Gates of Eden
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Gates of Eden

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  778 ratings  ·  83 reviews
A middle-aged man beheads his wife, then calmly explains how she drove him to it . . . A fat little mafioso is going to war--in the clean, well-mannered streets of Minneapolis . . . A Jewish boy watches with wonder the rise and fall of a Hebrew school rebel--and sees the sadness at the heart of his own family. . . . Welcome to the world of Ethan Coen, one half of the filmm...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published November 9th 1999 by Delta (first published 1998)
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Tfitoby
This will be quick. I was disappointed with this collection. I wanted The Big Lebowski or Blood Simple but I got a whole bunch of stories that had a distinct air of The Ladykillers and Raising Arizona about them.

I guess that makes Joel the dark and brooding brother who's a hit with the ladies whilst Ethan stands to one side and cracks wise to hide his insecurities. That or he simply didn't want to write a bunch of noir stories, saving them for his films, instead writing compiling all the duds th...more
Michael Fierce
Jun 06, 2013 Michael Fierce rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Only those who are obsessed with the Coen Brothers.

At first, I thought this book was too meh to give it one of my usual elaborate reviews but Dammit Janet I got caught up in it so here I go.

I've been a big fan of the Coen brothers since I first saw The Evil Dead on VHS in the late 80's, having noticed that Joel Coen was a co-editor (& uncredited dialogue writer) for the film. That got me to look into every project every single person associated with The Evil Dead had done.

I found VHS versions of the neo-noir film, Blood Simple, the slapstick...more
John Wiswell
This review references both the audio edition and the unabridged text edition.

The Coen Brothers have long appeared masters of quirky American voices. Jewish, rednecks, hitmen, insurance salesmen, FBI officials - they've created a gaggle of characters. But there is the question of whether they're better directors than writers, and get lucky with so many talented casts. John Goodman and William H. Macy can make most dialogue work.

Enter this collection of short stories by Ethan Coen. I was fortunat...more
Anna Alexander
Many of us know Ethan Coen as one half of the Academy Award-winning Coen Brothers who wrote and directed such classics as Fargo and O Brother Where Out Thou? In Gates of Eden we meet a strange mix of characters that only someone who wrote The Big Lebowski could conjure.

There’s Joe Carmody, an incompetent amateur boxer who takes a job as a private investigator and agrees to shoot pictures of the wife of a local thug to try to catch her in the act with another man. Joe learns the hard way that he...more
Matthew
Save some time and skip to "The Boys" and "It is an Ancient Mariner." The rest of these stories are marginal - I'd even describe them as needless filler. Despite the hyperbolic reviews plastered across the dust jacket, most of these stories are neither lyrical, nor darkly funny. Gratuitous and unrevealing (perhaps cardboard-ish?) - yes. I haven't read any of Coen's other work, but I appreciated the Big Lebowski, Fargo, Oh Brother Where Art Thou, etc. Comparitively speaking, the Gates of Eden is...more
Ted Burke
A lifetime of reading means a lot of cheap paperbacks with busted spines that one must eventually take to the used book store, the idea being to clear space in both one's apartment and in one's head. One is moving out and moving on, but not without a summation of sorts of a few plot convolutions and the writers who typed them. Ethan Coen likes to take the convolutions one has left at the curb and smash to bits with a heavy, wicked hammer. His collection of short fiction,"The Gates Of Eden", offe...more
Akiva
This was a solid collection of stories largely about incompetent gangsters and ludicrous jews or the occasional ludicrous incompetent gangster jew. The author is one of the Coen brothers, who have made some of my favorite films. It had much of the fun of a Coen brothers movie, but seemed to be lacking the variety, ambition, and artistry of their best stuff.
Eric Aiello
Meh... I'll admit I didn't read all the stories... read most of the book, though. I'm a huge fan of the Coen Brothers' movies, but this collection fell very flat for me. I chuckled sometimes, but the laughs were forgettable. I want to give his poetry a shot, but otherwise I think I'll stick with their films.
Marc
Fans of The Big Lebowski will recognize a few references in this collection of very short stories. One would be the motto of Herzl Camp - "If You Will It, It Is No Dream." Those Achievers on Goodreads ought to see how many they can uncover. There are at least three more that I can find.
Brent Legault
Strange and funny and all over the map, the map that is impressed upon my reading bone, the bone that sits all akimbo astride my heart, my heart which pulsed in my thirsting throat throughout much of the book. Had it been a novel, I'd've wanted to marry it.
Chad Bearden
I've been a fan of the Coen Brothers since that anonymous day long ago when I saw, for the first time, "Raising Arizona" on HBO. My sister and I would hunker down in the dingy carpet of my grandpa's living room and watch in gleeful horror at the grotesque weirdness of H.I. and Ed and the strange yodeling soundtrack and a satanic Randall "Tex" Cobb on his motorcycle and that horrific (yet sneakily comic) sequence where the muddy earth somehow gives birth to John Goodman and William Forsythe. Even...more
Bill
Reading these stories has made me think that Ethan is probably the real creative genius behind the Coen brothers, at least in terms of concepts and writing. The stories in this volume consistently delighted, and often amazed me. I laughed out loud again and again, sometimes so uncontrollably that I had to take a brief break from reading. Coen is an absolute genius at dialog, by the way. In fact several of the stories are essentially nothing but dialog, and it flows so freely and naturally that y...more
Temperandrea
«Come spesso capita anche nei grandi progetti della storia, il motivo per cui De Louie aveva scelto quel posto era di una inconsistenza sorprendente». Basterebbe questa frase ad esplicare la poetica di Ethan Coen, scrittore, poeta, autore teatrale e cinematografico. La citazione, tratta dal racconto Camorra minneapolitana, fa riferimento alla storia di Luigi Castellano, un camorrista emigrato a New York negli anni della Grande Guerra e trasferitosi poi a Minneapolis perché convinto che questo no...more
Lisa
I don't mind a book of short stories where all the works share the same theme or tone, especially when that theme or tone is one of darkness, urban hopelessness, the mob, working class folks effected by common misery, etc. But it has to be well written, otherwise those things don't matter, and this book wasn't. The first two stories I felt lacked feeling, but weren't necessarily bad. The third (about an aspiring mobster who never quite makes it, Cosa Minapolidan) was even a little promising in i...more
melydia
With this book, Ethan Coen proved himself a true wordsmith. His prose is witty, starkly realistic, and often beautiful. His plots, on the other hand, are quite lacking. This is more a matter of personal taste, but I prefer stories in which something actually happens. Too many of the stories merely stopped after assorted description, rather than providing an actual ending or at least a feeling of purpose to the story (often I was left thinking, "So why did he think that story was worth retelling?...more
Kevin
As a fan of the Coen Brothers in general I didn't want to say it, but I wasn't impressed. This felt like a collection of the same story over and over, and pretty much all of them would work as short movies but not a one really latched on to me as a literary thing. It's clear that Coen has a huge love for the underdog, the grimy, the noir detective, the period piece, and so forth, and he tries them all and somehow they all sound the same. I know that when I shoot a photograph and look at it later...more
Kevin
A collection of fourteen short stories by the acclaimed director of Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and The Hudsucker Proxy among others. Many seem to deal, indirectly, with Coen's own life or how he perceived life around him as he grew up. The format on these stories change greatly from one to the next with some taking on a straight-forward storytelling format ("The Old Country", "I Killed Phil Shapiro", etc.), others taking on a 20s radio show/film noir feel ("Hector Berlioz, Private Investigator", "...more
Jenny
Nov 08, 2007 Jenny rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: short fiction fans
Cohen's descriptive-style is gritty, insightful, and true to life. One of the stories sounds like a conversation you overhear in a townie bar; another, you are in the head of a discontented father of two eccentric young sons--sons for which he deduces the world will swallow up and then why, he asks should this alienation and detachment suffer yet another generation. Distinct, cutting dark humor--we love it!

Aaron and I are listing to these stories on audio cassette, and I the listening experienc...more
Paul
I bought this back in around 2000 but never got far through it until recently.

It's a strange mixed bad of stories, some in the form of screenplays. Many of them are in the voice of a narrator, or are being spoken to you, or are composed largely of dialogue - and I think that's the strongest thing about them, creating interesting and unique voices. If you've seen any Coen brothers movies then the themes won't be unfamiliar - there's a lot of down-at-heel smalltime crooks and so on. However unlike...more
Eric Haahn
Collection of 14 short stories by Ethan Coen (of Coen Brothers fame). Somewhat hit or miss for me, although a couple of the hits are out of the park.

I enjoyed "Hector Berlioz, Private Investigator" which to me read as a send-up of "Dragnet" type of dialog. I really enjoyed "Have You Ever Been to Electric Ladyland" which I totally heard in Jason Bateman's voice (no idea who did the actual audio book, which I have never heard).

"The Boys" and "It's an Ancient Mariner" have quite a bit to offer. "Re...more
Joe Fahey
I got carried away recently recommending this collection to people but I was enjoying the hell out of these quirky stories with many laugh out loud characters. 14 stories, a few in script form, which were fun to read that way as the dialogue took many absurd twists and turns along the way. So, many funny scenarios for this cast of non winners, especially enjoyed the Minnesota settings, the displaced mobsters were hilarious. So many of them written with that Raymond Chandler, gumshoe, private eye...more
Andrew
A highly flammable collection from 1998 of one part of the film-wunderkinds,the Coen Brothers.I was amazed by Ethan's marvellous ventriloquism & verve,& his ability to play with dialogue in an amusing yet pointed manner,satirising a few of the types of short stories which so often fail to entertain.His final story,'Red Wing' is a masterpiece,by turns macabre & poignantly human,as a husband contemplates a final act of self-respect,when marital relations have fallen by the wayside.

"I d...more
Wright
Lately we watched the most recent Coen brothers film and really enjoyed it. So a few days later we rented an older one by them that we hadn't seen. The problem with doing that was the same problem I had reading this book. All the stories/films have the same themes - brutality, characters getting in way over their head - and play out similarly. Some stories felt more full and I enjoyed those more, the Coen brothers humor was fun, and there are attempts at experimenting with different writing styl...more
Terry
I did have high hopes for this one, and while it was pretty good, there were parts that dragged. Ethan Coen, yes THAT Ethan Coen, brother of Joel, is a good writer. And this collection of short stories has some treasures: "The Old Country," "Gates of Eden," and "Red Wing" are classics. However, there are a couple of scripts among the stories that don't work for me. They were okay, but one, "Hector Berliotz, Private Investigator," reminded me of something I would have written in 5th Grade. One of...more
Liz
I still can't get over how much I enjoyed this book. The stories contained in this slim volume each read like an episode from one of the Coens' best films. And the writing is so funny I earned a dirty look or two on the subway for bursting out in gales of giggles while I was reading. Coen is a master of dialogue in particular, which I suppose is no surpise given his honed screenwriter's ear. He is at his best in the stories that inhabit the hard-boiled world of organized crime and detective agen...more
John Gilbert


Fans of the Coen brothers' films will surely find something to like in this short story collection. "Hector Berlioz, Private Eye" is a send-up of the noir genre starring the famous classical composer. Coen nails the tough guy 30's lingo. Google for a picture of Berlioz, play a bit of Symphonie Fantastique, imagine a dame with a thing for redheads falling all over him. This and several other stories read like film scripts, with the action taking place "off-camera" to hilarious effect. Particular...more
F.R.
It would be nice when reviewing this book to divorce Ethan Coen the author from Ethan Coen the filmmaker, but that is very hard to do. A great many of these stories feel like sketches for some hard-boiled movie spoof (one with lots of gangsters and detectives), while others are transcripts of dialogue or simply monologues. There are only one or two tales that feel like short stories in their own right, totally separate from the silver screen – but even they don’t live long in the memory. The ton...more
Tim
Like watching a short film festival of Cohen Brothers movies. One of the books that I truly treasure and return to often. HE needs to make more of these and right soon.
Tamara Taylor
This deliciously bizarre collection of short stories is as chaotic, hilarious, dark, disturbing and graphic as any of the Coen Brothers' films. And that is a very good thing. Each person portrayed in these stories is a genuine character that you won't soon forget, try as you might to put them to the back of your mind so you can function in society. I didn't love all of them equally, but there are stories within the covers that will blow your mind. And don't forget to read the author's bio at the...more
Ruth Rendell
Coen brothers are unique- great original short stories- good read.
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Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, known together professionally as the Coen brothers, are four-time Academy Award winning American filmmakers. For more than twenty years, the pair have written and directed numerous successful films, ranging from screwball comedies (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Raising Arizona, The Hudsucker Proxy) to film noir (Miller's Crossing, Blood Simple, The Man Who Wasn't There, No...more
More about Ethan Coen...
Fargo The Drunken Driver Has the Right of Way: Poems Collected Screenplays 1: Blood Simple / Raising Arizona / Miller's Crossing / Barton Fink No Country for Old Men Almost an Evening

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