Medium 9781574414660

Venus in the Afternoon

Views: 1940
Ratings: (0)

The short stories in this rich debut collection embody in their complexity Alice Munro's description of the short story as "a world seen in a quick, glancing light." In chiseled and elegant prose, Lieberman conjures wildly disparate worlds. A middle aged window washer, mourning his wife and an estranged daughter, begins to grow attached to a young woman he sees through the glass; a writer, against his better judgment, pursues a new relationship with a femme fatale who years ago broke his heart; and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor struggles with the delicate decision of whether to finally ask her aging mother how it was that she survived. It is all here--the exigencies of love, of lust, the raw, unlit terrain of grief. Whether plumbing the darker depths or casting a humorous eye on a doomed relationship, these stories never force a choice between tragedy and redemption, but rather invite us into the private moments and crucibles of lives as hungry and flawed as our own. "Quiet, moving, masterfully crafted. Such are the nine stories in Venus in the Afternoon. Tehila Lieberman writes with precision, restraint, with a compassionate heart. She inhabits her characters, young or old, men or women, honestly, but without judgment, until they rise off the page and stand before us breathing and alive. New York, the Atacama desert, Amsterdam or Cuzco in Peru, the settings in Venus in the Afternoon are just as varied as the lives which they contain. A wonderful collection, one that will stay in your mind long after you have bid it goodbye."--Miroslav Penkov, author of East of the West and judge

List price: $14.95

Your Price: $11.96

You Save: 20%

Remix
Remove
 

9 Chapters

Format Buy Remix

The Way I See It

PDF

The Way I See It

“D

eath should be like losin your grip,” I says. “No different than losin your grip and swingin into one of your windows—only it ain’t a window and you sail right through to the other side.”

There was four of us lined up in a row at O’Malleys. Healy with his usual pint, McKinney with his fancy scotch and soda,

Sweeney suckin down a gin.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, will you listen to him?” Sweeney says, “from one day to the next gone loopers on us.”

“Go to hell,” I says. Loopers was not a word we used lightly. Mostly we saved it for the women—my woman in her day, God rest her soul, Healy’s woman, whichever woman was goin through the change.

“It’s the pint talkin,” McKinney says.

“Nah,” Healy pipes in. “Too much time in Cambridge.

That’s what I think. It’s in the air.”

McKinney spins around to face me. His gut’s gettin bigger by the week and we’re all thinkin if he don’t watch it, he’s headin for a coronary. “So Sutherland,” he drawls. “Whatcha got for us this week?”

I look up at the TV where the Sox look beaten before they start.

 

Reinventing Olivia

PDF

Reinventing Olivia

A

s soon as I woke up, I could tell that

Olivia was already gone. The smell of freshly ground Sumatra was only barely discernible. There was none of the tight rustle of the Wall Street Journal that reached me most mornings from the kitchen. There was only the rising hum of my own anxiety as I realized that today marked the end of the summer in which I was supposed to have finished my novel. That I would need to place that dreaded call to my agent, and then at night, begin teaching my fall adult ed class, which was, my advance long since spent, my only current income.

Olivia had left me some coffee. The Journal sat plucked and plundered on the table. I should remind myself to include it in the growing list of items I wanted to ban from the house along with that new dialect, “corporatespeak,” she was beginning to spout.

I threw on some clothes and walked the two blocks to the café where I usually did my writing. The walls, previously old chipped brick, had been knocked out to accommodate floorto-ceiling glass so that it wasn’t clear whether one was within or without, object or voyeur. The inside had been done up in bright blues and oranges, its piping exposed, its modern industrial look startled by its own offerings—the folds of rich cakes

 

Cul de Sac

PDF

Cul de Sac

Alma

“So here’s a secret from the future,” Alma begins.

Samantha, halfway through her breakfast, rolls her eyes and slams her palms over her ears. The sunlight, sneaking past the bruised cactus plants lining the windowsill, glints off the stud in her nose and the hooks that dangle from her lip and brow.

“Mom, don’t,” she says, scrunching her eyes closed.

But Alma is on a roll.

“Nobody told me so I’m going to tell you because somebody should have told me.”

“Mom, stop.”

“It doesn’t arrive. None of it arrives.”

“Mom, for god’s sake, stop it.”

It is cruel, she knows. Where have her maternal instincts gone? The instinct that once made her leap between Samantha, wondrous, beautiful toddler and the bully in the sandbox about to run his truck’s wheels through her hair. Now what she really wants to say is, Those wheels will find you anyway and twist your hair until you have to cut it all off or go on living with one more man’s plan gone awry.

She turns and leaves the kitchen. This was what love she can mete out at this point—the act of removing herself.

 

Venus in the Afternoon

PDF

Venus in the Afternoon

I

t began like this: Megan woke up and pulled me toward her in that proprietary, non-sexual way I saw stretching ahead of us for years and years, and into the unsuspecting canyon of her neck I whispered, “Megi, this isn’t going to work.” Last night she’d done it—gotten me drunk, gotten herself drunk and asked me to marry her. I’d asked for the night to consider it. Now that I’d given her my answer, she began pounding her fists on my back, then rose from the bed, pulled from her drawers some of the clothes I kept at her apartment, and began tossing them out the window so that by the time I looked out, some of my favorite things were being picked through on 14th Street. I grabbed a suit she hadn’t gotten to yet and barricaded myself in the bathroom. Before I left, I stood over her where she sat in the worn armchair, head down, quietly crying. I wanted to tell her so many things—how fine she was, how incredibly fine. What an ass I was.

“Don’t,” she said, in that weird, prescient way that women have of anticipating the stupid things we might say or do, and in a daze, I closed the door and began walking to work.

 

Waltz on East 6th Street

PDF

Waltz on East 6th Street

I

Years ago, Aunt Renata squeezed a picture into my hand when my mother wasn’t looking. Aunt Renata wasn’t really my aunt, but rather someone to whom my mother had clung like a sister, like blood.

In the picture, my mother is thin but she is wearing a pale belted dress with a flared skirt and she is smiling. That is, her mouth is smiling. Her eyes are unreadable, her cheeks taut.

There is a tree just behind her and the smallest hint of a fence.

I have studied the picture a thousand times trying to figure out whether this was in one of the camps. The dress belies that possibility but still the fence looks menacing, cage-like and my mother’s expression is strained and odd. On the back of the picture, in German, and in a masculine script, it says only “Spring.”

Aunt Renata said she had found the picture when they were liberated from the camp. She won’t tell me anything else.

eee

My mother was a beautiful woman. Even now it’s obvious—her bearing still regal, her cheekbones high and proud. She never talks about her experiences and her silence walks the house like the ghosts that accompany her. She was 17 and had snuck out

 

Flammable Vacations

PDF

Flammable Vacations

T

o understand how and why I left the sanity of my husband to go on vacation with my mother, you would have to understand that nothing else could have ended my ambivalence and helped me make the decision I needed to make, and that I was sure that a few days with my mother would. You would also need to understand the absolute sanctity for my mother of things that were on sale, or worse, things that were free, so that when she won a weekend in the country in a sweepstakes, I knew it would be easier to agree to go than to withstand her unrelenting pressure.

Early on in our relationship my husband would say, “Stand up to her.” He was new then to me and to her. Now, years later, he understood. When my mother made up her mind about something, you had the choice of taking her on vertically and being hit head on, or lying down and letting her wheels just graze you. Those were the choices.

eee

I didn’t see my mother often. But I received bits of her weekly, sometimes daily. Not letters or postcards but odd items that arrived like their own Morse code. Items for which she had accumulated coupons or found in one more sale she couldn’t

 

Fault Lines

PDF

Fault Lines

T

he door to the orphanage is large and red, like a gash in the thick, gray stone wall. On a Sunday, four times a year, one of the nuns firmly takes her hand and walks her to the front door to greet her mother. These visits, she knows, are not for her. Even at six she knows this.

The door always opens like a portal to another world and her mother is suddenly standing there, frightening in her beauty, red hair blossoming in long, manic curls, only occasionally held in check by the random grasp of a jeweled hairpin, tears that come immediately and easily which she dabs with a lace handkerchief, her face turned to the side.

Then her mother bends down in her long sleek dress, or in her slender wool coat with its cuffs of ermine until her eyes meet Michaela’s. Her mother’s eyes always ask terrible questions—terrible because they beg not for truth but for the lie that will allow her to once again leave, that will tell her—yes, I am all right. I don’t need you. Go.

She doesn’t need a calendar to know the advent of her mother’s visit. The nuns grow tender, their hands brushing her hair more gently and with twice the strokes. Small treasures of gold-wrapped chocolate begin to appear under her pillow. Bits

 

Anya’s Angel

PDF

Anya’s Angel

M

y mother once told me that the way she understood it, we were living in the only existing physical universe, which was but the palest reflection of the many non-physical universes that existed. That there was, however, a throughflow between the worlds, and just as some spirits and acts of the divine trickled down to us, so did our actions affect the other layers of worlds.

It was late when she said this, past midnight. She was sitting in the kitchen, a notebook in front of her. She had decided to study kabbalah. She couldn’t talk to my father about these things. He had built a reputation on his agnosticism and his particular bent had grown a name, had turned his name into a noun. So when I would come upon my mother in the kitchen at all hours of the night, her glasses sliding down her nose, the books open before her, it was like coming upon her in an affair, only worse; a body is much more easily disengaged than angels and demigods and the remnants of worlds that now clung to her. I wondered if perhaps she was going to die, if she knew and was not telling us and needed to map out the realms into which she thought she might step. I wondered if perhaps it was to escape us, if we exhausted her—the constant stream of my father’s scholarship, my own incessant wanderings and

 

Into the Atacama

PDF

Into the Atacama

T

he Chilean desert, which runs 4,300 kilometers from the southernmost point of Tierra del Fuego to its border with Peru, is the driest desert on earth. It encapsulates within its narrow girth between Andean ridges and the Pacific, a good deal of

Chile’s tumultuous history—its copper and nitrate economy, its history of colonial exploitation, and even a few stories of Nazi chases.

Laboring through it on the Pan American highway, or by its small and dusty back roads, one cannot help but feel the relentless wrestling of man and the elements, especially when one witnesses the now lifeless towns and settlements that had once grown around the mines like devoted encampments around divine, life-giving temples.

Valle de La Luna, the forlorn remains of a now defunct saline lake, glistens mysteriously at night, absorbing and reflecting the secret migrations of the night sky, and has long been a magnet for the continent’s hippies and mystics. One can easily imagine scenes of romance or life and death passion plays in that crumbling natural amphitheater created by salt and light.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Chapters

Format name
PDF
Encrypted
No
Sku
B000000023732
Isbn
9781574414660
File size
772 KB
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Format name
PDF
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata