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Ecstatic Cahoots: Fifty Short Stories

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  230 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
In this remarkable collection of bite-size stories, Stuart Dybek, one of our most prodigious writers, explores the human appetite for rapture and for trust. With fervent intensity and sly wit, he gives each tale his signature mix of characters—some almost ghostly, others vividly real—who live in worlds tinged with surreal potential. There are crazed nuns hijacking streetca ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Jan 22, 2015 Abby rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
I was not familiar with Stuart Dybek's stories until I recently listened to the New Yorker fiction podcast of ZZ Packer reading Dybek's wonderful "Paper Lantern." That story is not in this collection; it's in "Paper Lantern," a book of nine stories also published last year, at the same time as "Ecstatic Cahoots." Here you'll find fifty short -- many very short -- stories that are often weird and mostly wonderful. This is "Misterioso," the first story in the book, in its entirety:

"You're going to
Jul 19, 2014 Matt rated it liked it
It's hard not to have a real affection for these stories, since I think a lot of these stories were written, or at least seeing print, when I was Dybek's student-- he had a rare talent for placing things in the NYer and smaller mags, and it was, to me at the time, the smaller mags where Dybek was doing the interesting stuff.

Now, twenty years or so later, I'm a little less bowled over by these stories, having read some things since-- Lydia Davis, Joy Williams, etc-- that I think do more with the
50 short stories in 200 pages, so short shorts. and while dybek is no lydia davis, he would be perfectly acceptable to your yuppie older brother, or straight lace suburb neighbor, if they read books that is.
dybek is full of tenderness and sentimentality, made good by setting them mostly in the poor and mean streets of chicago, where tenderness could get you killed, or beat up, or laughed at anyway. so a certain bravery too, to these stories of love, mostly.
May 09, 2016 Jim rated it really liked it
I had a chance recently to hear Stuart Dybek read at the College of DuPage, and really liked the story he read which is included in this collection.
With 50 stories, it has to be expected that some are great and some are forgettable.
There is much to think about here. Often the stories are arranged so that a word or idea in one story emerges in the next. There is remarkable lyricism, and often remarkable weirdness. Some of the shortest stories are fragments.
Patrick Brown
Jan 15, 2015 Patrick Brown rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, sometimes mesmerizing collection of short (sometimes very short) stories from one of the real masters of the form. These stories are sometimes linked (several stories involve characters named Gil and Bea) but mostly they just have recurring themes and motifs (looking back at the Jazz Age, intimacy and vulnerability, mist, snowfall, Chicago). I tended to prefer the more realist stories in this book, but occasionally a story like "Swing," with strong metaphorical content, would knock me ...more
Aug 30, 2015 Elizabeth rated it liked it
The good: I liked some of these stories, although none as much as those in Paper Lantern. I particularly liked how it started with a two line story: "You're going to leave your watch on?" / "You're leaving on your cross?" And then how there are another couple stories that build on this first one from different perspectives. I like how there are two that are obviously the same characters but do not acknowledge the difference in the phase of the relationship that they cover. I love the part in Tra ...more
Dec 23, 2014 Pauliep rated it really liked it
Sensual, mysterious, and great shifts of form and content.
Full Stop
Sep 29, 2014 Full Stop added it
Shelves: fall-2014

Review by Lacey N. Dunham

Stuart Dybek’s Paper Lantern: Love Stories should be sold with a warning: do not read if you’re recovering from recent heartbreak. Or, more properly, if you’ve ever experienced heartbreak. Set mainly in the Midwest, and in particular Dybek’s beloved Chicago, he writes head on about the city’s poor and working class with the same ease as he examines the inner lives of over-educated academics. Each of the nine stories in the collecti
Valerie Miner
Aug 12, 2014 Valerie Miner rated it it was amazing
Here is my review of PAPER LANTERN from the San Francisco Chronicle, 10 July, 2014

Paper Lantern by Stuart Dybek
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 207 pages, $24.00
Ecstatic Cahoots by Stuart Dybek
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 195 pages, $15.00

June is a great month to celebrate fiction with the publication of Stuart Dybek’s two effervescent, musical collections, Paper Lantern, nine love stories, and Ecstatic Cahoots, fifty short-short stories. His characters explore urban Chicago and
Jun 27, 2014 Michael rated it it was ok
Prior to this book, my only other encounter with Stuart Dybek was his last short story collection, the sublime I Sailed With Magellan. Most, if not all, of these stories have already appeared in various publications, and I'm guessing that a writer of Dybek's stature can get anything he writes published by somebody.

This collection is as disparate as Magellan was unified. There are stories that are one or two paragraph fragments. Some qualify more as verse. Some are really abstract. And while I c
Jan 27, 2016 Earnest rated it it was amazing
Ecstatic Cahoots is, well, in a word, great! This collection of short stories/flash fiction, does what a short story should do, leave the reader wanting more. Tonight I was very appreciative to have heard him speak at my college, and read, Córdoba, one of my favorites of the stories. Dybek is a fascinating writer, and everyone should read him.

Side note: will be referring to his short stories for inspiration to my own writing.
Jan 18, 2015 Tom rated it really liked it
Bring your dream-brain, poetical brain, lover's brain to the reading and you'll be just fine. Good stuff.
Gerry LaFemina
Jun 23, 2014 Gerry LaFemina rated it really liked it
Mostly short (short) stories and some prose poems, the pieces in Ecstatic Cahoots demonstrate Dybek's lyric and imagistic prowess: filled with pathos, humor, and insight. Surprising turns, recurring refrains, and that "just right" detail, remind me again why Dybek is so good. Are all the pieces great: no, of course not, but I'll take 85% great anytime from a collection with this many pieces. What I'm most grateful for is Dybek's ability to try different rhetorical strategies, to engage a variety ...more
Jaclyn Bauer
Nov 03, 2014 Jaclyn Bauer rated it it was amazing
Ecstatic Cahoots: Fifty Short Stories resembles the work of Paper Lantern both in content and form. With characterizations of the passionate seeking, love, joy and adventure, Dybek captures the soul of his characters in surprisingly short bursts of words. Some of the stories in Ecstatic Cahoots are no more than two lines, while others are longer narratives which investigate plot points more intensely. Nonetheless, despite the length of any one story, all of Dybek’s works are captive in their tel ...more
Kate Lapinski
Dybek is one of my favorites (consistently in my top 5 since college). There is a bit of everything here- some great, some not so great, and even a couple heavy stinkers. I was also new to the form and not in the habit or rhythm of reading things this short. I tried to read it straight through, but ended up reading it in addition to the last couple of novels things I read: reading 1 or 2 selections before I fell asleep. I liked the book better reading it that way but still don't think it's his b ...more
Aug 04, 2014 Lori marked it as to-read
"But this septuagenarian's two new collections establish him as not only our most relevant writer, but maybe our best." 8/4/14 NYTBR, Darin Strauss
Rose Zivkovich
Jul 06, 2014 Rose Zivkovich rated it did not like it
I couldn't even finish this one - I guess short stories aren't for me. :( Most of these were just plain weird!
Tyler Weathers
Jun 21, 2014 Tyler Weathers rated it did not like it
Tripe by an overrated writer. Enough!!!
Jul 08, 2014 Judy rated it did not like it
I wish there were negative stars.
Jul 20, 2014 Ann rated it liked it
poetic, inventive
Jul 16, 2014 Julie rated it liked it
The first and last thirds of this collection were very enjoyable, but the middle was dull and uninspired. A favorite quote from the first third: "Her tongue rolled r's against mine, but couldn't save me from failing Spanish."
Jake Coleman
Dec 10, 2015 Jake Coleman rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Some quality short stories in here, but I lost interest in the really short form of most of them. About half of them read like poetry, which is fine, just not what I was looking for. One aspect I really liked was how there were moments of common thread between stories (which were far apart), or shared memorable lines. In these moments this collection felt like a collection of dreams that had the same undercurrent. Those were the moments that shined the most.
Tim Chapman
Aug 14, 2014 Tim Chapman rated it really liked it
I've been a Stuart Dybek fan since I first ran across a copy of "The Coast of Chicago." His short stories are as engrossing as a novel and as lyrical as a poem. "Ecstatic Cahoots" is a collection of fifty of these little gems. Brisket is my favorite of the bunch, but they're all worth reading. I'm sure you'll find your own favorite.
Apr 10, 2015 Almira rated it did not like it
quite mentally draining to read. I believe that the summary of the collection is at the end of "Fiction," which states, "I wanted to tell you the story without telling you the story." Very deep...perhaps I'm not that deep!
Oct 31, 2014 Krestan rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
Definitely was not my cup of tea . The stories were not engaging to me at all
Nov 15, 2014 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Loved the idea of Ecstatic Cahoots, just couldn't like the reality of it.
Aug 24, 2014 Wm rated it it was ok
Shelves: literary-fiction
Some of the stories are fetching, haunting or humorous. But many are not really my cup of tea and are too slight or not as clever as they should seem -- especially once they get stacked up against each other. The one exception is "A Confluence of Doors", which is a very big exception and is a fantastic fantastical story and well worth reading.
Jan 06, 2015 Mark rated it really liked it
"Fridge" and the set-up story preceding it left me chilled. Dat last line. Damn.

"Happy Ending" was also a favorite of mine; I thought about that one for a while.

Any student or admirer of the craft of writing should do themselves a favor and pick this up.
Aug 08, 2015 Claire rated it liked it
Unusual mix of humour and intensity - difficult to follow in places
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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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