Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:
The Book of Other People is just that- a book of other people. Open its covers and you'll make a whole host of new acquaintances. Nick Hornby and Posy Simmonds present the ever-diverging writing life of Jamie Johnson; Hari Kunzru twitches open his net curtains to reveal the irrepressible Magda Mandela (at 4-30a.m., in her lime-green thong); Jonathan Safran Foer's Grandmother offers cookies to sweeten the tale of her heart scan; and Dave Eggers, George Saunders, David Mitchell, Colm Toibin, A.M. Homes, Chris Ware and many more each have someone to introduce to you, too.
With an introduction by Zadie Smith and brand-new stories from over twenty of the best writers of their generation from both sides of the Atlantic, The Book of Other People is as dazzling and inventive as its authors, and as vivid and wide-ranging as its characters.
Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
"The instruction was simple: make somebody up," explains novelist Smith in her introduction to this marvelous compendium of 23 distinct, pungent stories that attack the question of "character" from all angles. From David Mitchell?s hilarious rendering of one menopausal woman?s fantasy internet love-affair to ZZ Packer?s heart-wrenching Jewish guy-black girl romance, each story is, as Smith puts it, "its own thing entirely." There are moments of prosaic precision (Andrew O?Hagan?s eerily incisive "Gordon" is introduced "in the talcum-powdered air of the bathroom muttering calculations and strange moral sums about the cause of Hamlet?s unhappiness"), but this volume is more than a showcase for deft prose and quirky souls. Toby Litt?s lovely, lyrical "Monster," for example, playfully upends notions of personhood, as does Dave Eggers? surprising "Theo," a moving tale of a mountain who falls in love. Also on hand are a number of wonderful graphic shorts: Daniel Clowe shrewdly explores an insufferable critic?s solipsistic lapses, Nick Hornby?s "A Writing Life" gives a knowing wink with a series of writer bios and mock headshots, and "Jordan Wellington Lint" by Chris Ware cleverly chronicles the first 13 years of its hero?s life. With so much to savor-the sensuality of Adam Thirlwell?s "Nigora," the knowingness of George Saunder?s "Puppy"-this anthology will sate even the most famished short story fan. Sales benefit Eggers?s nonprofit literary organization 826 NYC. (Feb.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Novelist Smith asked the contributors to this diverse collection to make somebody up. What writer could resist the invitation to create a character out of whole cloth? The results, though, from, among others, well-known novelists Jonathan Lethem and Jonathan Safran Foer and less-familiar names including Aleksander Hemon and Miranda July, are decidedly mixed. Edwidge Danticat pens a poignant piece about a conflicted expectant mother; David Mitchell conjures tedious Judith Castle, whose self-absorbed behavior makes the reader cringe. Hari Kunzru renders passionate Magda Mandela (son of Nelson) a thong-wearing extrovert whose voice has the penetrative force of a piece of heavy industrial equipment. Toby Litt serves up a day in the life of a monster, from digestion to elimination (do we really need this sort of play-by-play?). Graphic novelist Daniel Clowes (one of three artists summoned) draws his own clever conclusions in a strip about a frustrated critic. Too bad Nick Hornby's lively entry is so short. Profits from this occasionally savory smorgasbord of contemporary talent go to 826 New York, the charity founded by novelist Dave Eggers to help nurture young writers.--Block, Allison Copyright 2008 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Character provides the thematic key to these stories, all new to this collection, from some of our finest younger contemporary fiction writers. Editor and contributor Smith (On Beauty, 2005, etc.) invited 22 other authors, many of them (like her) better known for novels than short fiction, to write a story inspired by the creation of a character. "The instruction was simple," she writes in her introduction, "make somebody up." Yet the stories correspond to no consensus about the role of character in fiction, or a return to realism, or the responsibility of fiction to mirror society. To the contrary, what Smith believes the stories show is that "there are as many ways to create 'character' (or deny the possibility of 'character') as there are writers." The title of each story comes from the name of a character or type ("The Monster") with the selections sequenced alphabetically. Many of the writers, including Smith, come from the McSweeney's and/or Believer literary circle (Dave Eggers, Vendela Vida, Heidi Julavits, Chris Ware, Nick Hornby et al.) and most of the contributions range from the short to the very short (Toby Litt's "The Monster" is a four-page paragraph). With proceeds benefiting 826 New York (a nonprofit organization for the inspiration and development of student writing), none of the writers were paid for their work, with the results sometimes more playful (and occasionally slighter) than one has come to expect from them. Jonathan Lethem's Dickensian titled "Perkus Tooth" offers a hilarious dismissal of rock critics. A.L. Kennedy's "Frank" provides an existential parable about a man who isn't who he thinks he is. Though many of the stories have a first-person perspective, the narrator is rarely the title character, and some of the challenge for the reader can be determining whom a story is really about. In Colm T¿ib"n's "Donal Webster," the name of the title character is never even mentioned, leaving the reader to guess who is addressing whom. While the quality inevitably varies, the spirit of the anthology is that reading should be fun rather than work. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.