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Good Trouble: Stories

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  176 ratings  ·  43 reviews
From the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author of Netherland comes a collection of stunning, subversive, wryly comic stories that reveal the emotional depths and surprising beauty of life in the twenty-first century. A poet confronts the state of his art when asked to sign a petition-in-verse to free Edward Snowden. A man attending a wedding in Tuscany seeks a moment of solace ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published May 14th 2019 by Vintage (first published June 12th 2018)
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3.66  · 
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 ·  176 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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Nicole (Read Eat Sleep Repeat)
Good Trouble is a collection of short stories that examine everyday life in the twenty-first century.

I had a lot of mixed thoughts about this book. Some of the stories did more for me than others. Some I didn’t know what to make of. At the end of some, I thought, “Okay, so what?”

Here’s the thing: people are endlessly fascinating. We all live in our own heads and are the hero in our own story. This collection felt to me more like a novelist preparing to write by creating little snippets of charac
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
knew I was in for a treat from the very first story - Pardon Edward Snowden - when a request to sign a "poetician" for pardoning Edward Snowden leads into something else: the character's palpable anger at Bob Dylan for winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. (He reflects that "an ultra-celebrated multimillionaire who deals in concerts and extra-paginal iconicity is not playing the same game as a writer who sits down in a small college town and, with no prospect of meaningful financial reward, tr ...more
Good Trouble is a slim volume of short stories that I enjoyed very much. If you don't enjoy character-driven stories, this may not be a good fit for you. The best word I can use to describe the stories is that they are very human. Conflict within the stories often comes from the personality of the characters and they are, as we all are, imperfect people. Often they are reacting to mundane situations within a lifetime and I find them very relatable. There is much to think about in under 200 pages ...more
I was swept away by this collection of short stories filled with flawed characters and deep insights. My only complaint is that it had to end.
Jonathan Maas
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great tales but be warned - they contain bits of alienation that sneak into you, and may leave you shaken

The best way I can describe Joseph O'Neill?

I think of the New Yorker Magazine, and myself opening it to the fiction piece. That one is always tricky - because their styles go all around, but sometimes - the tale gets you in the first paragraph.

You know it's going to be good, and this week's New Yorker will be read quickly, and with little effort, because the tale is so good.

That's Joseph O'Ne
Jill Meyer
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not one for short stories, so I surprised myself when I chose to read and review "Good Trouble: Stories", by Joseph O'Neill. I don't like starting a story, just to see it end...shortly. I always want "more" - more story, more characters. And yet it is for this very readerly request - "more" - that the stories in O'Neill's book do work. I read all 11 of them - a couple appealed to me less than the others - and to all I had the reaction that O'Neill HAD written "enough"; that he was able to br ...more
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
At certain times when I need to get out of a reading rut, a good jolt of short stories seems to do the trick and this collection was perfect for me. Witty and gently subversive, observations of middle-aged male self-justification for inaction and prevarication predominate. I particularly enjoyed ‘The Poltroon Husband’ in which a man is paralysed by fear (or as he describes it, a mysterious neurological spasm) that prevents him getting out of bed at night to investigate noises downstairs, forcing ...more
This was a lovely collection of short stories. Some I cared less for (the ones about depressed middle-aged men... one of them would have sufficed!), but some I absolutely loved.

Some random sentences I liked:

”Mindfulness, if I’ve understood it correctly, means paying very, very close attention to the continuance of one’s subjectivity.”

”Apparently—and here, Nietzsche and Cioran and above all Adorno were Mark’s masters—the trick was to simply put to one side all epistemological difficulties and ju
Jul 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Re: The rating. As a collection of short stories this is certainly a good one. However, if I were to compare it to other contemporary fiction (as in novels I've read, or would actually choose to read from that genre) enjoyment-wise this one would be a 2-star read. Mostly because the stories are character-driven and to short to actually engage me in the snippets of the characters lives.
Love the cover, which is the reason the collection caught my attention.
Crystal Hiatt
This is a collection of short stories that explores the pettiness of human behavior while also examining worth, one's place in the universe and mortality.
Unfortunately, many of the stories felt incomplete, particularly so in 'The Trusted Traveler.'
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
During a recent trip to Ireland, as I was browsing in the wonderful Book Centre bookstore in Kilkenny, this book with a goose on the cover caught my eye, because it echoed the cover of one of my favorite books, Straight Man by Richard Russo. Then I saw it was by Joseph O'Neill, whose name I recognized from some recent short stories I'd enjoyed in the The New Yorker (having just finished one on the plane ride over). Even though I'd already brought a few books for the trip, I snapped up this one a ...more
Eric Sutton
Joseph O'Neill is undoubtedly an intelligent writer, but in Good Trouble, his debut stories collection, his erudite phrasing was a bit much, making the book rather uneven. I think he writes human stories better than satire. Of his novels, for example, Netherland was far superior to The Dog. In this collection, stories such as "The Moustache in 2010" lost me, but "Pardon Edward Snowden" balanced the styles well, and "The Sinking of the Houston" and "Ponchos" concluded brilliantly and left me deep ...more
Jay Wood
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ARC. Read some of these before in the New Yorker. The stories capture the ledge we are all balancing on.
Keith Currie
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Poetitions and pensees - all good

A dozen or so short stories, each with a clever twist on mainly male, mainly American, mainly middle-aged foibles, self-obsession and failings. I found they resonated with me. I found them witty and thought-provoking. I found them a subtle counterpoint to much female focused fiction. I considered the stories as a plausible reveal of a generation of men.

Where do I start? The story entitled Referees where a divorced man in his forties struggles to find and persuade
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
*4.25 stars.
"In any case, Mark mistrusted his own alley..." (11). *As in "up my alley."
" Locke: 'I cannot but observe how little the preservation and improvement of truth and knowledge is the care and concern of mankind, since the arts of fallacy are endowed and preferred" (12).
"Everything was either about the election or not about the election" (14).
"...but it can't be denied that we've retired, and that to retire means to draw back, as if from battle" (21).
"Chris somehow catches my eye wi
Matt Graupman
Joseph O’Neill’s short stories in “Good Trouble” are quintessential “New Yorker stories,” as I call them: smart, slightly pretentious slice-of-life tales about well-off white folks that end in strangely abrupt ways, or exactly the kinds of stories that you’d find in The New Yorker magazine. That description makes it sound like I don’t like that kind of fiction and, by extension, I didn’t like “Good Trouble,” but that’s not true. Sure, it’s been done better (see: Curtis Sittenfeld, Thomas Pierce, ...more
Nicole O
This book is a staunch reminder of why I tend to avoid short stories. I just could not get into this book at all. As interesting as the plot summary sounds for this collection, that's about as good as it gets when it comes to this book. The last story in the collection, "The Sinking of the Houston", ends just as it gets mildly intriguing, which is more than I can say for the rest of the book. I suppose Joseph O'Neill was trying to explore the internal musings of everyday people, as well as how t ...more
As with all collections of stories, some of these were wonderful and others I had a harder time connecting to. I especially enjoyed The Death of Billy Joel, Goose, and The Sinking of the Houston.

The hardest part for me with most of the other stories was relating to the characters. O’Neill does a fantastic job of creating realistic characters with believable issues, but as I have never faced many of these issues or been at point in life to consider some of the topics characters did, I wasn’t abl
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection won't delight every reader. In fact, I'd suggest that these short stories aren't entertaining so much as they are careful studies in single characters or small crises. They lack climactic story arcs and satisfying endings, but they draw the reader into a brief chapter of a person's life: a poet questions his motives, a grandmother avoids asking why she is so alone, a divorcé is desperate for letters of reference, a husband invents excuses for not investigating the strange noise i ...more
I've read Joseph O'Neill's Netherland and it was alright. But I couldn't make myself care for most of the stories in this collection. I was barely engaged at any point, the only story that was slightly interesting was Pardon Edward Snowden, not because the story had anything to do with Snowden, but because of how vitriolic the poet main character is about Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize. Tell us how you really feel, Mr. O'Neill. I also liked the title of The Poltroon Husband, but unfortunately the husba ...more
Thank you First to Read for an advanced copy of Good Trouble. I used points to guarantee a copy of this book and had high expectations... but... I did not end up enjoying this collection as much as I had hoped.

There were a few stories that I wish were longer or that I kept thinking about after I had read them (which I take as a good thing) but then there were others that I found myself wanting to skim just to get to the point. While I can't say that the description of the book is wrong, the int
Alia S
Jan 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
"As a clue," I say.  Because I don't want to appear odd, or unwell, I don't reveal that I'm spelling it "clew," as in the ball of yarn, as in the labyrinth. 

Vignettes on various tragedies of living, successfully both inventive and too-ooooo-real. I do slightly resent the billing as “stories” because none of these finish so much as end—certainly they don’t have to, but it’s cruel to pretend.

I also learned the word “tocsin” and some creepy facts about traditional circumcision. The more you know!

Irene O'Hare
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got this short story collection for free through Penguin's First to Read program. I enjoyed these stories specifically for their mundanity. They are not about people doing outlandish things or getting involved in crazy situations. They are about the good trouble that arises within the average person's life. O'Neill is a great storyteller, who does a wonderful job of bringing his everyday-protagonists to life and making the reader invested in their small, relatable struggles. Some of my particu ...more
Joan Colby
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Exceptional short stories which live up to his superb novel Netherlands. I realized that I had read several of the stories previously in The New Yorker; nevertheless it is rewarding to have them collected between hard covers. This is definitely a keeper. O’Neill’s stories focus more on the inner workings of his characters’ minds than on conventional plot. They are both erudite and transparent which is quite a feat.
Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"It is assumed that the writer's first allegiance is to language. This is false. The writer's first allegiance is to silence." (My favorite sentence from the first story, "Pardon Edward Snowden")

I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. I loved the titles of each because they are eclectic and have very little to do with the actual body of the work. Except "The Death of Billy Joel". That story about exactly that. Kind of.

"The reader as a consumer. It's an interesting question."

I received a copy of this ebook for free from in exchange for an honest review.

There are some good stories in this collection but also a number that I wasn't wowed with. Like other story collections it's a variety of hit and miss stories that examine what it means to be human and the complexities of relationships.

Most of the stories are pretty short and overall it's a pretty quick read.
Elena Vrabie
I'm not sure what the culprit is, but this series didn't catch my attention. I enjoyed the fact that it was short, I even enjoyed some part of some stories and how they end. But at the end it left me a bit frustrated: I wanted more and I was looking for modern depictions in a easier language. So don't take this the wrong way, if you are a fan of the style I bet you're going to appreciate the project better, but it's just not for me.
Leanne Ellis
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved the first story with Edward Snowden in the title - so smart and funny about language, petty jealousies and squabbles, and how Bob Dylan is not a poet! The rest were absorbing rants or wry observations, but the endings were too abrupt for my taste. Not that a story needs some finality or definite conclusion, but some sense of an ending to a situation would be nice like the Billy Joel one ending where the character realizes he isn't dead.
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I haven't been a big fan of O'Neill's novels, I'm generally impressed by his short stories. My favorites tended toward what might be seen as showing off, especially in the first story, Pardon Edward Snowden. My least favorite featured bro-ish characters, and most of the collection does have a decidedly male slant.
Chele Hipp
Not for me. Perhaps above my intellectual level as I didn’t understand some of the references. Only read the first three stories. Just didn’t get into them. The characters weren’t that interesting and their motivations were too vague. I felt like it was a book for literary snobs who want to explain what the author meant without the author doing his own work to explain what he meant.
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Joseph O'Neill was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1964 and grew up in Mozambique, South Africa, Iran, Turkey, and Holland. His previous works include the novels This is the Life and The Breezes, and the non-fiction book Blood-Dark Track, a family history centered on the mysterious imprisonment of both his grandfathers during World