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Referred Pain

"Gorgeous and elegant writing, as always. Lynne Sharon Schwartz has an extraordinary gift for revealing the mysterious balance of her characters' inner and outer reality."
--Ursula Hegi

 

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Lynne Sharon Schwartz's characters confront inner demons, playing out fantasies they crave and dread. On the surface, they live ordinary lives, but Schwartz reveals their subversions and perversions with wicked wit and psychological acuity.

In the title novella, Koslowski, beset by a kind of survivor's guilt, insists to the point of absurdity that his elaborate dental work is emblematic of his immigrant parents' suffering in World War II. In "Francesca," a mild-mannered professor finds himself calmly contemplating incest, and in "Hostages to Fortune," a seemingly conventional couple construct a sadly macabre version of family life. The journalist in "Sightings of Loretta" realizes he has spent years pursuing a chimerical, unfulfilled romance while oblivious to his own wife. And in "Heat," Schwartz makes an unconsummated passion more erotic than the real thing. Several of the stories take place in the realm of fantasy itself; "Deadly Nightshade" is a whimsical conjecture about the first woman brave enough to eat a tomato, long considered poisonous.

 

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From The Women's Review of Books: "There's nothing tentative or sloppy in Schwartz's stories--no false starts, easy outs, or dangling elements. Their novelistic scale--some roam across decades--allows her to showcase her structural wizardry, her wisdom and maturity.... Schwartz know a great deal about love and pain, she celebrates the erotic and at the same time is unflinching when it comes to exposing the ways we delude and fail ourselves."

From The Chicago Tribune: "'All my writerly instincts,' one narrator tells us, 'run opposite to the aesthetic of full disclosure; I prefer concealment, cunning, and artifice.' Those three qualities, along with Schwartz's generosity of mind and heart, are present on almost every page of this book."