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I Smell Esther Williams: And Other Stories

3.52  ·  Rating Details ·  394 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Kaleidoscopic and razor sharp prose pieces moving from Madison Avenue's jingle jugglers to American cinema, from elegant drawing rooms of the rich to cozy breakfast nooks of contemporary suburbia.
Audio, 0 pages
Published January 1st 1991 by Audio Literature (first published 1983)
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Arthur Graham
Probably my least favorite Leyner to date. I suppose it had its moments, but they were too few and far between, and there wasn't much holding them together. I'm beginning to think that I prefer his longer-form works (see Tetherballs and Nutsack), where some running joke is sustained throughout the madness. As for this one, it's just page after page of random, mostly uninspired snippets, and then you'll run across a passage like this:

It was a time of uncertain leisure, a time of faulty parachutes
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
"Mark Leyner’s name has been familiar to readers of experimental fiction since 1995, when he published his first story collection, I Smell Esther Williams". --Paris Review,

But you note, I Smell Esther Williams was first published by Fiction Collective in 1983. It even says so right there on the pub'ing page of this very Vintage edition. It's not the mistake that bothers me ; it's the erasure of the existence of Fiction Collective.
Jan 07, 2008 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Leyner lovers, postmodernists, people who love Burroughs
Distinctly Leyner, but without the punch of other books like My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist or Tetherballs at Bougainville. Fragmented postmodernist experimentation ranges from verbally sublime to tiresome between stories, pages, or paragraphs. Recommended if you've already enjoyed Leyner thoroughly in the past--which might be a reasonable metric for your worth as a human being.
Jan 19, 2008 Patrick rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2001
Yeah, early Leyner would be really popular if it was possible to read books while peaking on like 4 different types of drugs.
Apr 27, 2012 Eric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really weird book, sort of Joycean stream-of-consciousness, pop cultural ramblings. There is almost no narrative to any of the short stories in the collection, rather there are just wild linguistic riffs that bounce all over the place. That said, the language is snappy and fun, sometime hilarious, and strangely, unexpectedly quite engaging.

A couple random examples:

"The Boston Celtics put me on waivers when I manifested the stigmata of Christ - I couldn't shoot without discomfort."

Apr 27, 2012 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite how disjointed and confusing these stories could be, I actually got into them pretty well. As usual, Tetherballs is still my favorite Leyner. I've enjoyed some of his more disconnected work less than other Leyner work, but I think it is a little easier to deal with that here. Maybe because they are shorter pieces. Still, I haven't found anything to rival Tetherballs yet. I will, however, keep looking.
Matt Piechocinski
Apr 27, 2011 Matt Piechocinski rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This, conceivably, may be the worst book I have ever read ... and it's not like one of those books, like Tropic of Cancer, that I think is awful, but then go back and reread it and think it's great. This book was the shits. It's sorta like a really bad homage to Burroughs. At times, I really wanted to bail. Ultimately, I was really disappointed based on what I previously had read by Leyner.
Donald Armfield
I have now read all of Mark Leyner`s books. In this book you can see Leyner you get those laughs, but overall I was dissapointed. If you are new to Leyners work save this one for last. To get those final small laughs in.

Launch 3 Stars
(1st) Untitled 3 Stars
The Glove Department 5 stars
Another Citizens Holiday 3 Stars
The Spin Cycle 4 Stars
Kye Alfred Hillig
Another sparky, quick collection on short works by Mr. Mark Leyner. As always, the most playful, absurd, and enjoyable read for my money. Leyner always catches me off guard. Just when you think he's going one way with a story he sends a curveball that'll have you pissing your pants with laughter. I just wish he'd MAKE MORE BOOKS!!!
May 19, 2008 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: drop-outs, dope fiends, booger collectors
Maybe the third funniest of Leyner's weird books. I feel an unsettling kinship with this writer's brain. His sense of humor isn't for everyone, but if you're a weirdo needing a belly-laugh you need look no further.
Apr 12, 2008 Jesse rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Please explain whats so great about this guy? He has got great vocab and he is inventive, but whats the point?
Myra Breckinridge
This is Leyner heroically leaping into a blender, and shredding himself into disparate pieces that are sometimes wonderful, but often too nonsensical to captivate.
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“You are fiercely heterosexual and well-formed, and it's no one's business that you've shrunk your parents and keep them in a terranium, but you have a gatling gun for a mouth, and if that's a diary you're producing from your cleavage, I'm leaving.” 8 likes
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