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Shakespeare's Kitchen

3.13  ·  Rating Details ·  535 Ratings  ·  123 Reviews
The thirteen interrelated stories of Shakespeare’s Kitchen concern the universal longing for friendship, how we achieve new intimacies for ourselves, and how slowly, inexplicably, we lose them. Featuring six never-before-published pieces, Lore Segal’s stunning new book evolved from seven short stories that originally appeared in the New Yorker (including the O. Henry Prize ...more
Hardcover, 225 pages
Published April 3rd 2007 by The New Press (first published 2007)
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Ken
Apr 09, 2008 Ken rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who like fiction about academic life.
Added in April: I found out today that this book was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, so that shows you how much I know. :)

Shakespeare's Kitchen is a series of interrelated short stories revolving around a woman named Ilka. When I think of this book, I think, "These are serious stories." That is, the subject matter of the book is serious, and its main focus is how adults interact with one another.

In a preface to this book, which is a series of inter-related short stories, the author Lore Sega
...more
Christy
Jan 06, 2008 Christy rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who suspect they may read too many books about precocious children
Recommended to Christy by: Amy
I'm having a little trouble lately reading books to completion. I think this is related to my sudden acquisition of a lot of new books (holiday gifts and the like). It's making me feel tugged in too many directions and hopeless about finishing anything. Yet again, obligation has rushed in to save me from myself. This slim volume was our book club's pick for our upcoming January meeting, so I had to dig in and read it. I am not familiar with Lore Segal, but after reading this, I do feel that I mi ...more
Dan
Jul 28, 2008 Dan rated it really liked it
This book is a collection of linked short stories -- and shouldn't there be a term for such a work at this point? -- and man, some of them are really, really good. I refer specifically to "The Talk in Eliza's Kitchen," which contains maybe the best last sentence I've read all year. I was all set to give this minutely observed, psychologically honest motherlover five stars, and then this morning on the train I read "Reverse Bug," which is about genocide and how genocide is bad but sometimes we ig ...more
Megan
You'd think that with the way that Segal set this up to have all the short stories relate back to one another that this would be pretty interesting. It had all the trappings that I usually look for in a good read, but I found myself unsatisfied with the last few stories to say the least. Definitely ended on a low note.
Patty
May 27, 2015 Patty rated it it was ok
A good cure for insomnia, these stories well-exemplified the tedium of academia.
Snotchocheez
Sep 08, 2014 Snotchocheez rated it it was ok

1.5 stars

Really, the only thought-provoking idea that Lore Segal's interconnected short story collection Shakespeare's Kitchen engenders is: how the heck was this considered for a Pulitzer? (It was runner-up to Junot Diaz' The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in 2008). Excluding the 1989 New Yorker Magazine-published "The Reverse Bug", there isn't much left except ponderous examples of mediocre (sometimes, even, laughably awful) writing, with a see-through, snarky veneer of faux erudition. With
...more
mcgob
Feb 15, 2008 mcgob rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written. This was a joy to read.
Jenna
Apr 23, 2011 Jenna rated it liked it
I was first introduced to Lore Segal's work through the New Yorker Fiction Podcast. Jennifer Egan read one of the stories from this collection called "The Reverse Bug," and I was pleasantly surprised at how much the story affected me. Days later I found myself still contemplating and mulling over the complex tale. When I came across the full collection in a used bookstore, I decided to give the rest of her work a shot. I've been trying to read different types of fiction lately, and since Shakesp ...more
Christopher MacMillan
Lore Segal's 13 short stories about a woman named Ilka and her relationship with Leslie and Eliza Shakespeare are a mixture of the unusual, grim qualities found in Jean Stafford's writing, and the flowery charm seen in novels by Carol Shields.

While I ultimately enjoyed "Shakespeare's Kitchen", I feel as though some sort of heft, or some sort of depth was missing that would have given the novel a more lasting impression. There was this overall sense throughout these stories that they were someho
...more
Jaclyn
Dec 16, 2011 Jaclyn rated it liked it
I really like it when books do something a little different. I've read several books in 2011 that were structured in slightly different ways than what I typically gravitate to, and I've been enjoying spreading my horizons that way. This was one such book. Shakespeare's Kitchen is a collection of short stories, that are not especially related to one another, but sharing in common their characters and with some plot elements continuing from story to story. If that sounds like it might be confusing ...more
Cathyb
May 16, 2009 Cathyb rated it liked it
Shelves: own
Shakespeare's Kitchen is a collection of thirteen interconnected short stories. The theme that runs throughout the collection is one of human need. A need to be loved, to have friendships and to belong to someone or something. Is there a plot? No, not really. At times, I felt as though I was watching a bad episode of Seinfeld. I did not enjoy the protagonist, Ilka Weisz, and did not see much in her emotional growth. My main turnoff to Ilka come fairly early in the book. In the second short sto ...more
Felicity
Jan 26, 2009 Felicity rated it liked it
It must have been a bad year for fiction the year this collection was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, as Segal's work pales by comparison to many other Pulitzer-Prize nominees I've read (and non-Pulitzer nominated books too, I might add). Part of the problem is that Segal's collection suffers from short story syndrome. Even though all these stories are inter-related, the same characters are involved in each story, and there is a sense of change and movement over time, I felt cheated. If Segal ...more
Kp
Dec 13, 2010 Kp rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is one boring book. The "plot" centers around the mundane details of life of Ilka W. and Leslie and Eliza Shakespeare. There are other characters, but they are so thinly drawn and again woven in with so many mundane details, that I didn't even want or try much to keep them straight in my mind.

I can see that it's SUPPOSED to be funny in some parts. Sorry, it didn't work out that way. Sorry, I just don't CARE who stole the pencil sharpener and where it ends up. And I can see that the author
...more
Radiantfracture
Feb 04, 2015 Radiantfracture rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
At the geometric heart of this book of linked short stories or elliptical novel is a brilliant, crushing short story called "The Reverse Bug." I recommend it. I think it will amuse, wound, and infuriate you and you will not forget it.

All around this story, circling it in time and in theme, Segal has chosen to write an enjoyable but less remarkable campus novel. Tonally, I don't think this does "The Reverse Bug" justice -- it would do better in a collection of murderously good short stories, in t
...more
kp
Sep 02, 2016 kp rated it it was amazing
One of the most emotionally satisfying books I have read. Though it's characterized by the author as a collection of stories, and it is, it is really a novel, not only because of recurring characters but also because the conflicts of the stories are developed and intertwined. The people are as vivid as the people in my own life and though Segal is a master of social observation and dialogue, she does not deal only in surfaces. The protagonist, Ilka, who in this book is several years older and wi ...more
Sara
Sep 19, 2015 Sara added it
This book reminded me a bit of a female version of "Pnin" in that it's a collection of linked short stories that takes place at a Northeastern, vaguely Ivy League university and concentrates around one character who teaches at the school. Segal has the same sense of play as Nabakov though her language is much plainer and while Ilka, the lead, is suitably dotty, I found myself wishing for more flights of fancy here. Nothing else quite matches the sneaky devastation of "The Reverse Bug", which I f ...more
Scott
Jun 23, 2008 Scott rated it liked it
This is a set of short stories set in a New England college setting. Having said this, the book reads more like a novel than a collection of disconnected short stories. The characters and plotlines were reminiscent of my own experiences working as a professor in a New England college setting - particularly the ego, detachment, arrogance, and moral obfuscation that can be commonplace - although what really stood out were the wonderful small details or subtle observations. I found myself favorably ...more
Jesse Field
Feb 17, 2011 Jesse Field marked it as to-read
"Tomorrow evening the institute is holding a symposium....The theme," said the teacher, "is: 'should there be a statue of limitations on genocide?' With a wine and cheese reception."


I listened to "The Reverse Bug" as read by Jennifer Egan for the New Yorker Fiction Podcast. In this incredible story, Ilke teaches a classroom of immigrants who have all survived the 1940s, one way or another.

With amazing parts humor and sadness, Segal "makes manifest" (as Egan says) the impossibility of rationali
...more
Suju
Apr 25, 2008 Suju rated it liked it
I found this book a mild disappointment. It was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize and I loved the premise: interconnected short stories about a youngish woman who joins a liberal arts think tank and how she must create a community for herself. She makes friends, she falls in love, she has a baby.

The writing is strong - terrific details, interesting plots, and I found many of the characters compelling. That said, at the end of it, at what was supposed to be I believe an emotional ending, I kind
...more
Alexis
Jul 15, 2008 Alexis rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
Okay, we had book club last week, so now I can put my two cents on here. I told the gals that I think this is a great choice for a discussion type group, because before I heard everyone else's opinions I probably would have given this book 1 star! I just did not enjoy it hardly at all. It just seemed random and pointless with a whole lot of unlikeable characters. Plus some of the writing just seems very pretentious at times. But, after reading the author's note and hearing some other perspective ...more
Lisa
Sep 16, 2009 Lisa rated it really liked it
Written through the main character, Ilka, who is an immigrant from Vienna recently transplanted to a small academic institution in Connecticut, she explores the theme of belonging either to friends, lovers, family members or how one goes through the process of creating a new set of people to belong to. The stories have the slightly dusty feeling of occurring in another decade--the lighting is more amber and correspondences are sent through hand-written letters. Some stories are filled with great ...more
Laura
Sep 27, 2010 Laura rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Betsy Brainerd
This "novel" started as several short stories that the author later put together and tried to give a common thread. It revolves around a young woman, Ilka, who is hired to work at an academic institute, and whose evolving relationship with Eliza and Leslie Shakespeare (an academic and his wife)forms the center of the novel. General consensus among my book club members was that it was disjointed product. While the writing is excellent and we could appreciate her attempts to capture what it was li ...more
Jeremy Hornik
Jan 02, 2012 Jeremy Hornik rated it it was amazing
A lovely, humane book. I am in love with Lore Segal's ability to tell a story about adult relationships without judgment. You are left (quite happily) to make up your own minds about these people and their abilities to be friends, to alienate, to love, to hate, and to betray.

This is the third book (for adults) of hers that I've read. They're very much based in her life, to the point of going over some of the same biographical material again. Some of the characters have the same names as in their
...more
Erica
Nov 16, 2007 Erica rated it liked it
Recommends it for: someone who likes ensemble stories
I have mixed feelings about this book. What started out as seven interconnected short stories in the New Yorker ended up as a full book which explains why you read a lot of the chapters/stories and think "huh?" I liked the world of the Concordance Institute that the write created but found the main two charachters tiresome and annoying. I would much rather if the rather the stories had involved each of the peripheral players instead of leaving potentially interesting charachters off the center s ...more
Adriana Diaz
I just finished this book this afternoon, and maybe if I think about it for (quite) a while I'll feel differently. However, frankly, it's as though the writer had a number of story lines and couldn't decide which one to develop, so she didn't develop any of them. She had some wonderful opportunities, especially around page 150, but unfortunately she just jumped from one thing to another. I think an unpublished author would not have found a publisher for this book. I've never read anything by Lor ...more
Sara
Jul 23, 2008 Sara rated it really liked it
at first, i was convinced that the main character "ilka" was going to irritate me too much to allow me to enjoy the writing or the other characters. i was pleasantly surprised to find that while ilka never stopped raising my hackles, it was not as distracting as i thought it would be. in fact, it might even have added to the flawed reality of those she surrounds herself with. the shakespeare's themselves are maddeningly reminiscent of many of my parent's friends or friends of my parents (not my ...more
Sean Carman
Sep 09, 2016 Sean Carman rated it it was amazing
The playful, witty, and ingenious stories in Lore Segal's linked collection concern Ilka, a young Austrian immigrant to the United States who joins the Concordance Institute, a think thank whose work is never completely (or even approximately) described. On the surface, Segal's fast-paced, clever prose captures the way we think and talk. The story itself is a beautiful rendering of Ilka's life -- her work, friends, loves, and family, her world. The last story is one of the most devastating and p ...more
Patricia Bracewell
I enjoyed most of this book. It is not a novel, but a series of short stories, all of them centralized around a particular group of people -- professors for the most part -- who live, work, write and, one assumes, teach, in a college town. The writing is sometimes lovely, sometimes stilted.

Some of the stories succeeded while others irritated or confused me. There were bits that were funny and familiar -- trying to break into a clique, for example, be it on board a cruise ship or in a working en
...more
Missives From
Mar 24, 2009 Missives From rated it it was amazing
I don't typically enjoy short stories. I hate following a great narrative, getting to know wonderful characters, and then watching the story come to an unsatisfyingly quick conclusion. Lore Segal does something unusual with this collection: she weaves a novel from a series of short stories and makes it feel natural. (Her explanation at the outset of the book begs to be read again once you've finished it.)

A great read. Deep characters. Sharp prose. Definitely one of the best books I've read in a
...more
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Lore Segal was born in Vienna in 1928. In 1938, she arrived in England as one of the thousands of Jewish children brought out of Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia by the Kindertransport and lived with several foster families in succession. She graduated from the University of London and, after a sojourn in Trujillo's Dominican Republic, came to New York City. She married the editor David Segal ...more
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