We So Seldom Look on Love
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We So Seldom Look on Love

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  654 ratings  ·  52 reviews
From the author of the blockbuster Mister Sandman comes a gathering of unusual characters captured in the outrageous and humorous situations for which Barbara Gowdy has become famous. Teasing the taboos, Gowdy creates a marriage dialogue between a woman and her transsexual fiancé, who she thought was a man, and litigation between Samuel and Simon who share the same two-hea...more
Paperback, 201 pages
Published 2001 by Harper Perennial Canada (first published 1992)
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Mar 31, 2012 Pooker rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who usually eschew short stories
Shelves: canada, short-stories
I first read this book many, many moons ago. It is the book that I've always pointed to when justifying my opinion that Barbara Gowdy "always" writes about unusual, weird characters. I've read many of Gowdy's books since, including Mister Sandman, The White Bone and Helpless. All of those have served to confirm my original opinion. So you'd think I would have been more than prepared for a second foray into Gowdy's macabre territory in this book of stories.

Wrong. Even on a second reading, I was t...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this one.Gowdy has a beautiful writing style. Not all these stories are about love but they all display unusual human relationships with some "unusual" people. There's a story about a woman learning that her husband was actually born a woman, a story about a man with two heads who tries to murder his other head,another about a female exhibitionist, and another about a girl who has toddler-sized legs on her torso (her Siamese twin). I thoroughly enjoyed reading these short st...more
We So Seldom Look On Love, Barbara Gowdy's first published book, is a compilation of short stories. Like her novels, we see her championing the misfits and outcasts and explore their worlds in an honest and sympathetic fashion. Regardless of how outlandish her protags appear to be (...a woman exhibitionist, a two-headed man, a girl with her dead Siamese twin's trunk growing from her hip, a woman who literally embraces death...), her stories come off as compassionate and true.

This book is one th...more
Christy Stewart
There are fantastic stories in here like the beautiful necrophiliac or the two headed man personifying good and evil, but my favorite story was the one about the foster children. Gowdy told the story in a beautiful and loving way that made it far more arresting then other pieces I've read like it in which the authors try to be shocking.

Went around the house collecting brief and odd or somewhat strange stories to review and shelve here and was pleased to rediscover this forgotten gem.

As noted: "The characters in these eight masterfully crafted stories are from life's extremes -- a female necrophile, a lonely exhibitionist, a two-headed man, Siamese twins, a young girl with a severely enlarged head, a transsexual -- but with her certain hand Barbara Gowdy transforms the extraordinary into the familiar."

Empathy, humor, humanism...more
Jan 23, 2008 Lia rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lia by: Campbell family
Gorgeous, disturbing short stories by a writer I had never heard of. One or two missed the mark, and a few have weak endings, but in general a very impressive collection. I'm partial to short fiction anyway, but these were just stunning: Wildly imaginative, richly characterised, and so thoroughly engaging I avoided anything that might disturb me mid-story, to the point of being somewhat rude to the people around me. Many of Gowdy's characters would be considered oddities -- the eccentric extras...more
Leticia Cubias
Initially enticed by the collection's title, this book wasn't what I expected and I'm really glad it wasn't a run of the mill take on love. It presents love in atypical forms and the stories range from depicting characters with physical deformities to those with taboo obsessions. Two things struck me as a bit strange though, one was Gowdy's recurrent use of certain names in each story and her recurrent use of pets/pet businesses as a way to have female characters become financially stable. I'm n...more
TV Ontario carried a literary show called Imprint, and it was here that I first heard of Barbara Gowdy. But it was as an interviewer and it wasn't until a couple of years later that I learned she was also a writer, and quickly becoming one of this country's best. So finally
I decided to knock this one off my reading list.
It's a collection of eight stories featuring outcasts, freaks and depraved souls who are brought into a sensitive light by fine writing.
The stories are mostly inconsequential, i...more
Anna Dalvi
This book really stayed with me.
I read it for a book club, and wasn't thrilled with the choice, since I rarely enjoy short stories. And when I read it, I found all the stories bizarre.
But I found that after having read it, I would often think back on the stories. I'd read something else and I'd think back and contrast and compare to the stories in this collection.
Natalia Toronchuk
Incredibly disturbing, well written, and at times quite beautiful. This book deals with abhorrent topics such as necrophilia in a manner that elicits compassion for the characters and the world at large which deals with such characters. Caution must be taken, especially if you're very imaginative, as this book could deeply scar you.
Why four stars, not five? Because although it was a good piece of work, great even, it was not very palatable. I didn't enjoy reading it, although I enjoyed Gowdy's s...more
Lena Mcclintock
Thought provoking and disturbing all at once. Her writing is both beautiful and horrible!
This was a book I noticed was selected by one of our seniors as the book she wanted her honorary bookplate in. Because I know her and think she's terrific, I thought I'd try this book. Ok, I tried! No can do. Collection of short stories. Read some of the stories, all bizarre in their own way (some sort of gothic-y). I hung in until last night, when I started a story set in a male stripjoint; jumped to next story and the main character talks about lying on the cadavers she is working on. Not my...more
Matt Musselman
Most common word in other people's review of this book of sort stories: disturbing. Second most common word: touching. That about sums it up.

I was reminded a lot of Katherine Dunn's "Geek Love." This is also the story of freaks, and how they find ways to live and love despite being at the fringes of society: a girl with four legs, a blind girl with a disfiguring birthmark and a crack-baby little sister, an exhibitionist, a nymphomaniac, a necrophile. All very interesting. This book will stick wi...more
Possibly one of the most disturbing books I've ever read...certainly some of the imagery will be with me forever. The last story, "Flesh of My Flesh", has to be separately rated from the book, because I found it offensive, and, at the same time, almost unbearably sad. I wept and raged simultaneously. It must be my week for reading books that are beautifully written but go places I am uncomfortable with. First Barry Hannah's Ray and now this...
For a book found at the side of the road in the middle of Cottage Country, I was pleasantly surprised. The stories were bizarre and weird but enjoyable, like strange little snapshots in a life totally and completely far from my own. The descriptions were vivid and you could almost picture a darker shade of every colour as you take a quick peek into the life of those on the outside of the norm.
Oct 13, 2007 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: short story lovers
I sought this book out after seeing the movie "Kissed," based on one of the short stories in this collections. It's a fantastic book that has lingered with me and that I think about frequently. I should re-read it. I've been very disappointed with her novels, but Gowdy's short stories are tight, revealing, wonderful.
What a strange collection of characters fill this book of short stories.
From a two-headed man, to a four-legged girl, a necrophiliac, and an
exhibitionist. In places, this book headed into some nearly pornographic
territory that I found rather unnecessary and manipulative. Not really my
cup of tea.
Some of the short stories in this book were pretty bizarre, but I also found most of them moving in one way or another. Gowdy has a knack for writing from the perspective of characters at the margins of society and for depicting them in a compassionate and complex way.
Karin Slaughter
Terrific writer. I especially loved the story about the female necrophile, which was a tender, heartbreaking love story. When folks ask me if there's anything I won't write about, I think of this story, because Gowdy has proven that a good writer can write about anything.
Nicki Hill
there are some really crazy, grotesque stories in here and thought provoking satires on what "love" is to different people. many of the stories were quite alluring. the last one was my favorite, flesh of my flesh- so sad, condemning and then beautiful and accepting.
This is a rather bizarre collection of short stories. I wish they all were as good as the first story, in which an older lady attempts to navigate life with her two unusual foster children. All in all, however, this was an enlightening and thought-provoking read.
Brilliant! Barbara Gowdy takes extreme characters - a two- headed man, Siamese twins, & a female necrophile- and makes them comfortably familiar. I don't know which of the eight stories in this collection is my favorite because they are all wonderful !
Stephanie verzelen
Gowdy does a wonderful job of portraying outsiders and freaks as real human beings. Great, exceptional, awe-inspiring characters, thrilling and clever story-lines and an appropriate, down-to-earth take on taboos and generally avoided subjects.
This book is great, as the first story is about a girl born with a sycophantic conjoined twin--basically, she has two child-sized legs growing out of her stomach. Loved it. The rest of the stories, eh, not so much...but that one was really good...
Supreme, sublime writing. In the story 'We So Seldom Look Upon Love' Gowdy created a sympathetic necrophiliac. A horrible thought, truly, but a testament to Gowdy's writing. This book is not for the squeamish or the overly sentimental.
Ruth Seeley
This is one of my all-time favourite short story collections. Bitter and twisted? Maybe. For me it ranks right up there with early Ian McEwan though. Now where is my copy??? I remember the original paperback cover being red and blue....
La Mala
Excelente!!! Hace tiempo que no leía unas historias cortas tan originales , profundas y precisas .

"FLesh of my Flesh" me tuvo leyendo entre lágrimas . Tanta ternura ! (Entre tanta perturbación de la mayoría de los demás cuentos)
I was pretty disappointed in most of these stories after reading the descriptions. My favorite was the one about the girl with her twin fused to her, and the twisted man who fell in love with her.
A collection of short stories by Barbara Gowdy who investigates in these stories, life at its extremes, pushing past limits of convention into lives that are fantastic and heartbreakingly real.
Nancy Pozniak
I normally don't like short stories. But this is definitely an exception. These stories are so well crafted. I am still blown away at the creativity.

I would recommend this book
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Barbara Gowdy is a Canadian novelist and short story writer. Born in Windsor, Ontario, she is the long-time partner of poet Christopher Dewdney and resides in Toronto.
More about Barbara Gowdy...
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