826 Chicago. 826 Chicago is part of the network of seven writing centers across the United States affiliated with 826 National, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

Remember a little book called A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, back in ...

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Read-Alikes

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