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What He's Poised to Do: Stories

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  267 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
Ben Greenman is a writer of virtuosic range and uncanny emotional insight. As Darin Strauss has noted, "Like Bruno Schulz, George Saunders, Donald Barthelme, and no one else I can think of, Greenman has the power to be whimsical without resorting to whimsy." The stories in this new collection, What He's Poised to Do, showcase his wide range, yet are united by a shared sens ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published June 15th 2010 by Harper Perennial (first published 2010)
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Jul 17, 2012 Angie rated it really liked it
if you have a heart, this book will break it. if your heart is already in so many pieces that you can't conceive of any one of those pieces being further broken down, this book will clarify several theories of subatomic physics for you. any invisible thing you can imagine can be dismantled into invisible things that you can't quite imagine. the fact of those unimaginable invisible things will be useless to you, except to remind you of how little you really understand about life, and how little i ...more
Jul 18, 2010 Reemawi rated it really liked it
The stories in this collection are right up my alley, in the sense that they focus on the interactions between people, particularly between men and women, and not necessarily in a romantic context. The writing is obviously of a high caliber and certainly not mainstream. The fact that the writer, Ben Greenman, is an editor at The New Yorker is very evident throughout, not to say that that is what makes the writing good, or the stories good, but it definitely has a New Yorker fiction feel to it al ...more
Mar 04, 2011 Amy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Greenman takes on many voices in this collection: men, women, African-American, contemporary, and from another century. But, I found few of them compelling or believable. Each story is postmarked with a place and year, and each contains some element of the epistolary. The stories (per the "P.S." notes at the end of the book) are mostly about the disconnection of communication between men and women, which is true, and is best achieved, I felt, in the story From the Front (North Africa, 1851), whe ...more
Oct 26, 2010 Alana rated it it was ok a sticky, can't-get-rid-of-it way. Because of that, the unending stories that are just sad, I wavered between an "OK" and truly liking it. But, I think he's so much smarter than all the rest of us, so he gets the 3 stars.
Jul 04, 2011 Katherine rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
“Over the course of the year, Samantha and I had courted, had promised ourselves to one another, and, formalities dispensed with, had proceeded to investigate one another carnally in a rather rapacious manner” (32).
“I was powerless to think of anything but what she was showing me, and yet I thought mainly of her mother, Edith, who was that moment sitting in her drawing room in London, innocently considering the recent declaration of Malta as a British dominion, entirely unaware of the fact that
Aug 31, 2012 Danelle rated it really liked it
In What He's Poised To Do, Ben Greenman has written an elegant set of short stories that all have some sort of letter writing at their epicenter - postcards being written and mailed or just left out for someone, notes written on post-its, office memos, letters sent or not - all are central in these vignettes on the communications (or rather, miscommunications) between men and women.

There's an overwhelming sense of yearning in all of the short stories in this collection: mistakes, missed opportun
Andy Miller
Nov 25, 2012 Andy Miller rated it really liked it
An interesting collection of short stories by Ben Greenman. He explores different forms of stories and different types of plots-For example, one story is about a seemingly typical family relationship tension except that it occurs mainly on the moon. The thing is that it is not really a science fiction story and I found that it ultimately fell short as both a "family relationship story" and as a science fiction story.

On the other hand, there were some great stories. My favorite was "What We Belie
Ethel Rohan
Jan 22, 2011 Ethel Rohan rated it liked it
I wanted to love this book. I really did. Readers, editors and fellow writers, all of whom I respect and admire, raved about this book. I expected to feel the same way. I'm afraid I didn't.

I attended Ben Greenman's reading, and his excellent conversation with Oscar Villalon, here in San Francisco's fabulous City Lights bookstore. He wowed me. I found him intelligent, articulate, earnest, tender, and, yes, sexy.

I loved Greenman's passion for the dying art of letter writing and his concerns about
Feb 06, 2015 Lydia rated it really liked it
Never been a fan of short stories but this is an exception. Every story involves letters of some kind, either the story is written as a letter or letters feature prominently. They're also each set in a very specific place and time -- Florida in 2010, New York in 1964, Algeria in 1896 etc, and somehow Greenman is able to take on the personalities and voices of a very diverse array of narrators. Excellent and quick read.
Jul 07, 2013 Risa rated it really liked it
If you are a mushy romantic (as I am) then several of these stories will make your blood curdle. Greenman's perspective is a long way from "Love Conquers All". Nonetheless, he is a talented writer who takes on a wide range of narrative voices, and succeeds more often than he misses. The thematic tie that binds the disparate settings and voices together is the idea of correspondence, which certainly got me thinking about how the current penchant for tweeting and Facebook updating is going to chan ...more
Jan 17, 2012 Stasia rated it really liked it
Shelves: 05-short-stories
There's nothing like being sick and mostly couchbound to make you devour a book, eh? When I started reading this earlier today, I thought I was just going to blow through it because I didn't think I'd like it: the two first stories were that kind of modern, detached sort of voice that makes you hopeless about anything you can do, ever. I hate that, especially when it's applied to love, or really human emotions in general. I like to think there IS happiness in the world, even between men and wome ...more
Clay Cassells
Mar 26, 2015 Clay Cassells rated it really liked it
"Lisa could have been a summer fling, but she was not a summer fling. Her center of gravity was too low. It was wrong of me to hope for her, because my life was loaded up, and she was not the thing that would, if added, make it lighter." - from 'What We Believe but Cannot Praise,' one of many transcendent moments in Greenman's collection. Beautiful, sad stories, keenly observed and precisely rendered. Greenman is really good.
Steven Freeman
Feb 02, 2016 Steven Freeman rated it it was ok
A couple of very good short stories did not make up for the rest.
Aug 20, 2013 Kaela rated it it was ok
I usually don't read short stories because I tend to crave more from them, but with these stories I didn't feel a connection with any of the characters. I think the author was trying to make a connection between love and relationships, his writing was beautiful at times but jumbled at others, as if he was really trying to get artsy with his words. I also don't like when the narrator of the story addresses the reader as if they are a part of the story. I don't want to feel like one of the charact ...more
Feb 16, 2013 Darlene rated it really liked it
This collection of short stories is one of the most honest portrayals of love -in all it's forms- that I've ever read. There are so many degree of love and forms that it comes in, and each story examines a different angle of it. Together this collection may not leave you feeling warm and mushy like The Notebook, but it does offer a you an opportunity to better understand people, their motivations, and struggles on one of the most complicated things in life
May 03, 2011 Sandy rated it it was ok
It's been a while since I read short stories and this reminded me why. Though these are well written and intriguing, short stories seem to leave me unsatisfied. I want more. I just start to relate to the characters and they are gone! I just kept thinking I would like a book about the characters in the story - each one was an exploration of relationships (usually male/female) and I wanted to go further.
Aug 13, 2010 Mike rated it liked it
Largely well-done, occasionally uneven treatment of the minutiae of relationships and the discrete moments that define how we think about those relationships.

The downside, for me, is that the author is so focused on the negative space of the subject that the book has a bit of a 'piling on' effect and few, if any, of the stories offer much in the way of denouement.
Jan 23, 2012 Edwin rated it liked it
It was ok. Greenman is definitely skilled and I did find resonance in a handful of these stories. I think it may just be that his style did not appeal to me, which seemed a bit old fashioned. The language was often not very economic. In some cases, it matched the setting of the stories/letters very well, but still, across the board, I found him to be overly wordy.
Jul 07, 2014 Blair rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What He's Poised to Do is a collection of short stories, or letters, that various characters write, focused on common themes of love and loss.

I didn't find it particularly moving or exciting. None of the stories are particularly memorable, nor did I connect with any particular character.

An okay read, but not a collection of stories that I'd read again.
Feb 02, 2011 Nicolai rated it really liked it
good stuff, very well-crafted and moving, altho sometimes gimmicky and a little samey. Suppose it's not fair to blame the book for being about relationships since it is a book inspired by corrspondences, but they're all romantic relationships and you have to wonder if Greenman couldn't have tried his very skilled hand at different types of relationships.
Dec 30, 2010 Joseph rated it it was amazing
A surprisingly ambitious little book. Full of sadness & beauty, these stories are built around letters -- written from lover to lover, sister to brother, the dead to the living. Comprising everything from science fiction to bad-love stories, this book is everything that, say, the works of Denis Johnson are not: humane, sharp, and actually well-written.
Sep 25, 2012 James rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
A collection of beautifully written short stories mostly dealing with relationships between men and women, some romantic, some family, some something else. Ben Greenman is an editor for the New Yorker and he writes very well, each story and character having its own distinct, strong voice.
May 31, 2010 Jennifer rated it it was ok
I'd give this title 2.5 stars. It's a quick read and the stories are pretty short all intertwined on the themes of love, sex, infidelity and such. The stories I liked best were "Barn" and "Kill the Pink." The others didn't resonate for me as much.
Christina Nelson
Mar 24, 2015 Christina Nelson rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading What He's Poised to Do. The stories are lyrical, poetic, and full of depth, especially when one considers how short each one actually is. Characters are fully fleshed out but not lacking in mystery. I'd recommend it!
Aug 23, 2010 Ernie rated it liked it
The opener and title story is not this book's best. "What We Believe But Cannot Praise" towards the end, finally redeems it, but barely. Somehow the rhythm and flavor of this book makes me envy the illiterate a little.
Jun 02, 2011 Susan rated it liked it
Overall a very enjoyable read. While some of the stories were not of great interest, generally speaking the way that Greenman writes about the complexities of relationships (of all sorts) is very rich.
Dec 04, 2011 Ara rated it it was amazing
It's heartbreaking. It's realistic. It's wonderful. It was a world of people and their relations with love compressed into a great novel. Greenman is an author I'm sure to keep a look out for!
Nov 13, 2014 Caroline rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Josh Rispoli
Shelves: favorites
One of the best short story collections I've read. Some of the stories are unexpected, but they never feel unrealistic. I can't wait to reread this and go into more detail.
Jul 13, 2010 Helene rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
The short stories in this book barely went anywhere and seemingly relied on a blunt but bland writing style that I may have liked in the beginning and hated in the end.
Kevin Fanning
Didn't grab me this time around, I'll try again later. The stuff he had in that compilation Jez did was killer, so I want to dig into his work more.
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Ben Greenman is an editor at The New Yorker whose short fiction, journalism, and essays have appeared there, The New York Times, McSweeneys, The Paris Review, and Zoetrope: All Story. He is the author of several acclaimed books of fiction, including Superbad, Superworse, A Circle is a Balloon and Compass Both, Correspondences, and the novel Please Step Back. HIs new book of stories What He's Poise ...more
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