The Secret Goldfish: Stories
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The Secret Goldfish: Stories

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  238 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Readers familiar with David Means' electrifying work in the Los Angeles Times Book Prize -- winning Assorted Fire Eventswill recognize his extraordinary vision in The Secret Goldfish. A trio of erotically charged kids goes on a crime spree in Michigan; a goldfish bears witness to the demise of a Connecticut marriage; and an extremely unlucky man is stalked by lightning. Th...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 4th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published 2004)
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Matt
This book of short stories was a real delight, and continuing proof that there are totally amazing writers out there who I've never discovered, even when it seems like they'd fall into my small and specific sweet spot-- in this case, formally experimental upper midwestern stories about crime.

It's not that every story in this collection is an absolute winner-- the first couple, for example, didn't do much for me, and the dustman story, as much as it tickled me, seemed to lack some of the richnes...more
Courtney
I had really high hopes for this book, being a huge fan of short stories. Unfortunately I found it difficult to get into the stories, and even more difficult to care about the characters, (identifying with them was impossible). There was literally only two times in the whole book where I thought I might get more interested in the story, only to be disappointed again. All the stories seemed to center around a moment in the life of these characters, often alluding to the action without the reader...more
Evan
From the wastiods-in-the-post-industrial-midwest genre that's grown up in the last 20 years. Even so, Means manages for the most part to save his characters from easy overdoses or 2D characterizations. He can often choose a detail to present in a moment of crisis that heightens the tension by humor or by incongruity. More broadly, he has good judgment of what to say and when. The themes are at times clever, but only once too clever by half (so he avoids the problem with Jesus' Son, which got a l...more
Jamie
Now this is how to put together some short stories. Disastrously good, not a misstep in the book.

“It’s those eyes-- your father’s on the dock in Canada-- that you see in hers, when you meet on the pine swamp trail. The brown of a polished hickory gun butt, rubbed shiny with warm beeswax.”
(Counterparts)

“If you have to be named for a geographic region, this one is as fine as any, boring and nondescript in what most agree is the most mundane and utilitarian of states, a state that openheartedly lov...more
Billy
Jun 16, 2008 Billy rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mitch Albom
Maybe I've changed as a reader, but I didn't find this nearly as enthralling as "Assorted Fire Events." Everyone, of course, is either (a) a drifter robbing/killing suburban upper middle class people, in order to get money for smack or (b) a suburban upper middle class person, getting robbed or killed for smack money, or having a chaotically furtive affair, either of which disrupts and cracks the otherwise presumed perception of their lives as fulfilling and successful. I think the main issue I...more
Robert Blumenthal
This is a book of short stories that are quite intense and, at times, quite lurid. Subjects ranging from failed marriages to wayward youth wrecking havoc and senselessly murdering others are what we are dealing with here. At first I was a bit taken aback by the subject matter (the first story is about a man being struck by lightning several times throughout his life), but the author is such a good writer that I found myself being sucked in and really enjoying the book. There are some real odditi...more
Paul
Good, but not as good as The Spot. Several of the stories failed to really resonate, and those that played with form, like those in The Spot, were less powerful to me for that formal exploration. Unfortunately there are more formal "experiments" here than in Means' following collection, not to say this book is in any way "postmodern" or "poststructural" or whatever, except that it necessarily is, historically speaking. A good collection for sure, but I prefer the more powerful, more Hannah-esque...more
Meredith Enos
"The isolation of this part of Michigan took hold of her."--A Visit From Jesus.

That line, from one of the stories in the collection pretty much encapsulates the whole collection: loneliness, the Midwest, hit-or-miss gallows humor. The only thing I'm missing is snow. Well written, but kind of dreary. These stories seem inevitable, in the way that death is inevitable, and sometimes surprising, in the way that sometimes you have cancer but die choking on a piece of toast while your partner is in th...more
Lawrence
Another good selection of short stories. David Means is an excellent writer capturing the circumstances of the desparate. Many of these stories are set in Michigan small towns and Means is more than capable of conveying the mood and feel of the locations portrayed here. Paricular favorites are "Blown from the Bridge" which explores the before and after of a young women blown off the Mackinaw Bridge, the startling violence of "A Visit from Jesus," and missed connections in the ABCs of "Counterpar...more
Loretta
I think I am not a fan of short stories. I just couldn't get into them. I guess I need a longer book to get involved!
Amanda
Mar 24, 2008 Amanda rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Michiganders/Midwesterners
Recommended to Amanda by: Saba Afshar
me: im reading a good book of stories
most of them are in michigan
Alex: i love michigan
me: David Means
The Secret Goldfish
i am only partway through but so far so good
"The air of Northern Michigan never quite matches the freshness of Canada. There's usually a dull iron ore residue in it, or the smell of dead flies accumulating between the stones on shore."
See. Michigan.
Alex: mmm michigan

The story about Charlene reminded me of The Hold Steady.
Kate Campbell
I wanted to love David Means stories, wanted to learn from them, but, perhaps as a Californian, I had trouble fitting my mind into the confines of upper Mid-West angst. I liked the stories about the man repeatedly struck by lightening and sort of cared when the woman leaves her tepid love affair and drives off in a snow storm to her death, the tale about the boating adventures of drug addicts. The stories were quiet and good, but for me not highly resonant.
Jenni
A quirky collection of short stories, most of which are based in Michigan - lots of fun for a native to Michigan to read and recognize the places and descriptions. Some of the stories are a little Hemingway-esque because they are very true-to-life and have unexpected conclusions or open endings. It reminded me a little bit of The Three Button Trick and Other Stories.
Michael Palkowski
Masterful writing that exudes a rhythmic quality that I rarely see in other short story writers. The style is elusive and intriguing, effectively making simplistic actions or ideas really strange and otherworldly. Stories with loads of meat on them, multidimensional and full of surprise, angst, love and everything that makes life worth living.
Katie Grainger
I found this selection of short stories hard to read in places. As with all collections of this type I really enjoyed some of the stories. They all deal with powerful human emotions but I didn't really connect with many of the stories. The writing however is tender and honest dealing with a wide range of emotions on the dark side of humanity.
James
a good short story collection, that is often just that -- "good." it occasionally boosts itself to greater heights with moments of strikingly good and strikingly real poetics of (midwest-centric) american life, but then often also gets bogged down striving for the same.
Tilda
I read this book after Jonathan Franzen recommended it at a speaking event. Means is an extremely talented writer, but the stories were a little hit and miss for me. 'Sault Ste. Marie', 'Blown from the Bridge' and 'The Secret Goldfish' were highlights.
Dave
Melancholic short stories are not my favourite but were balanced with deft descriptions of the panoramic skyline and the passages of inexorable decay rivaled Virgina Woolf's 'Time Passes' section in 'To the Lighthouse'.
Nakeesha
David Means is not for the faint of heart. Most stories involve detailed violence and don't have happy endings. If you can stomach his unflinching look, the stories are well written (and sometimes even funny).
Kae Cheatham
Some of these were in that pretentious literary style of no quotation marks and little punctuation or paragraphing. BOring.
The "conventional" stories--the ones that were reader friendly--were quite good.
Strawfoot
I made it halfway through this slim book before giving up. The stories are well written, but not my style. The are, for lack of a better term, pretty arty and often overreaching.
Lainie
Perhaps 20% more Post-Modern than I can stand. This writer is agile with language, but many of the stories are bleak. Thank God I'm not reading this during the dark months.
Klay Kubiak
This guy is as good a short-story writer that is out there. I would recommend reading this before you delve into his newer stuff.
Sivan
I liked the title story, The Secret Goldfish, which I read in The New Yorker. Couldn't really get into the collection as a whole.
Alyssa
definitely was not impressed. i only actually like a couple stories in this collection. The rest were dull and lacked life.
Ian
This took ages to finally get through. "Blown from the Bridge" was a highlight. Everything else was easily not remembered.
David
Not all of the stories are even, but when Means is on, he might be one of the best short story writers there is.
Ric
Nicely done short stories about bleak lives in the part of the upper Midwest that is never usually chronicled.
Jess
Dark and dreary with many boring sentences to fill up a page. I do NOT recommend.
Jessica
Some innovative and effective uses of form in this short story collection.
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David Means (born 1961) is an American writer based in Nyack, New York. His short stories have appeared in many publications, including Esquire, The New Yorker, and Harper's. They are frequently set in the Midwest or the Rust Belt, or along the Hudson River in New York.
More about David Means...
Assorted Fire Events: Stories The Spot The Tree Line, Kansas, 1934 The Knocking A Quick Kiss of Redemption and Other Stories

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