Things to Come and Go
‘Stunning power and beauty abound in this book.’ – The New York Times
‘Howland recalls the short-story writer Lucia Berlin’ – Harper’s Magazine
‘Honest, acerbic, alert, and always dazzling.’ – Amitava Kumar, author of Immigrant, Montana
Things to Come and Go showcases the incomparable talent of Bette Howland in three novellas of stunning power, beauty, and sustaining humour.
‘Birds of a Feather’ is a daughter’s story of her extended, first-generation family, the ‘big, brassy yak-yakking Abarbanels’. Esti, a merciless, astute observer, recalls growing up amid (the confusions and difficulties of) their history, quarrels, judgements, and noisy love, and the sense of estrangement and inescapable bonds of blood.
The clamour of the city, both its threat and its possibility, are just outside the door in ‘The Old Wheeze’, as a single mother in her twenties returns to her sunless apartment after a date at the ballet. Shifting between four viewpoints – the young woman, the older professor who took her out, her son, and her son’s babysitter – the story masterfully captures the impossibility of liberating ourselves from the self.
In ‘The Life You Gave Me’, a woman at the midpoint of life is called to her father’s sickbed. A lament for all that is forever unsaid and unsayable, the story is ‘an anguished meditation on growing up, growing old and being left behind, a complaint against time.’ (The New York Times)
First published in 1984, Things to Come and Go, Bette Howland’s final book, is a collection of haunting urgency about arrivals and departures, and the private, insoluble dramas in the lives of three women.
This edition features an introduction by Rumaan Alam, bestselling author of Leave the World Behind.
A quirky collection of three long stories by a writer of unusual talent, power and intelligence. Bette Howland has revealed from the start a vigorous, original voice, an incisive mind and an uncompromised lyrical vision . . . Descriptive passages of stunning power and beauty abound in this book; it is a trove of lyric riches. -- Johanna Kaplan * New York Times * The three novellas that constitute Things to Come and Go feel, at moments, like thinly disguised autobiography. With her flexible stance toward reality, her eye for the amusing, curious minutiae of existence, and her tonal range . . . Howland recalls the short-story writer Lucia Berlin. -- Abigail Deutsch * Harper's Magazine * There is being seen, and then there is seeing. There is no seeing like Bette Howland's. On every page, catching the narrator's every glance, are observations rich in detail and delight-honest, acerbic, alert, and always dazzling in their inventiveness and wry, hard-edged wisdom. -- Amitava Kumar One of the significant writers of her generation -- Saul Bellow There's no more interesting tale of neglect and rediscovery than that of Bette Howland. -- Lucy Scholes * Paris Review * [Howland's] rhythmic sentences and striving characters resonate as much today as they did when first written in the 1970s and early 80s . . . one of American literature's rising stars. -- Sarah Hughes * iNews * Throughout her work, Howland's great theme is the shared ache of human existence, a commonality that sometimes unites us, but more often divides and isolates. She captures this paradoxical push-pull between the longing and the resistance to connect in a wide range of settings and characters, but most poignantly within herself, and most dramatically among the members of her large, multigenerational Jewish family. -- Diane Cole * New York Jewish Week *
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