Cover image for Out of the girls' room and into the night
Out of the girls' room and into the night
Nissen, Thisbe, 1972-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Iowa City : University of Iowa Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
244 pages ; 24 cm.
Format :


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"Out of the Girls' Room and into the Night" is a spirited, offbeat collection of stories, elongated riffs on that thing we call love. All manner of love stories: thwarted love stories, imaginary love stories, love stories offhand and obsessive, philosophical love stories, erudite and amusing love stories.

People don't meet because they both like Burmese food, says one character, or because someone's sister has a friend who's single and new in town, or because Billy's nose happened to crook just slightly to the left at an angle that made me want to weep People don't fall in love with each other they just fall "into" love.

Everyone does it: women of fierce independence, men of thin character, rambling Deadheads, gay teenage girls, despondent Peace Corps volunteers, anorexic Broadway theatre dancers, the eager, the grieving, the uncommunicative. Even the confused do it. And they don't just fall in love with each other they fall in love with certain moments and familiar places, with things as ephemeral as gestures and as evanescent as sunlight.

Quirky, real, idealistic, deluded, bohemian, and true, these are people who can and often do fall in love with a pair of ears, August afternoons, saucers of vitamins, New Age carpenters, and dead bumblebees. And if there's something they can teach us, it's how to conceive of alternative worlds and the terror and the exhilaration of venturing outside the confines of the lives we know and making our way into a dark, glittering unknown."

Author Notes

Thisbe Nissen lives in Iowa.

(Publisher Fact Sheets) Thisbe Nissen is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop & a former James Michener Fellow. "Out of the Girls' Room & into the Night" received the 1999 John Simmons Short Fiction Award. Her stories have appeared in "Story" & "Seventeen" magazine. A native New Yorker, she now lives in Iowa.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Moving from the chaotic world of adolescence and into adulthood is the theme that links Nissen's bittersweet collection of 25 fierce and quirky short stories, the winner of the John Simmons Fiction Award. Familiar issues are dealt with innovativelyÄyoung women (and some men) deal with eating disorders, illness, death, infidelity and love. The cast is an eclectic crew of original, sometimes bizarre, yet recognizable characters with names like Silver Tarkington, Wing MacArdle, Mo‰t and Zagarella. The settings range from Santa Cruz to the Midwest, Manhattan to Paris. With self-deprecating and wry humor, Nissen's characters frequently improvise unusual answers for difficult, confusing questions. In "Way Back When in the Now Before Now," Sari, a city-savvy teenager whose mother is dying of cancer, slips into the bed of her best friend's brother, searching for comfort in "the hot sleepy boy-smell with its acrid twinge of sex." "The Estate" charts the fleeting passage of time as experienced by a close-knit group of friends and family summering together annually at a carriage house on a large property. Other stories feature young hippies hoping to make a Grateful Dead show; a group of eight women living in a feminist co-op; a child coping with being pushed too hard by ambitious, cold parents. In these tales, as in others, Nissen displays a sharp talent for fresh detail and dialogue: Barb-Jean, a soprano who conserves her voice for days at a time, communicates through scraps of paper. "When we cleaned the house... at the end of the season we'd find fragments of conversation stuck between the couch cushions and tucked into kitchen drawers: how many people? How many ears? Portuguese on her mother's side I think, SotÄ5 lettersÄends in a y." Many of the stories in this warm, fearless collection trace college love affairs and exquisite, if tentative, sexual explorations between young women. Where a few tales are merely good, several of them are stellar, marking Nissan as an assured writer whose wide-ranging interest in varied people and life situations creates lively fiction. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

YA-The two dozen stories here are contemporary, memorable, and thought-provoking. All deal with love-requited, denied, outgrown, and enduring. The characters vary in age and gender, and the level of their attachments ranges from the disillusionment of a preschooler with a highly intelligent but mean schoolmate to the adjustments required in a 25-year marriage when Alzheimer's disease encroaches. Characters engage in the casual sex and drug use integral to the culture of Deadheads and Jerry Garcia. Several of the stories deal with the problems of anorexia as they affect the lives of young women, their parents, and, in one striking case, a pet cat. The title story is a study in contrasts as it depicts the gripping passion of a middle-aged science teacher for a teen who had indulged him once and now "couldn't care less." Another story concerns the bizarre accidents plaguing a group of eight college housemates. The writing evokes definite periods and stages in the development of personality and awareness.- Frances Reiher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

The Mushroom Girlp. 1
At the No. 1 Phoenix Gardenp. 18
Apple Piep. 20
When the Rain Washes You Clean You'll Knowp. 33
The Rather Unlikely Courtship of Edwin Anderson and Roz Rosenzweigp. 42
Grover, King of Nebraskap. 53
29th Street Playground, September 1968p. 63
What Safety Isp. 66
Way Back When in the Now before Nowp. 79
Fundamentals of Communicationp. 91
Flowers in the Dustbin, Poison in the Human Machinep. 95
Mailing Incorrectlyp. 117
31/2 [times] 5p. 129
819 Walnutp. 131
Accidental Lovep. 148
How Beautifully Resilient the Human Beingp. 159
Jono, an Elegyp. 171
The Girl at Chichen Itzap. 180
The Estatep. 185
A Bungalow, Koh Taop. 196
Grogp. 199
After Twenty-Five Years, at the Palais Royalep. 210
Think about if You Wantp. 212
The Animal's Best Interestp. 225
Out of the Girls' Room and into the Nightp. 236