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Livability: Stories

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  406 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
A collection of rich, powerfully human stories from the author of The Half-Life and the movies Old Joy ("one of the finest American films of the year"—New York Times) and Wendy and Lucy.

A grieving man embarks on a long-imagined affair in the months following his wife's unexpected death. Two old friends attempt to rediscover their lost bond on a trip to remote mountain hot
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Paperback, 260 pages
Published January 1st 2009 by Bloomsbury USA (first published December 23rd 2008)
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Community Reviews

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Tfitoby
Mar 28, 2013 Tfitoby rated it it was ok
Shelves: lit, short-stories
My overwhelming reaction to finally finishing this story is a whole new appreciation for the art of Kelly Reichardt. Her film Wendy and Lucy is a small miracle of American cinema and on realising it was adapted from a short story (Train Choir, the final short story from this collection) I had a burning need to read it. It's hard to imagine such a strong, subtle film originally coming from a non visual medium and as a former film student with aspirations of emulating such beauty in his own work, ...more
Cody
Jun 12, 2009 Cody rated it did not like it
What little strength this collection possesses stems from Raymond’s evocation of Oregon, and this is what kept me reading. Yet, the writing itself is wholly underwhelming. Throughout, I kept feeling that Raymond was forcing the uniqueness of Oregon into generic realist fiction writing, which, to me, undermines the singularity of the region. Additionally, Raymond’s attempt to utilize a diverse cast of characters is completely negated by the fact that each character is so flat that they are nothin ...more
Art
Jan 23, 2009 Art rated it really liked it
i was interested in this book due to the film adaptations of a few of the stories, that being "old joy" and "wendy and lucy" (in the book as "train choir"). the stories tend to be quiet, considered, and heavy in atmosphere and environment. the stories are really varied with a number of different types of characters and perspectives, and it also happens to be the first book in which i have found someone using the word "boosh". reading the book on the bus to and from the other portland (the one in ...more
Jim Laczkowski
Jan 05, 2012 Jim Laczkowski rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
once in awhile, a book comes into your life. like connecting with a new friend or discovering a new cuisine or hearing a band that makes you feel grateful for being alive. Livability is that book for me. not since I read Rudy Rucker (my kind of humor) or Joseph Brodsky (my philosophy/outlook on things), has something spoken directly to my taste and sensibility so perfectly, that it made me cry.

stories like "Old Joy" and "Train Choir" are exactly everything I want from a book, but they were also
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Kilean
Mar 01, 2009 Kilean rated it really liked it
Superb. Although there's plenty of movement among the characters in these stories each one has a deep, ruminative quality to it. It was hard not to think about Will Oldham when reading "Old Joy" but that by no means overshadows the effect of that particular story. All of these are gems, through and through. And I didn't for once get the sense, as I've had of late whenever I pick up a new collection and skim it whilst standing in a bookstore, that these tales were scribed by some trustafarian wit ...more
Marco Kaye
Apr 26, 2010 Marco Kaye rated it really liked it
This is an amazing collection of stories. It should be required reading for anyone living in Portland, Oregon, my fringe city of the Pacific Northwest, but it's also about characters on the fringes of society, so really it's required reading for everyone interested.

I recommend reading this collection before watching "Old Joy" and "Wendy & Lucy," both adapted by Raymond from his own stories and directed by Kelly Reichardt. I made the mistake of watching the movies beforehand. They are great m
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Dawn
Nov 13, 2010 Dawn rated it it was ok
I had high hopes after reading the first in this collection of short stories. The first is about two hippie friends trying to reconnect who take an overnight hiking trip to some hot springs in Oregon. But the rest of the stories featured characters who had no business having stories written about them. There is one story called "The Suckling Pig" about an Asian guy who picks up 2 Hispanic workers, Diego and Javier, outside of a Home Depot and has them do some work on his property while he prepar ...more
Will Walton
Jun 04, 2013 Will Walton rated it really liked it
In a lot of ways, this collection feels like a novel to me. It begins with "Old Joy," a quite-short short story about two estranged friends who visit a natural spring together. It ends with "Train Choir," essentially a novella in length, about a woman driving to Alaska with only her dog as a passenger. Both of these stories are near perfect, in my opinion, but what Raymond seems to introduce to his reader in "Old Joy" feels oddly concluded in the finale of "Train Choir." It's precisely the way I ...more
Schuyler
Sep 09, 2011 Schuyler rated it liked it
I read this because it contained the basis for two films I rather enjoyed, Old Joy (titled Old Joy in the story collection) and Wendy & Lucy (titled Train Choir in the story collection). Overall the stories were kinda middle-of-the-road. Characters tended to be a bit flat and sometimes the stories felt a bit MFA-ish. There was just an overarching tone or voice that I feel I've been reading in contemporary American fiction and I don't like it.

But check out the two films directed by Kelly Reic
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Joe
Mar 29, 2010 Joe rated it really liked it
I was drawn to this book when I had to choose a book club title that related to "Portland, OR". Jon Raymond is a Portlander, and many of these stories take place in and around Portland and speak to some issues specific to the Rose City.

But I would have enjoyed this book no matter how well I knew Portland, the stories of childhood play in the woods, of old friends, and of the perils of life on the road, are each interesting and fun to read...also there have been two very thoughtful and moving in
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Lawrence
Aug 22, 2009 Lawrence rated it liked it
A little like Miranda July, but less earnest and huggy.

This is the author behind the short stories that inspired the films Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy. These are quiet stories of people learning new things about themselves in unusual situations. Some of the stories are a little predictable and hew a little too closely to the world of the tragically hip thirtysomething looking for meaning within the creative class. (This might tell you something: Will Oldham appears in both Old Joy and Wendy and L
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Beatrice
Aug 02, 2011 Beatrice rated it liked it
There's a curiosity and a distance to the characters in Rayomond's stories. They feel like the kids you knew in H.S. or the guy you heard about from your friends but never talked to yourself. Raymond is an observer of people, he takes notes and jots down sketches. In these stories he sets up scenarios and throws in characters to see what happens. There's the Russian thief, the son of Chinese immigrants and the epic story that served as a basis for Wendy and Lucy. Each trying to figure out their ...more
Becky Sandham Mathwin
Very well written, realistic short stories set in the Pacific Northwest. They reminded me a little bit of Raymond Carver's writings in terms of style. Very touching and sad-not the book to read if you are looking for something fun and uplifting! I ended up teary-eyed after reading a few of them and I'm not a big crier. I read that two movies were made from two of the stories in the book ("Old Joy" and "Wendy and Lucy")...I'm curious as to how they were adapted. As always with short story collect ...more
Liza
Jun 14, 2011 Liza rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who love rain
Recommended to Liza by: Jonny
Kelly Reichardt's films Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy were based on this short story collection, which impacted my reading. I enjoyed those two stories (for this collection titled "Old Joy" and "The Train Choir") and one other ("The Coast"). The rest did not resonate with me much. One in particular completely fell flat, because it seemed as though the author had no idea how to write from the characters' perspectives, and thus the subjects fell off the page.

I've never been to Oregon, but these stor
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Tara Shade
Jun 01, 2010 Tara Shade rated it liked it
I'm really on the cusp as to whether to rate this as a three or four star. I really enjoyed the writing style, characters, themes—and the location especially as Oregon holds a special charm to me. The only irksome note that kept ringing out is that each story ended with the same ambiguous ending. I don't prefer for tales to be wrapped up with a bow, that's for certain, and I understand that it's part of a much larger theme—but at times, it made me disinterested in following through as a reader. ...more
Kevin
Sep 29, 2009 Kevin rated it really liked it
When I was putting together Portland Noir, Jon Raymond gave me two stories to consider and they were both great and I wanted to use one for that anthology. Unfortunately, his book came out before Portland Noir, so we couldn't use his story (I wanted to use "Benny"). Though I was bummed not to have Jon on board I was excited to read this book, Jon's own sort of northwest noir (all the stories are set in or around Portland). My favorites were the coming-of-age boy fight drama of "The Wind" and the ...more
Annie
Feb 10, 2014 Annie rated it liked it
Strange, I didn't actually like this book much, but a bit like I imagine a voyeur feels when they just can't stop looking through the window to see what happens next, I read every word. Can't say I would recommend this to many people but I do have to admit that the writing itself is quite good; talented, I guess I should say. Jon Raymond really gets the details of true, every day situations down. Many readers will say "That happened to me"--or something like it in essence or quality or...somethi ...more
Stephan
Dec 03, 2009 Stephan rated it liked it
Recommended to Stephan by: NPR
After hearing about Jon Raymond winning the Oregon Book Prize (or something like that) and seeing his two adapted stories, "Train Choir" and "Old Joy" into the beautiful movies, "Wendy and Lucy" and "Old Joy" I picked this up.

His stories are really quiet and beautiful. But the writing is the best when it isn't followed by other justifying words. This is something the movies take care of - where there is silence or simply the quiet actions or non-actions. But in the book there are descriptions an
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Matt McNabb
Aug 01, 2009 Matt McNabb rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: A masochist.
Recommended to Matt by: No one, or they would be punished.
Readability: next to zero.

The author owns the characters in his stories, yet cannot work up the nerve to come anywhere close to tying a story together. For effect, and in a short story collection, you can do that once to a reader. You cannot do that in nearly every story and expect someone to want to read what you write in the future (or re-read this collection). I'm sure some of the stories were good, but when the last thought you have at the end of nearly every one is, "what the heck?" that ju
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Marc
Nov 30, 2009 Marc rated it really liked it
I like short story collections and anthologies as I can read a story in those little gaps such as when waiting for the water to come to a boil on the stove.

Many of the stories were about missed opportunities in life and how small things can end up having a big affect. Many of the stories included drifters, temporary relationships, failed relationships, and life moves on.

I liked each story as the author seems to think much like I do. The characters are always thinking, mulling things over, planni
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Andi
Jun 11, 2012 Andi rated it really liked it
You might already be familiar with Jon Raymond's cinematic credentials. He's the writer of the movies "Old Joy" and "Wendy and Lucy". Both are taken from this beautiful collection of short stories set in the Pacific Northwest. This is a stellar read. PERFECT for plane rides, commutes, coffee breaks, or curling up with at bedtime. I will forever read anything and everything he writes because of this book. Lush, sparse, atmospheric, human, touching, and often weirdly humorous, these stories will s ...more
Mark Noble
Sep 27, 2014 Mark Noble rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this selection of short stories. This is the first of his work that I have read. He brings the special feel of the Portland Northwest to life; quirky and edgy but never far from raw nature. His stories are snapshots of people struggling to survive on the lower fringes of tame society. "Train Choir" was my favorite. I guess I should see the movie. I will definitely try one of Raymond's novels next.
Greg Heaton
May 29, 2012 Greg Heaton rated it liked it
It's weird that the two movies that were made based on stories from this book (Train Chorus and Old Joy) are the most depressing stories in the whole goddamn book. Also, maybe because I sorta knew what to expect, the least interesting.

The real gem in this collection was "The Suckling Pig." It weaved unsteadily like a super drunk guy try to pee standing up. And though the salient points were somewhat predictable, the observations and character traits popped like delicious pig fat.
Owain Lewis
Jan 31, 2012 Owain Lewis rated it really liked it
A good, solid collection of stories. I can see why people have compared him to Raymond Carver - the earthy realism and economy of style definitely has the ring of the Carveresqe - but this guy is certainly no mere imitator. There's something decidedly unfussy about the way he writes, a sort of downtempo style with the briefest of flourishes here and there. He also has some of the best open endings I've read for a while. Pre-ordering his second collection now.
Sue
Jul 06, 2009 Sue rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Jon Raymond is a PNW writer. These stories mainly take place around Portland, Or. Each one of the stories was so good! He created wonderful little worlds in every story with very believeable relationships between the characters. After each story I felt like I'd just finished a novel they were so full. My favorite story was the last one & it broke my heart, it was sooo good! I love this collection!!
Jeannette
Oct 11, 2011 Jeannette rated it really liked it
I was really looking forward to reading this collection of short stories mainly because the author is the screenwriter of Old Joy and Wendy & Lucy - and this book contains the short stories on which those 2 films were based. Both of those short stories are the stand outs in this collection but there are other quiet gems as well here. Definitely a good read and the cover is just nice to look at too.
Sarah Kowalski
Nov 12, 2009 Sarah Kowalski rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
I learned about this book after watching the movie Old Joy, which is based on a story in this collection. I loved the movie, which was quietly powerful and so perfectly captured the way that small moments can blossom with meaning. I loved the collection just as much. Every story blew my socks off. These are the kind of stories I want to be writing. I'm now a huge Jon Raymond fan.
Sara
Apr 15, 2014 Sara rated it did not like it
Shelves: short-stories
Meh. The final story was compelling in certain ways; the rest were not. I found myself skipping over entire paragraphs in the effort to finish and find something to grasp. Most of the stories left me feeling, what was the point of that? Is this a cryptic masculine clue? A stunned deer in the backseat of a car and an erotic massage in a hot tub? Eh.
Eden
Jan 09, 2010 Eden rated it it was amazing
I loved, loved, loved this book. Best book of 2009, hands down. I love reading everything, but there are a few books that simply and miraculously change the way you see the world. And the writing is so simple, it looks easy. It tricks you into thinking you could write so well, while it covertly jerks your emotions around against your will. That's the way of the truly talented.
Katie
Apr 14, 2013 Katie rated it it was ok
Beautifully written and easy to read, I just didn't like the stories the author chose to tell. They weren't pretty stories with pink-bow-topped endings, which is fine, but I felt like I related to very few of the numerous characters on more than a single note per character, which made it hard to care about them.
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Jonathan Raymond is an American writer living in Portland, Oregon. He is best known for writing the novels The Half-Life and Rain Dragon, and for writing the short stories and screenplays for the films Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy (both directed by Kelly Reichardt). He also wrote the screenplays for Meek's Cutoff and Night Moves, and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for his writing on the HBO mini ...more
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“We kept walking, our shadows moving in shifting blobs over the ground. The sound of river rocks rattled under our feet. We turned along a bend in the stream and a curtain of poplar trees came into view, shivering in the distance, showing the white backsides of their leaves. I watched them for a while until an ancient, aching sorrow rose up in my chest. It was a familiar feeling. Something in the mute, unconscious trees resonated inside me, something so deep and fundamental it failed to remember its own source anymore. I watched the poplars flickering against the hard blue of the sky. What is sorrow? I thought. What is sorrow but old, worn out joy?” 8 likes
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