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Why I Don't Write

And Other Stories

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Paperback
$16.00 US
5.2"W x 8"H x 0.5"D  
On sale Jun 15, 2021 | 176 Pages | 9781984899873
| Grades 9-12 + AP/IB
Susan Minot dryly catalogs the myriad reasons she cannot write; an artist bicycles through a protest encampment in lower Manhattan and ruminates on an elusive lover; an old woman on her deathbed calls out for a man other than her husband; a hapless fifteen-year-old boy finds himself in sexual peril; two young people in the 1990s fall helplessly in love, then bicker just as helplessly, tortured by jealousy and mistrust. In each of these stories Minot explores the difficult geometry of human relations, the lure of love and physical desire, and the lifelong quest for meaning and connection. Her characters are all searching for truth, in feeling and in action, as societal norms are upended and justice and coherence flounder. Urgent and immediate, precisely observed, deeply felt, and gorgeously written, the stories in Why I Don’t Write showcase an author at the top of her form.
 
“A winning blend of emotional intensity, capricious playfulness and keen-eyed observation.” 
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Tender, precise, emotional, insightful and funny.”  —Julianne Moore

Why I Don’t Write: And Other Stories, [Minot’s] first in some thirty years, showcases her versatility. Its ten stories range from mainstream to experimental, with sundry stops in between. . . . She has an unmistakable knack for distilling things, and gorgeously, at that. . . . Taken as a whole, Minot’s collection is, by turns, spiky and intimate, adventurous, stark and lyrical. . . . Few story collections shine as brightly.” —Portland Press Herald (Maine)

Why I Don’t Write is a quiet collection, but it is not a halting or timid one. Minot still has a poet’s instinct for the surprising volta, the striking image, the bracing final line. After thirty years away from the short story, it is good to have her back, clear-eyed and fearless as ever, whispering difficult truths and ambiguities that a less assured writer would feel compelled to shout.” —The New York Times Book Review 

“Susan Minot is an author well reputed for the purity and terseness of her prose exhibited over a career of more than three decades. Her latest book, a collection of ten stories is no exception. . . . Minot excels in description of people and places. . . . [A] rewarding read.” —New York Journal of Books

“[Why I Don’t Write] is strikingly visual. Here, the light is often white, people’s heads are bullet-shaped, and the littered car of a scoundrel professor is a fish tank. At their best, the sentences are frozen frames peering at the reader, as the reader peers back, peeling new information with each read. . . . [These stories] spill with luscious sentences that scintillate.” —Chicago Review of Books 

“[Minot’s] gift is for illuminating revelatory moments in characters’ lives. . . . Throughout, Minot is keenly aware of how men hurt women—as well as how women sabotage themselves.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Minot . . . finds hints of violence, grief, and trauma in her characters’ interior lives in this precise, shimmering collection.” —Publishers Weekly
© Jean Pagliuso
SUSAN MINOT is an award-winning novelist, short-story writer, poet, and screenwriter. Her first novel, Monkeys, was published in a dozen countries and won the Prix Femina Étranger in France. Her novel Evening was a worldwide best seller and became a major motion picture. She lives with her daughter in New York City and on an island off the coast of Maine. View titles by Susan Minot
The Torch


 
She lay back on the clean white pillows.

Is that—? Who’s there? she said.

It’s me.

John? she said in a weak voice. Is that you, John? Happiness came into her tone.

Yes, it’s me, said her husband, taking her hand.

Where have you been?

I’ve been right here. You just woke up.

Are we at home?

Yes, he said. We’re at the house.

You came from—? she whispered. She shook her head. No,
she said. That’s not . . .

Is there anything I can get you, dear?

No, John.

Here, have a little water. He held up a paper cup. His hand was shaky. He managed to guide the bent straw to her lips.
 
Thank you, John, she said. Saying his name pleased her. She smiled, though her husband would have hardly called it a smile. Her face had lost most of its flesh and her profile was more pronounced, even regal.
 
She spoke with great effort. I’m thinking of the dancing, she said. Isn’t it lovely to think of? Her eyelids were low and her black eyes looked elsewhere.
 
It is, he said. He stroked her hand. Her hand had not changed so much, though her wedding band was loose beneath her knuckle. But her wrist was different, flat like a board, and her fore- arm where it emerged from her dressing gown was like a plank.
 
Have you changed the music, John?

What, dear?

I’m sorry, she said. I’m confused.

Painkillers, he said. The medicine is making you confused.
 
Her gaze flicked in his direction with a sharp bird-look, testing the soundness of this. The medicine, she said uncertainly, and nodded. What time is it?
 
He consulted his watch and after some time reported, Twenty to five.
 
In the evening, she said with suspicion.

In the evening.

They sat for a while.

Then she said, Tomorrow I think we might go to the shore.
 
We’ll see.
 
She lifted up her narrow arms and dropped them on the bedspread. Oh, God, she groaned, I’d love to swim. In lovely cold water.
 
You would like that, he said.
 
I wanted to swim with you, John. She frowned. But they served dinner so early.
 
It’s all right, he said.
 
They kept the tables apart, but everyone danced after, she said. I thought—but then she came the next day. Her mouth turned down. What did you say to her, John?
 
The man shook his head.
 
What? she said.
 
I can’t remember, the man said with resignation.
 
She was prettier than I. That, everyone knew.
 
I don’t know about that, he said.
 
Couldn’t dance as well though. But she was chic. I remember she had a really good-looking scarf and a wonderful suit. Better clothes than mine.
 
The woman’s hand waved slowly; it didn’t matter so much now.
 
You were a wonderful dancer, he said. You are.
 
Did you love her, John?
 
No, he said. I loved you.
 
The woman nodded, her expression placid, skin stretched over her cheekbones.
 
I know, she said, meaning to reassure him. I know. Her eyes closed, winglike. I wondered if you believed in Christ, she said.
 
Her husband watched her fall asleep. In their lifetime he’d watched her face go through many changes, but he could still see the first face he’d known when she walked up from the beach that day.
 
Where are we again? Her eyes stayed closed.
 
Home, in the house on Chestnut Street.
 
Oh yes. In my room.
 
In your room.
 
That’s right. Her eyes opened. You’ll stay here, John? You won’t go away?
 
I won’t go away.
 
He sat and watched her sleep, looking at her dry lips and polished forehead. Past the bed out the window, it was turning blue and he looked at his watch. The doctor was coming by after five. He stayed in the chair. He looked at his thumbs meeting each other.
 
After an uncertain amount of time there was a tap on the door. The doctor’s head appeared, the door was pushed farther ajar. Sleeping? the doctor said.
 
The man nodded.
 
Could I talk to you? the doctor said, with a twitch of his head.
 
They stood side by side at the upstairs railing, both looking down at the top of the lamp on the hall table below. I want to ask, said the doctor, how you are holding up.
 
The man stared ahead of him, not wanting to speak.
 
Andrew, said the doctor. It can be hard on a man.
 
At the mention of his name, Andrew turned to face the doctor. Yes, he said. He knew.
“A winning blend of emotional intensity, capricious playfulness and keen-eyed observation.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A winning blend of emotional intensity, capricious playfulness and keen-eyed observation.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune “Tender, precise, emotional, insightful and funny.” —Julianne Moore

Why I Don’t Write: And Other Stories, [Minot’s] first in some thirty years, showcases her versatility. Its ten stories range from mainstream to experimental, with sundry stops in between. . . . She has an unmistakable knack for distilling things, and gorgeously, at that. . . . Taken as a whole, Minot’s collection is, by turns, spiky and intimate, adventurous, stark and lyrical. . . . Few story collections shine as brightly.” —Portland Press Herald (Maine)

Why I Don’t Write is a quiet collection, but it is not a halting or timid one. Minot still has a poet’s instinct for the surprising volta, the striking image, the bracing final line. After thirty years away from the short story, it is good to have her back, clear-eyed and fearless as ever, whispering difficult truths and ambiguities that a less assured writer would feel compelled to shout.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Susan Minot is an author well reputed for the purity and terseness of her prose exhibited over a career of more than three decades. Her latest book, a collection of ten stories is no exception. . . . Minot excels in description of people and places. . . . [A] rewarding read.” —New York Journal of Books

“[Why I Don’t Write] is strikingly visual. Here, the light is often white, people’s heads are bullet-shaped, and the littered car of a scoundrel professor is a fish tank. At their best, the sentences are frozen frames peering at the reader, as the reader peers back, peeling new information with each read. . . . [These stories] spill with luscious sentences that scintillate.” —Chicago Review of Books

“[Minot’s] gift is for illuminating revelatory moments in characters’ lives. . . . Throughout, Minot is keenly aware of how men hurt women—as well as how women sabotage themselves.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Minot . . . finds hints of violence, grief, and trauma in her characters’ interior lives in this precise, shimmering collection.” —Publishers Weekly

About

Susan Minot dryly catalogs the myriad reasons she cannot write; an artist bicycles through a protest encampment in lower Manhattan and ruminates on an elusive lover; an old woman on her deathbed calls out for a man other than her husband; a hapless fifteen-year-old boy finds himself in sexual peril; two young people in the 1990s fall helplessly in love, then bicker just as helplessly, tortured by jealousy and mistrust. In each of these stories Minot explores the difficult geometry of human relations, the lure of love and physical desire, and the lifelong quest for meaning and connection. Her characters are all searching for truth, in feeling and in action, as societal norms are upended and justice and coherence flounder. Urgent and immediate, precisely observed, deeply felt, and gorgeously written, the stories in Why I Don’t Write showcase an author at the top of her form.
 
“A winning blend of emotional intensity, capricious playfulness and keen-eyed observation.” 
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Tender, precise, emotional, insightful and funny.”  —Julianne Moore

Why I Don’t Write: And Other Stories, [Minot’s] first in some thirty years, showcases her versatility. Its ten stories range from mainstream to experimental, with sundry stops in between. . . . She has an unmistakable knack for distilling things, and gorgeously, at that. . . . Taken as a whole, Minot’s collection is, by turns, spiky and intimate, adventurous, stark and lyrical. . . . Few story collections shine as brightly.” —Portland Press Herald (Maine)

Why I Don’t Write is a quiet collection, but it is not a halting or timid one. Minot still has a poet’s instinct for the surprising volta, the striking image, the bracing final line. After thirty years away from the short story, it is good to have her back, clear-eyed and fearless as ever, whispering difficult truths and ambiguities that a less assured writer would feel compelled to shout.” —The New York Times Book Review 

“Susan Minot is an author well reputed for the purity and terseness of her prose exhibited over a career of more than three decades. Her latest book, a collection of ten stories is no exception. . . . Minot excels in description of people and places. . . . [A] rewarding read.” —New York Journal of Books

“[Why I Don’t Write] is strikingly visual. Here, the light is often white, people’s heads are bullet-shaped, and the littered car of a scoundrel professor is a fish tank. At their best, the sentences are frozen frames peering at the reader, as the reader peers back, peeling new information with each read. . . . [These stories] spill with luscious sentences that scintillate.” —Chicago Review of Books 

“[Minot’s] gift is for illuminating revelatory moments in characters’ lives. . . . Throughout, Minot is keenly aware of how men hurt women—as well as how women sabotage themselves.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Minot . . . finds hints of violence, grief, and trauma in her characters’ interior lives in this precise, shimmering collection.” —Publishers Weekly

Author

© Jean Pagliuso
SUSAN MINOT is an award-winning novelist, short-story writer, poet, and screenwriter. Her first novel, Monkeys, was published in a dozen countries and won the Prix Femina Étranger in France. Her novel Evening was a worldwide best seller and became a major motion picture. She lives with her daughter in New York City and on an island off the coast of Maine. View titles by Susan Minot

Excerpt

The Torch


 
She lay back on the clean white pillows.

Is that—? Who’s there? she said.

It’s me.

John? she said in a weak voice. Is that you, John? Happiness came into her tone.

Yes, it’s me, said her husband, taking her hand.

Where have you been?

I’ve been right here. You just woke up.

Are we at home?

Yes, he said. We’re at the house.

You came from—? she whispered. She shook her head. No,
she said. That’s not . . .

Is there anything I can get you, dear?

No, John.

Here, have a little water. He held up a paper cup. His hand was shaky. He managed to guide the bent straw to her lips.
 
Thank you, John, she said. Saying his name pleased her. She smiled, though her husband would have hardly called it a smile. Her face had lost most of its flesh and her profile was more pronounced, even regal.
 
She spoke with great effort. I’m thinking of the dancing, she said. Isn’t it lovely to think of? Her eyelids were low and her black eyes looked elsewhere.
 
It is, he said. He stroked her hand. Her hand had not changed so much, though her wedding band was loose beneath her knuckle. But her wrist was different, flat like a board, and her fore- arm where it emerged from her dressing gown was like a plank.
 
Have you changed the music, John?

What, dear?

I’m sorry, she said. I’m confused.

Painkillers, he said. The medicine is making you confused.
 
Her gaze flicked in his direction with a sharp bird-look, testing the soundness of this. The medicine, she said uncertainly, and nodded. What time is it?
 
He consulted his watch and after some time reported, Twenty to five.
 
In the evening, she said with suspicion.

In the evening.

They sat for a while.

Then she said, Tomorrow I think we might go to the shore.
 
We’ll see.
 
She lifted up her narrow arms and dropped them on the bedspread. Oh, God, she groaned, I’d love to swim. In lovely cold water.
 
You would like that, he said.
 
I wanted to swim with you, John. She frowned. But they served dinner so early.
 
It’s all right, he said.
 
They kept the tables apart, but everyone danced after, she said. I thought—but then she came the next day. Her mouth turned down. What did you say to her, John?
 
The man shook his head.
 
What? she said.
 
I can’t remember, the man said with resignation.
 
She was prettier than I. That, everyone knew.
 
I don’t know about that, he said.
 
Couldn’t dance as well though. But she was chic. I remember she had a really good-looking scarf and a wonderful suit. Better clothes than mine.
 
The woman’s hand waved slowly; it didn’t matter so much now.
 
You were a wonderful dancer, he said. You are.
 
Did you love her, John?
 
No, he said. I loved you.
 
The woman nodded, her expression placid, skin stretched over her cheekbones.
 
I know, she said, meaning to reassure him. I know. Her eyes closed, winglike. I wondered if you believed in Christ, she said.
 
Her husband watched her fall asleep. In their lifetime he’d watched her face go through many changes, but he could still see the first face he’d known when she walked up from the beach that day.
 
Where are we again? Her eyes stayed closed.
 
Home, in the house on Chestnut Street.
 
Oh yes. In my room.
 
In your room.
 
That’s right. Her eyes opened. You’ll stay here, John? You won’t go away?
 
I won’t go away.
 
He sat and watched her sleep, looking at her dry lips and polished forehead. Past the bed out the window, it was turning blue and he looked at his watch. The doctor was coming by after five. He stayed in the chair. He looked at his thumbs meeting each other.
 
After an uncertain amount of time there was a tap on the door. The doctor’s head appeared, the door was pushed farther ajar. Sleeping? the doctor said.
 
The man nodded.
 
Could I talk to you? the doctor said, with a twitch of his head.
 
They stood side by side at the upstairs railing, both looking down at the top of the lamp on the hall table below. I want to ask, said the doctor, how you are holding up.
 
The man stared ahead of him, not wanting to speak.
 
Andrew, said the doctor. It can be hard on a man.
 
At the mention of his name, Andrew turned to face the doctor. Yes, he said. He knew.

Praise

“A winning blend of emotional intensity, capricious playfulness and keen-eyed observation.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A winning blend of emotional intensity, capricious playfulness and keen-eyed observation.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune “Tender, precise, emotional, insightful and funny.” —Julianne Moore

Why I Don’t Write: And Other Stories, [Minot’s] first in some thirty years, showcases her versatility. Its ten stories range from mainstream to experimental, with sundry stops in between. . . . She has an unmistakable knack for distilling things, and gorgeously, at that. . . . Taken as a whole, Minot’s collection is, by turns, spiky and intimate, adventurous, stark and lyrical. . . . Few story collections shine as brightly.” —Portland Press Herald (Maine)

Why I Don’t Write is a quiet collection, but it is not a halting or timid one. Minot still has a poet’s instinct for the surprising volta, the striking image, the bracing final line. After thirty years away from the short story, it is good to have her back, clear-eyed and fearless as ever, whispering difficult truths and ambiguities that a less assured writer would feel compelled to shout.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Susan Minot is an author well reputed for the purity and terseness of her prose exhibited over a career of more than three decades. Her latest book, a collection of ten stories is no exception. . . . Minot excels in description of people and places. . . . [A] rewarding read.” —New York Journal of Books

“[Why I Don’t Write] is strikingly visual. Here, the light is often white, people’s heads are bullet-shaped, and the littered car of a scoundrel professor is a fish tank. At their best, the sentences are frozen frames peering at the reader, as the reader peers back, peeling new information with each read. . . . [These stories] spill with luscious sentences that scintillate.” —Chicago Review of Books

“[Minot’s] gift is for illuminating revelatory moments in characters’ lives. . . . Throughout, Minot is keenly aware of how men hurt women—as well as how women sabotage themselves.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Minot . . . finds hints of violence, grief, and trauma in her characters’ interior lives in this precise, shimmering collection.” —Publishers Weekly

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