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Childhood and Other Neighborhoods: Stories

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  281 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
In Stuart Dybek's Chicago, wonder lurks in unexpected places—in garbage-strewn alleys, gloomy basement apartments, abandoned rooms at the top of rickety stairs periodically rumbled by passing el trains. Transformed through the wide eyes of Dybek's adolescent heroes, these grimy urban backwaters become exotic landscapes of fear-filled possibility, of dreams not yet turned t ...more
Paperback, 212 pages
Published October 15th 2003 by University of Chicago Press (first published 1980)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jane
Apr 16, 2009 Jane rated it really liked it
Shelves: chicago, shorts
Dybek draws you in with stunningly evocative tales of slavic Chicago in the '50s and '60s. The blue collar ethnic, Catholic culture he draws from was just a few miles west of my Southside childhood but might as well have been on the other side of the world. The writing is as rich and raw as the duck's blood one of stories' many unfortuate children must procure for his ailing grandmother. (And mention of poultry reminds me to tell you pigeon fans that there are plenty of those.) The landscape is ...more
Tim Storm
Aug 10, 2011 Tim Storm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ever read James Joyce's "Araby"? Dybek's stories are a lot like that. They have a nostalgic feel. Many of them are written from the perspectives of children/adolescents discovering new aspects of their worlds--namely, the ethnic neighborhoods of Chicago. These are places that may still exist, but surely not as described by Dybek, who writes of yesteryear. These kids inhabit a sort of wonderland (a time/place that no longer exists); as a result, the stories have a fabulist feel even though most o ...more
Ruth
Feb 07, 2008 Ruth rated it really liked it
Shelves: recently-read
These stories, all set in Chicago, are arranged in an arc from youngest protagonist to oldest, and then the last two--probably the most emotionally powerful--are again about young, abandoned boys. The specific setting is usually one of the South Side neighborhoods of poor Polish and other Eastern European immigrants. The stories were originally written/published in the 1970s, and they are set in decades prior to that one.

Dybek's mastery of gritty imagery--smells, sights, sounds, textures--of wor
...more
Benjamin Obler
Dec 20, 2014 Benjamin Obler rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Fantastic short story collection. Launched straight into my Top 10 of all time. Chicago's streets, immigrant lives, dreamy America, beautiful eccentricities. This is a vivid world painted with Dybek's unique palette. His prose is so accessible and so exceptionally crackling without being showy or inauthentic like you sometimes get in Wells Tower, for example. Dybek never trips over himself. As a writer, I may just sit down and chart how he starts sentences; he has wonderful variety and rhythm. " ...more
Rachel Hermans Goldman
Jun 17, 2013 Rachel Hermans Goldman rated it really liked it
This was my first reading of Dybek's debut collection of short stories, Childhood and Other Neighborhoods. Although these stories do not gut me as much as his later works, particularly my favorite of his collections I Sailed With Magellan, his prose throughout these stories definitely makes you itch to go and write. As always, I love Dybek's ability to cultivate memorable settings, especially his knack at keeping place vivid and present throughout a story.

One of the most inspirational aspects o
...more
David Schaafsma
My teacher in the MFA program at Western Michigan University, graduated 1984. I went there from Grand Rapids to work specifically with him after reading this book, then his poetry that I didn't like quite as much, and every story I could get my hands on. He admitted me to the program after a pitcher of beer at a K-zoo bar; I had sent him a couple of my stories, but we never talked about them, we just told stories of Michigan. He had read the stories, he said, as we left for our cars, and liked t ...more
Vicki
Jun 20, 2015 Vicki rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
This collection was a game changer for me. I was beginning to study writing fiction, and working it out for myself, when along came this book. I have first edition, with its green dustjacket, that I had Stu sign for me when I first met him. It was the first time I connected with material about Chicago that wasn't Sister Carrie, or the like. I remember reading the first story in the collection sort of breathlessly -- seeing where the characters were running, what it looked like -- the grassy lots ...more
Kathleen
Aug 15, 2014 Kathleen rated it it was amazing
Dybek's early work is, if possible, even more intense and hypnotizing than his later masterpieces Coast of Chicago and I Sailed with Magellan. He combines the classic melancholy of Joyce with the earthy fatality of Dostoyevsky, then condenses all of this emotion into stories that rarely waste a word. His early work betrays his training as a poet: the metaphors are vivid and pulsing, the images stark, the young characters as complex and confused as we can all remember. This collection is not one ...more
Heather June Gibbons
Feb 10, 2009 Heather June Gibbons rated it really liked it
Thus far, "The Wake" is my favorite story. The one about the two little boys trying to find goose blood for grandma's soup was pretty memorable, too.

***

What a strong debut collection-- can't wait to read his more mature work. In terms of range and tone and tenor, these stories all live in the same register and share a lot in terms of plot and theme too-- versions of the hero's journey, loss of innocence, etc.. But Dybek's take on these these familiar elements, within the vivid and even lurid set
...more
Mikey
Jun 12, 2008 Mikey rated it it was amazing
I first heard of Stuart Dybek through reading an interview with George Saunders and since I work in a library (“well, then why does he seem so god-DAMN stupid?!!”) I popped right up and snagged this one and I’m happy I did. I think of palatski (a treat that I can only imagine, having Googled it and found myself frustratingly directed back to the source of my question), chicken blood, and pervert ushers lurking in nightmare theaters when I think of this.
Eliza T. Williamson
Aug 29, 2008 Eliza T. Williamson rated it really liked it
Once again the amazing Hester recommended an author to me that can do in his prose with effortlessness what I struggle to achieve in a sentence. Dybek writes brave, true, seedy and poignant stories about growing up--that alternately mena and vulnerable time when you can get away with nothing and everything and want to evaporate and be noticed. The stories are all set in Chicago which adds an element of grit and danger specific to urban life.
Casey
Jul 15, 2010 Casey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read Coast of Chicago and I really liked it, but this collection didn't do as much for me. There a couple great stories, but a few drift a little too far into the surreal/absurd for my personal tastes. But, having said that, he's still one of the best short story writers in the business and I'm looking forward to reading I Sailed with Magellan.
Korin
May 02, 2009 Korin rated it really liked it
Stuart and my dad were friends growing up, so a lot of his short stories are like looking into my father's childhood, even if they might not actually be his own stories. However, "The Long Thoughts" is an exception~ as my dad is a core character in this particular story (Vulk). Stuart is a very talented writer and I personally appreciate this story. :)
Karen Alexander
Aug 24, 2010 Karen Alexander rated it really liked it
An interesting group of short stories linked largely through place (Chicago) and sometimes local lore/peripheral characters. Perhaps not Dybek's best work, or rather most memorable, but an impressive first collection for its cleanness and occasional beautiful observation.
Brian
Nov 11, 2009 Brian rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in Chicago
So far there's been a story about a hobo camp and one about a dying grandma from the old country who sends her grandson out to buy a jar of duck's blood to make soup with. Stuart Dybek won the MacArthur Genius Grant last year, and I'm quickly discovering why.
Nan
Oct 10, 2009 Nan rated it really liked it
This doesn't quite have the compression of his later work, but all the talent, all the pieces and parts are there. Dybek's neighborhoods are cold, dark, part horror movie and part blood soup. There are few happy endings here.
tai
Jul 04, 2007 tai rated it it was amazing
gorgeous stories, gorgeous imagery, low plot - when you're dealing with kids' world, it's easy to get by on low plot since everything is steeped in attention and meaning. lush characters, strong & believable voice-- it's incredible this was dybek's first collection.
Kevin
May 09, 2007 Kevin rated it really liked it
Shelves: chicago, memoir, anthology
If you are curious about this one, check out what I had to say about Dybek's other book, The Coast of Chicago. I don't really write about individual stories but I can't really remember which ones were in which book in any case.
Diana
Oct 19, 2014 Diana marked it as to-read
I will have to check this out, thanks for the recommendation.

But first my cousin gave me a few Gunter Grass books to read and they are thick.
Christine
Jun 29, 2011 Christine rated it liked it
Shelves: shortfiction
Lovely stories set in Chicago and starring Polish immigrants and their descendants. Lovely magical realistic quality.
Beth
Beth rated it it was amazing
Apr 06, 2007
Rachel Slatten
Rachel Slatten rated it liked it
May 24, 2014
John Conway
John Conway rated it really liked it
Feb 09, 2013
Paul
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Chuck Reece
Chuck Reece rated it liked it
Jun 28, 2014
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Mttpcktt rated it it was amazing
Jun 08, 2015
Gmdee23
Gmdee23 rated it liked it
Oct 19, 2008
Eric Bailey
Eric Bailey rated it really liked it
Mar 25, 2008
Hobie
Hobie rated it it was amazing
Jul 14, 2010
Devin
Devin rated it it was amazing
Feb 09, 2012
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Stuart Dybek has published three short story collections: Childhood and Other Neighborhoods, The Coast of Chicago, and I Sailed With Magellan; and two volumes of poetry: Brass Knuckles and Streets in Their Own Ink. He has been anthologized frequently and regularly appears in magazines such as the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine and the Paris Review.

He has received numerous awards, incl
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More about Stuart Dybek...

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“Sometimes, in a tight game with runners on, digging in at short, ready to break with the ball, a peace I'd never felt before would paralyze the diamond. For a moment of eternal stillness I felt as if I were cocked at the very heart of the Midwest.” 5 likes
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