What I Didn't See: Stories
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What I Didn't See: Stories

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  291 ratings  ·  54 reviews
In her moving and elegant new collection, New York Times bestseller Karen Joy Fowler writes about John Wilkes Booth's younger brother, a one-winged man, a California cult, and a pair of twins, and shedigs into our past, present, and future in the quiet, witty, and incisive way only she can.

The sinister and the magical are always lurking just below the surface: for a mother...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by Small Beer Press (first published 2002)
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This falls somewhere around three and a half stars for me, but I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt because I didn't read it in my medium of choice. While I'm now okay with the occasional ebook, I don't think it's the ideal medium for short story collections. I want to be able to choose which story to read next. I want to be able to glance back at the title of the story I just read as soon as I'm done, because proper titling is an art form. I want to be able to glance at the credits and see wh...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Not the best short stories I read in 2010, but I think the one about the immortality cult and the one about the teen sent away for brainwashing boot camp will stick with me.
Michael Beeman
For some authors, a short story collections is like a science lab. The stories in this collection, published over a span of nearly two decades, show Fowler experimenting with many different styles and forms distinct from her novels. But no matter the genre or subject, the author retains what makes her full-length books so successful: an attention to detail, an ear for language, and compassion for her characters. For those who have found Fowler through her novels, these stories offer a chance to...more
I'm not usually a fan of the short story. At best, I'm left feeling dissatisfied that the story (or stories) aren't novel length, and that the characters and the plot weren't fleshed out to completion. At worst, I finish them with a bitter after-taste based on not understanding what the author was trying to convey. I had read some of Karen Joy Fowler's books in the past and because I had enjoyed her writing before, I thought I'd give this compilation of stories a try. Besides, it was a library b...more
Katherine Pearl
My favorite stories in this collection straddle the line between reality and not-quite-reality in a style I have long admired, even though I am never sure what to call it (Slipstream? Magical realism? Sci-fi?). The title story adheres pretty closely to historical fact, but the visitors encounters with Africa and gorillas, which were at the time almost mythical beasts, endows it with a aura of fantasy, and at the end, mystery. The collection opens with “The Pelican Bar,” which I read as a dark al...more
Cheryl in CC NV
Saw this on the New Books display at the library, remembered loving Sweetheart Season, so grabbed it. So far (almost 1/2 way) it's, erm, 'interesting.' When she doesn't explain her stories, I'm adrift and unsettled and displeased. When she does explain them, they seem too simple & unmemorable. I'm probably not quite the target audience; not quite literary enough.

Update - done. Well, I just don't know. I'd suggest, if you're interested, read the title story, then decide whether you want to re...more
This is a fantastic collection of stories that venture into the unseen and peripheral worlds that exist within the world around us. It's dark, sometimes funny, challenging, and always riveting in the way that good fiction makes us feel when it forces us to look at things we'd rather ignore.
A review that I read on the inside cover of this book compared her to Shirley Jackson and Ursula LeGuin. I found that interesting because I do not see those two as necessarily similar in style, but it was enough to get me to pick this book up at the library. I am a big fan of short stories and essays and the themes mentioned were all creative twists on the history we have been taught.
I have only ever read "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson and that story sticks with a person; Fowler does not reach...more
I read something new because I liked a previous book enough to get another by the same author, or because I want something fun and quick enough to shut my brain off for a few hours and the cover (or blurb) suggest to me that this book will be worth the risk, or because it was suggested to me as a "must read" by someone I trust (though there are very few of those). Fowler's collection of short stories was one that was recommended to me, and I am now in the position of both appreciating the sugges...more
Jenni Moody
Fowler knows how to give amazing endings to stories, the kind where you speak very plainly and concretely about one thing, but in such a way that it conjures up a larger, abstract world of theme and meaning. I keep trying to write these kinds of endings in my own stories, and always fail.

There's also a great sense of playing with history in these stories, and many of them have a non-fiction tone, as if our narrator is someone like Mary Roach. The concept of telling the story of reality is ever-p...more
Patricia Weenolsen
Goodreads Books Review
by Patricia Weenolsen

WHAT I DIDN’T SEE and Other Stories by Karen Joy Fowler
Haruki Murakami and Karen Joy Fowler are two of my favorite practitioners of the art of the short story. Fowler’s tales begin with people whom you may have met in fairly ordinary situations. Or are they?
Twin sisters are backpacking in Europe and learn of the Last Word Cafe; they immediately want to visit, because a boy with whom they’re both in love may read at the open mic. A teenager mouths off...more
While the Kindle works nicely in many ways, sometimes reading short story collections on it can be annoying. You want to jump around from story to story. You want to flip pages. You are looking for a short one to get rolling with or words that draw you in. Not all of the e-versions make this easy.

This wasn't a problem with Karen Joy Fowler's What I Didn't See: Stories, however, because every story begins with an enticement. All 12 stories flow and the reader moves rapidly into whichever story s...more
Based on Karen Joy Fowler’s work to date, it is clear that she likes books. The Jane Austen Book Club, for which she is mainly known is an engagement with the modern romance genre as well as Austen’s novels. The Case of the Imaginary Detective, also published as Wit’s End, is a crime novel about crime novels. What I Didn’t See is a collection of Karen Joy Fowler’s short stories, the first such collection since 1997’s Black Glass. Most of the stories in this collection have been published elsewhe...more
As this is a collection of short stories, I wish I could rate each contribution on its own merits. Some stories, such as "The Pelican Bar," "The Dark," and "What I Didn't See," were extraoridnary. I was especially moved by her thoughts at the end of "King Rat," which also concluded this volume, as it made me reflect upon the fact that disappearing and searching are two major themes in her overall body of work. In these thoughts, I felt Fowler was reaching out and speaking as herself, not her nar...more
Science fiction? Fantasy? Neither? It can be hard to tell with some of Karen Joy Fowler's stories. And particularly difficult in this collection! I'd say they all appeal to sf/f readers, though, even if you're pretty certain it's neither.

Most of the stories in this collection were published in the last few years, and there's at least one entirely new one. "What I Didn't See" is, I think, the oldest story in this collection. Or perhaps it was "Standing Room Only", which is my favorite one, even t...more
Jun 18, 2011 Elizabeth is currently reading it
The Pelican Bar - A 15 year-old girl who is apparently abusing drugs and otherwise misbehaving is shipped off on her birthday to an intensive rehab/boarding school, where she's treated like crap from the get-go. Her parents ignore her initial plea to rescue her and she's kept until she turns 18. I'm still trying to determine where this story is going
Booth's ghost - A story about the family of John Wilkes booth - Lincoln's assassin. It fleshes out how various members of the family rose to promin...more
A stunning collection that mixes history, fantasy, myth, and something else altogether unknowable. Witty and powerful and totally out there.
Wow. This book is great. The stories in here are just plain amazing---just a little bit eerie, just a little bit tense, leaving you just a little bit unsettled. These are the kind of stories that you mull over for a while afterwards.
Oona Stieglitz
diverse and intense short stories. the first, Pelican Bar, I am thinking about weeks later. it concerns parents who send their out of control teenage daughter to what they believe is a rehabilitation facility. as events progress, the reader makes discoveries alongside the character. it is matter of fact horror.

science fiction, history, family dynamics make appearances in this collection of short stories. as this format needs to do, the author wastes no time pulling you into each story. quirky, h...more
Fowler's stories are shrewd and unsettling, and I couldn't help feeling slightly tense and off-kilter as I eagerly read through each. Many in the collection seem ethnographical in nature--an insider's look at a cult, an archeological dig, a research expedition in the Congo, the family of John Wilkes Booth. Fowler's range is wide and her characters, settings, and conflicts diverse, but her stories hang together in "What I Didn't See" by the underlying theme of disappearance: those who disappear o...more
Especially liked The Pelican Bar, and Halfway People (a version of a Grimm story).
After several years of avoiding short stories, I decided I needed to stop the silliness and read some this year. I think I was avoiding them partly because I wouldn’t want to get engrossed in a story only to have it be over so much earlier than a novel would be.

Having read this collection, I am reminded that another reason I have tended not to read them was that, when done well, they require your attention at every moment. But that’s also the beauty of a great short story, that you can experienc...more
Rose Owens
Fowler's immaculate prose once again dazzles and enchants the reader. Her keen eye and dry wit bring about such magical tales as gorillas in the wild, a boarding school for disobedient children, a submarine lost at the bottom of a lake, and the insider's tale of a immortality cult. This is not to mention her stunning and incisive looks into the Booth family (of Edwin, Junius, and John Wilkes fame) not once but twice...both presented in unusual ways. Fowler is one of the strongest voices in the 2...more
I loved these stories, particularly "The Pelican Bar," "The Last Worders," and "The Dark."
I borrowed this book from the library initially intrigued by the picture on the front - a gorilla sitting in some sort of contraption that floated on a sea of green. Cover art is by Erica Harris.

The book was printed on 30% recycled paper.

12 stories - unusual, stimulating, wondrous.

Best liked: Booth's Ghost, The Marianas Islands, Halfway People and the title story, What I Didn't See (which made me weep).

Sara Diane
The title story was grand, a few others were good, and the only ones that were not so much were the two dealing with John Wilkes Booth (she's a tad obsessed, I would say). Fowler's writing is clean and engaging enough. Most of these were previously published, several in sci-fi or fantasy collections, which I found weird as they didn't give off such vibes.

A good collection of short stories--18 and up.
It seems most people know of Karen Joy Fowler through her novel The Jane Austen Book Club, which is a wonderful novel, but readers shouldn't stop there. I absolutely love her novels Sarah Canary and Sister Noon as well as her stunning short stories. If you're not familiar with Fowler's short fiction, What I Didn't See is a great place to start.
Jul 31, 2011 Kathy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Jessica, those that like short stories
The short stories in this collection were very enchanting! I loved the author's voice and the recurrent theme of disappearing that was shown in different ways. All the stories were complete in their own way, despite how unsolved the ending seemed. The Pelican Bar, The Last Worders, Always and What I Didn't See were my favorites and will definitely stick with me.
I loved this collection. I was not a huge fan of "The Jane Austen Book Club" (too much hype, perhaps) but these stories, particularly the first one, "The Pelican Bar", blew me away. Overall they were disturbing, historically interesting, and brilliant. There wasn't one story I didn't spend time thinking about after reading this book.
The variety in these stories was amazing. Some have stayed with me more than others, particularly the ones to do with the Lincoln assassination and the submarine (those are separate). Some were so dark, oh the twins. I longed for the characters and humor of "Wit's End" but every story impressed.
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I was born in Bloomington, Indiana. I was due on Valentine's Day but arrived a week early; my mother blamed this on a really exciting IU basketball game. My father was a psychologist at the University, but not that kind of psychologist. He studied animal behavior, and especially learning. He ran rats through mazes. My mother was a polio survivor, a schoolteacher, and a pioneer in the co-operative...more
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The Jane Austen Book Club We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves Sarah Canary Wit's End Sister Noon

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“Here is my objection to submarines and space travel: not enough windows. What difference does it make if you're in outer space or underwater, or wherever, if you can't feel, or hear, or see or smell it?” 4 likes
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