The Dinner Party by Joshua Ferris
Little, Brown and Company: 5/2/17
eBook review copy; 256 pages
The Dinner Party by Joshua Ferris is a highly recommended collection of eleven previously published short stories. The stories in The Dinner Party, six of which were first published in The New Yorker,
are about "the modern tribulations of
marriage, ambition, and the fear of missing out..." The lives here are
all changed in some way and at times the stories read like dark
comedies. The writing is wonderful and there are several stories with
surprising twists at the end. This is an admirable collection with only
one story that I didn't enjoy as much as the others.
The Dinner Party: A man loathes having to sit through another dinner
party with his wife's friend and her husband. "He also wanted his wife
and her friend to drift apart so that he never
had to sit through another dinner party with the friend and her
The Valetudinarian: It's Arty Groys birthday. The
Florida retiree is at loose ends until he receives an unexpected gift
"If I had known about any of this forty years ago, I wouldn’t be so
gloomy today, but no one gives you a manual."
The Pilot: Leonard, who is writing a pilot for a TV show is invited to a
party by Kate Lotvelt, a very successful writer, and he is unsure if
she intended to invite him. "He and Kate, they weren’t…were they
friends? Well, yeah, they were friends. They were acquaintances. They’d
met twice, once at the producer Sydney Gleekman’s yearly blowout, and
then, a few months later, at the actor’s dinner party."
A Night Out: A man is unable to hide his cheating from his wife. "She
didn’t know how she knew. She just knew. Tom wanted not to have seen
her, then he shifted with a smile and a loud, “Clara!” Clara was
surprised to see him, or acted so. Tom introduced his wife. Clara
complimented Sophie’s handbag."
The Breeze: A woman is out on the balcony, catching a pleasant spring
breeze, which sets into motion endless possibilities for her but
complacency from her husband. " 'In the brig!' Sarah called out and,
with her wineglass at a tilt,
peeked down again on the neighborhood. They called their six feet of
concrete balcony overlooking the street the brig.
Ghost Town Choir: A fatherless boy watches his mother chase off another
boyfriend. " 'Mom, why are you mad at Lawton?' She opened the window
above the sink,
and all her figurines fell into the water. 'Because I got an expiration
date on my stupidity!'"
More Abandon, or What Ever Happened to Joe Pope?: A man stays in his
office building long after closing. "But there is work to do, work to
do, and that, he tells himself, is why
he stays. It is nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow, but he is
incapable of breaking free."
Fragments: A man listens to the fragments of conversations he hears
while out walking, thinking about his life. "That night, Katy came home
later than usual. He was up but feigned
sleep. With the lights off, she tiptoed into the bedroom, making no
effort to wake him. He wanted her to. He wanted her to say something,
The Stepchild: An actor's wife has left him and he's in despair.
"...passersby might have thought him utterly seduced - until he turned
they glimpsed that he was crying. Then they knew they were in one of
those city moments, a public audience to a stranger’s despair."
Life in the Heart of the Dead: A middle aged man spends an afternoon on a guided tour of Prague.
"'It’s Prague Castle,' she said. 'And by the way,' she added, just when
the whole table, and really the whole restaurant, seemed to go
completely silent. 'For some reason, you keep calling it Czechoslovakia.
You understand, I hope, that it isn’t Czechoslovakia anymore. It hasn’t
been Czechoslovakia for twenty years. It’s the Czech Republic now.'"
A Fair Price: A man hires an older man to help him move his stuff but he
becomes increasingly belligerent as the day progresses. "Nothing sucked
more than moving your stuff out of storage. Luckily Jack
had a hand. Guy he’d never met before named Mike. Ryan, his yard guy,
had hooked them up. Mike worked for Ryan or knew Ryan somehow. Jack
didn’t ask. He was just glad to have the help."
My review copy was courtesy of the publisher/author.