A new collection of stories from the author of Here on Old Route 7 and We Who Live Apart
The stories in this award-winning collection all bear some relationship to history, personal or communal. Several are based on iconic American figures, from William Miller to Margaret Hamilton to Ray Charles. Others evince a feminist impulse to redeem from history those women whose lives would otherwise go unremarked, such as Juana la Loca and Bridget Cleary. Still others explore the ways in which language constructs and deconstructs character—Thomas Power James engaged in completing Charles Dickens's unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood; Branwell Brönte struggling to distinguish between personal history and his family's texts; and Gérard de Nerval warring against his incipient madness. All of the stories, whether realistic or experimental, witty or solemn, acknowledge how the past continually informs the present.
"This collection demonstrates an enormous linguistic gift, and a passion for the possibilities of language. . . . Sometimes the characters are presented realistically, sometimes as aspects of American prose, often as expressions of historical events and even linguistic behavior; but the people on these pages are never mere reflections of the writer's cleverness or (remarkable) knowledge. Every story is different, every story is a voice. While the voices range in tone from stormy to reconciled, most are tinged with genuine humor. And literature is a fact of life in the world of these fictions: Charles Dickens speaks through one character while Branwell Brönte addresses us through another. Aspects of French surrealism, the passion of Spanish locutions, the midwestern solidities abandoned by Dorothy of Oz, the Wolf Boy's insights, and an Adam and Eve to rival Twain's are among the values that speak in this book of voices. But language loved and laid siege to remains the primary speaker throughout. The writer of this book is vastly talented and hungry to tell us stories. History Lessons is a sizzling collection."—Frederick Busch, author of A Memory of War: A Novel
"Each piece is a gem, polished and flawless, full of wit and clarity of vision. Each voice is full of texture and the power of its own telling. . . . This is an exciting book by a deeply talented writer for whom language and image are sheer delight."—Alyce Miller, author of Stopping for Green Light
"A remarkable collection of stories. It's crossbred and eccentric and smart and funny. . . . What Joan Connor is writing about is the declension of history in all its cases, in all its particularization. History is the idiosyncratic. It is most alive in the cracks, in the interstices, in the margins, and the narrators in History Lessons speak from these places."—Darrell Spencer, author of Caution: Men in Trees, winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction