Cover image for Confessions of a falling woman : and other stories
Confessions of a falling woman : and other stories
Dean, Debra, 1957-
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First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harper Perennial, [2008]

Physical Description:
224 pages, 16 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
What the left hand is saying -- Queen Mother -- Afterlife of Lyle Stone -- A brief history of us -- Another little piece -- Romance manual -- Best man -- Bodhisattva -- Confessions of a falling woman -- Dan in the gray flannel rat suit.
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Ten masterworks of short fiction--by turns tender, comic, powerful, and devastating--from the highly praised author of The Madonnas of Leningrad

A surprised Southern matriarch is confronted by her family at an intervention. . . . A life-altering breakin triggers insomniac introspection in a desperate actor. . . . Streetwise New York City neighbors let down their guard for a naïve puppeteer and must suffer the consequences. . . .

In this stunning collection of short stories--five of which are being published for the very first time bestselling, award-winning author Debra Dean displays the depth and magnitude of her literary talent. Replete the seamless storytelling and captivating lyrical voice that made her debut novel, The Madonnas of Leningrad, a national bestseller, Dean's Confessions of a Falling Woman is a haunting, satisfying, and unforgettable reading experience.

"A novel that dares to be beautiful--and fully succeeds."--Daily Mail (London)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Well-adjusted individuals have little place in the works of novelist and former actress Dean (The Madonnas of Leningrad, 2006). From estranged children to uneasy ex-wives, this edgy collection features flawed characters in precarious mental states. A nightmare about the hereafter throws a successful executive for an emotional loop in The Afterlife of Lyle Stone. A woman's chance encounter with her husband proves bitter and sweet in Another Little Piece of My Heart. A New Yorker ponders her complex relationship with her shrink in The Bodhisattva. A southern family confronts its domineering alcoholic matriarch; a dying divorcée reaches out to her ex-husband; a friend's wedding brings a husband face-to-face with the possibility of infidelity. In the overly long Dan in the Gray Flannel Rat Suit, a brush with crime frays a struggling New York actor's nerves. Dean's years of role-playing have made her a consummate chronicler of life and love. Scratch the surface and they're all the same, says an actress of her assorted lovers in Romance Manual. But you learn not to scratch. --Block, Allison Copyright 2008 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Dean follows her debut novel, The Madonnas of Leningrad, with a humorous collection chronicling struggling actors and actresses, therapy sessions and romantic relationships on the brink of disaster. After a bizarre break-in, the 30-something actor-narrator of "Dan in the Gray Flannel Rat Suit" finds himself on the cusp of fleeing a cruel New York with his wife and child. "The Queen Mother" reveals an actress returning to Louisiana to help coax her dramatic, alcoholic mom to rehab. In "The Afterlife of Lyle Stone," a Seattle attorney allows a vivid dream to unhinge his waking life, while a group of creative-minded neighbors have their lives shaken up by a Muppet-like puppeteer in "What the Left Hand Is Saying." Herself a former actress, Dean illuminates the nastiness of the business and the psychic toll of performance, writing about failure and loss with unfailing comic precision: "But gradually I fall under the spell of my own acting, or the rhythm of the act, it doesn't matter which," the narrator of "Romance Manual" says of sleeping with a fellow cast member. Readers will certainly forget themselves in these sparkling stories, pausing over small, strange moments that change entire lives. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Dean, author of the best-selling The Madonnas of Leningrad, has put together a stunning collection of stories. She presents several stories concerning actors: a gregarious puppeteer turns against his friends when he puts on his puppet in "What the Left Hand is Saying"; an actress in a traveling show realizes that she will lose her married lover in "Romance Manual"; and an aging part-time actor risks losing his marriage by accepting yet one more bit part in "Dan in the Gray Flannel Rat Suit." In the title story, a dying woman writes a letter to her ex-husband, forgiving him for the accident that killed their only child. In "The Afterlife of Lyle Stone," Lyle suffers a breakdown that causes him to question his life but forgets about it in the face of antidepressants. Characters are drawn subtly, with just enough detail to let the reader feel the personality, and the story is allowed to carry the characters to its conclusion. These polished stories evoke a more experienced writer than Dean, who has already had a career as an actor. Recommended for libraries where there is an interest in literary fiction or short stories.-Amy Ford, St. Mary's Cty. Lib., Lexington Park, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Confessions of a Falling Woman And Other Stories Chapter One What the Left Hand Is Saying Only a mesh of ivy holds this old building upright, ropy veins lashing the fire escape precariously to its side. Wind rattles through the rotting window frames and the tub is in the kitchen, but the building is rent-controlled, so years can go by without a name changing on the buzzers downstairs. Still, before Tim the Puppet Boy arrived, I knew my neighbors in the way New Yorkers do, faces passed on the stairs, voices heard through the walls late at night. In fact, I didn't know a soul in the city. But I'm an only child and the child of only children, and was accustomed to being alone. I wouldn't have called myself lonely. He arrived in the summer, on a morning already wilting with the heat. I remember I had given up a halfhearted plan to go to a cattle call and instead was soaking in a tub of cold water. He might have been knocking for some time, but I didn't hear him until I surfaced and reached for another tray of ice cubes out of the freezer. Peering in at the open window was a gangly apparition wearing only striped bikini briefs and ridiculous pink plastic sunglasses. He was sorry to bother me, he said, but could he use my phone? Oh, for Pete's sake. That was my reaction, can't a person even take a bath in her own kitchen? And then mild astonishment that the fire escape could actually hold the weight of an adult, albeit a pretty scrawny one. A full minute elapsed before it occurred to me to throw a towel over myself. I stood up and tried to shoo him away from the window as though he were a pigeon. He smiled and shrugged but didn't leave. "I was sunbathing up on the roof, and Juan must have locked the window before he left. Philip's asleep, and it's like trying to wake the dead. You know, you should repot that dracaena--it needs more room for its roots." He was pointing to a dead plant on the sill. "So I've been pounding out there for ten minutes, but no luck." He waited, his smile hopeful. "Listen, I don't know any Philip or Juan." "Really?" He seemed disbelieving. "You share a fire escape. I'm staying with them for a few days." He crouched over to extend his hand through the window. "My name's Tim." I'd never heard of a burglar in a swimsuit, but more to the point, he was the only person I'd ever seen in New York who looked utterly guileless and sexless. I shook his hand and pushed up the sash, cautioning him to watch his step. Tim stayed for a year. I found out some time later that Philip and Juan had met him only a few weeks before I did. "I thought he was trying to pick me up," Philip said. "Well, my God, he just walked up to me in the park and started talking to me. So I brought him home. Next thing, the little weenie was asleep on the couch." If I can't remember when Tim moved across the hall into my apartment, it is because he had a disarming lack of boundaries. He'd drop over three times a day--to borrow my iron, to tell me the mail had come, to show me something wonderful he'd found in a Dumpster. In the evenings, he might tap on the door and announce that everyone was watching Dynasty on Philip's new TV. Gradually our two doors were simply left ajar. Our two apartments fused, with silverware, shampoo, and condiments migrating freely back and forth. I began to find Tim asleep on my couch when I came home late, and chatting with one of our neighbors in the kitchen when I got up the next morning. Through Tim, I discovered that our building was populated entirely by aspiring fill-in-the-blanks. I was going to be a star on Broadway or, barring that, sell out and make a lot of money doing television. Juan was a dancer with a company that disbanded and renamed itself every few months, and he hoped to choreograph someday. Philip's aspirations were more vague but nonetheless brilliant: he was going to be famous, for what was left open. Meanwhile, he devoted his energy to being in the right place--whatever club was currently in vogue--and sleeping with the right people. Darla, a would-be model, lived on the second floor. She had once met the photographer Scavullo at a party. He told her she had great bones, and she'd been starving them into prominence ever since, endlessly refining her appearance in hopes of finding the look that would propel her onto the cover of Vogue . Her boyfriend, Zak, hung out at the comedy clubs, convinced that he was funny enough to get paid for it. Even Morty the super was taking night classes in real estate. He had big plans to cash in on the co-op boom. Tim was the only one among us who didn't appear to have any ambitions. He occasionally got work from a company that did rich kids' birthday parties, but there wasn't much demand for puppeteers. He lived more or less hand-to-mouth. The puppets themselves were his own creations, whimsically detailed creatures that he might have sold for a lot of money. More than once I tried to forward this idea, but Tim couldn't sustain any interest in profit. He might spend whole days painting over the same eyes or searching for just the right shade of wool yarn. More often, I heard him playing with an unfinished puppet, cackling laughter and different voices interspersed with his own. He idolized Jim Henson. Once you knew this about him, it was hard to shake his resemblance to a Muppet. His thin legs and arms moved with floppy abandon, and he tended to dress in childish combinations of color and pattern. But stronger than the physical resemblance, it was the way he moved through the world, as though everyone were his friend. I don't know that he ever actually said so, but I assumed he was from a small town somewhere in the Midwest, a place where people still knew their neighbors and gossiped with them over pie and coffee in each other's kitchens. When he moved in here, the tenants in our building gradually began to mingle and kibitz like a large and affectionate family. Confessions of a Falling Woman And Other Stories . Copyright © by Debra Dean. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Confessions of a Falling Woman: And Other Stories by Debra Dean All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.