“I think very few people are completely normal really, deep down in their private lives,” says Amanda, the sharp witted, razor-tongued heroine in Noel Coward’s 1930s comedy of manners, Private Lives. While critics considered it a souffle of a play; audiences delighted in its central question: What if someone peeked behind the curtain and got a plain view of our lives? What looks ordinary and commonplace to the public might reveal something entirely different. The eleven stories in TMR Books anthology Private Lives: Stories takes Coward’s skewed and skeptical worldview as its central theme. Many of the stories explore domestic upheaval and tension between our public and private selves and the often delightful and darkly comic chaos that ensues. In Jane Gillette’s “Visiting,” Judith does as Jesus instructs and visits her dying friend Alicia in the hospital. As a last gift she concocts for her a story of a love affair so that Alicia can take pleasure in disapproving of Judith’s behavior one last time. Matthew Baker’s “A Cruel Gap-toothed Boy,” tells the story of two uncles struggling to raise their niece and nephew after their mother abandons them. The uncles and nephew, in an unsteady alliance, fumble their act of revenge against the seemingly psychopathic boy who bullies their niece with ridicule and slander. The lives of the young married couple in Dionne Irving’s “Florida Lives” are simply a mess—credit card debt, dead end jobs, daily drinking—so they leave San Francisco for a new start in Florida. Intrusive, troublesome, working-class neighbors of which they disapprove hold a mirror to their disintegrating marriage and personal turmoil. The fifth-grade teacher in Michael Byers “A Good Breath” has also created a mess of his life, treating his students with disdain and his girlfriend with indifference. Yet, there is hope for him; if he is lucky he will learn to be kind and take in the world’s beauty. ‘Oh, Such Playwrights,” a tour de force by Peter LaSalle, tells the story of three men, who like Coward, have the audacity to become playwrights with varying degrees of personal and professional success. LaSalle takes us into the world of New York theater, one Coward knew very well. Coward’s audiences enjoyed the anarchy that ensued on stage because they could take comfort in knowing, at least for the time being, that their own secrets remained hidden. The twelve stories here offer the same delight of watching the storm from the safe shelter of well-crafted art.
Fiction. Short Stories.
Missouri Review Books editors Kristine Somerville and Speer Morgan bring a combined editorial experience of nearly eighty years to publishing literary works by writers of all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities. A professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia since 1972, Morgan is among the most respected editors in literary publishing. The author of five novels and a collection of short stories and the editor of three other books, he's a past recipient of an NEA Fellowship for Fiction and the recipient of an American Book Award for The Freshour Cylinders, a novel published in 1998. Somerville's work has appeared in a variety of magazines, including the North American Review, Passages North, Quarterly West, and New Voices from the Academy of American Poets. She oversees the Missouri Review's various promotional efforts, including direct mail, national advertising, fundraising dinners, and charity events. Somerville also oversees the Missouri Review's cover design and artwork, and writes TMR's "found text" and art features.