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Shakespeare's Kitchen

3.14  ·  Rating details ·  581 Ratings  ·  129 Reviews
The thirteen interrelated stories of Shakespeare’s Kitchen concern the universal longing for friendship, how we achieve new intimacies for ourselves, and how slowly, inexplicably, we lose them. Featuring six never-before-published pieces, Lore Segal’s stunning new book evolved from seven short stories that originally appeared in the New Yorker (including the O. Henry Prize ...more
Hardcover, 225 pages
Published April 3rd 2007 by The New Press (first published 2007)
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Mar 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who like fiction about academic life.
Added in April: I found out today that this book was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, so that shows you how much I know. :)

Shakespeare's Kitchen is a series of interrelated short stories revolving around a woman named Ilka. When I think of this book, I think, "These are serious stories." That is, the subject matter of the book is serious, and its main focus is how adults interact with one another.

In a preface to this book, which is a series of inter-related short stories, the author Lore Sega
Nov 03, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who suspect they may read too many books about precocious children
Recommended to Christy by: Amy
I'm having a little trouble lately reading books to completion. I think this is related to my sudden acquisition of a lot of new books (holiday gifts and the like). It's making me feel tugged in too many directions and hopeless about finishing anything. Yet again, obligation has rushed in to save me from myself. This slim volume was our book club's pick for our upcoming January meeting, so I had to dig in and read it. I am not familiar with Lore Segal, but after reading this, I do feel that I mi ...more
You'd think that with the way that Segal set this up to have all the short stories relate back to one another that this would be pretty interesting. It had all the trappings that I usually look for in a good read, but I found myself unsatisfied with the last few stories to say the least. Definitely ended on a low note.
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
A good cure for insomnia, these stories well-exemplified the tedium of academia.
Sep 06, 2014 rated it it was ok

1.5 stars

Really, the only thought-provoking idea that Lore Segal's interconnected short story collection Shakespeare's Kitchen engenders is: how the heck was this considered for a Pulitzer? (It was runner-up to Junot Diaz' The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in 2008). Excluding the 1989 New Yorker Magazine-published "The Reverse Bug", there isn't much left except ponderous examples of mediocre (sometimes, even, laughably awful) writing, with a see-through, snarky veneer of faux erudition. With
Matt Ogborn
Feb 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written. This was a joy to read.
Anne Boardman
This is a strange but compelling book and a finalist for a Pulitzer. The writing is well done. It's more a matter of format. As 13 interrelated stories, I felt like I got a tidbit into each of the stories while learning a little more about the characters as I continued reading. yet it was such a tidbit that i felt like I was almost eavesdropping on conversations and events rather than seeing a complete story. Yet the stories provided interesting observations in how we interact with other people ...more
Apr 23, 2018 rated it did not like it
Short stories. This collection falls somewhere between short stories and a novel because the characters continue from one story to the next and the timing is fairly linear. The main character, Ilka Weisz, is a refugee who has just taken a position at a research center affiliated with a small college. Because this is not a novel, one reads bits & pieces of the lives of the characters and there is a lot that is left unwritten and unsaid. I did not much like this book, but I am not quite sure w ...more
Ralph Maughan

The book lost my interest about midway when the author made a stream of consciousness jumble of World War Two. From there on the writing was obtuse and bothersome. It felt like the author wrote whatever came into his mind and was not the least concerned about making sense let alone telling a good story.
Joanne Serling
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books. Ilka is such a charming narrator and the dynamics of the group friendships never cease to entertain me. I often dip into these stories when I'm feeling stuck creatively; the liveliness and intelligence of the writing instantly perks me up and inspires me.
Apr 21, 2011 rated it liked it
I was first introduced to Lore Segal's work through the New Yorker Fiction Podcast. Jennifer Egan read one of the stories from this collection called "The Reverse Bug," and I was pleasantly surprised at how much the story affected me. Days later I found myself still contemplating and mulling over the complex tale. When I came across the full collection in a used bookstore, I decided to give the rest of her work a shot. I've been trying to read different types of fiction lately, and since Shakesp ...more
Christopher MacMillan
Lore Segal's 13 short stories about a woman named Ilka and her relationship with Leslie and Eliza Shakespeare are a mixture of the unusual, grim qualities found in Jean Stafford's writing, and the flowery charm seen in novels by Carol Shields.

While I ultimately enjoyed "Shakespeare's Kitchen", I feel as though some sort of heft, or some sort of depth was missing that would have given the novel a more lasting impression. There was this overall sense throughout these stories that they were someho
Aug 08, 2008 rated it liked it
I really like it when books do something a little different. I've read several books in 2011 that were structured in slightly different ways than what I typically gravitate to, and I've been enjoying spreading my horizons that way. This was one such book. Shakespeare's Kitchen is a collection of short stories, that are not especially related to one another, but sharing in common their characters and with some plot elements continuing from story to story. If that sounds like it might be confusing ...more
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
As with other readers I came across Lore Segal because of a New Yorker podcast: the book is worth it just for the story - Reverse Bug - featured in that. Singer has a deceptively simple style, behind which is a sophisticated take on the vicissitudes of enclosed communities, obsessive love and female interaction. It interlaces - what could have been yet another tale of academics in America - with pointed comments on issues of immigration, belonging and moral responsibility. If that makes it sou ...more
May 11, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
Shakespeare's Kitchen is a collection of thirteen interconnected short stories. The theme that runs throughout the collection is one of human need. A need to be loved, to have friendships and to belong to someone or something. Is there a plot? No, not really. At times, I felt as though I was watching a bad episode of Seinfeld. I did not enjoy the protagonist, Ilka Weisz, and did not see much in her emotional growth. My main turnoff to Ilka come fairly early in the book. In the second short sto ...more
Jan 26, 2009 rated it liked it
It must have been a bad year for fiction the year this collection was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, as Segal's work pales by comparison to many other Pulitzer-Prize nominees I've read (and non-Pulitzer nominated books too, I might add). Part of the problem is that Segal's collection suffers from short story syndrome. Even though all these stories are inter-related, the same characters are involved in each story, and there is a sense of change and movement over time, I felt cheated. If Segal ...more
Oct 24, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is one boring book. The "plot" centers around the mundane details of life of Ilka W. and Leslie and Eliza Shakespeare. There are other characters, but they are so thinly drawn and again woven in with so many mundane details, that I didn't even want or try much to keep them straight in my mind.

I can see that it's SUPPOSED to be funny in some parts. Sorry, it didn't work out that way. Sorry, I just don't CARE who stole the pencil sharpener and where it ends up. And I can see that the author
Feb 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
At the geometric heart of this book of linked short stories or elliptical novel is a brilliant, crushing short story called "The Reverse Bug." I recommend it. I think it will amuse, wound, and infuriate you and you will not forget it.

All around this story, circling it in time and in theme, Segal has chosen to write an enjoyable but less remarkable campus novel. Tonally, I don't think this does "The Reverse Bug" justice -- it would do better in a collection of murderously good short stories, in t
Aug 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the most emotionally satisfying books I have read. Though it's characterized by the author as a collection of stories, and it is, it is really a novel, not only because of recurring characters but also because the conflicts of the stories are developed and intertwined. The people are as vivid as the people in my own life and though Segal is a master of social observation and dialogue, she does not deal only in surfaces. The protagonist, Ilka, who in this book is several years older and wi ...more
Sara Batkie
This book reminded me a bit of a female version of "Pnin" in that it's a collection of linked short stories that takes place at a Northeastern, vaguely Ivy League university and concentrates around one character who teaches at the school. Segal has the same sense of play as Nabakov though her language is much plainer and while Ilka, the lead, is suitably dotty, I found myself wishing for more flights of fancy here. Nothing else quite matches the sneaky devastation of "The Reverse Bug", which I f ...more
Jun 18, 2008 rated it liked it
This is a set of short stories set in a New England college setting. Having said this, the book reads more like a novel than a collection of disconnected short stories. The characters and plotlines were reminiscent of my own experiences working as a professor in a New England college setting - particularly the ego, detachment, arrogance, and moral obfuscation that can be commonplace - although what really stood out were the wonderful small details or subtle observations. I found myself favorably ...more
Jesse Field
Feb 11, 2011 marked it as to-read
"Tomorrow evening the institute is holding a symposium....The theme," said the teacher, "is: 'should there be a statue of limitations on genocide?' With a wine and cheese reception."

I listened to "The Reverse Bug" as read by Jennifer Egan for the New Yorker Fiction Podcast. In this incredible story, Ilke teaches a classroom of immigrants who have all survived the 1940s, one way or another.

With amazing parts humor and sadness, Segal "makes manifest" (as Egan says) the impossibility of rationali
Apr 18, 2008 rated it liked it
I found this book a mild disappointment. It was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize and I loved the premise: interconnected short stories about a youngish woman who joins a liberal arts think tank and how she must create a community for herself. She makes friends, she falls in love, she has a baby.

The writing is strong - terrific details, interesting plots, and I found many of the characters compelling. That said, at the end of it, at what was supposed to be I believe an emotional ending, I kind
Jun 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
Okay, we had book club last week, so now I can put my two cents on here. I told the gals that I think this is a great choice for a discussion type group, because before I heard everyone else's opinions I probably would have given this book 1 star! I just did not enjoy it hardly at all. It just seemed random and pointless with a whole lot of unlikeable characters. Plus some of the writing just seems very pretentious at times. But, after reading the author's note and hearing some other perspective ...more
Sep 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Written through the main character, Ilka, who is an immigrant from Vienna recently transplanted to a small academic institution in Connecticut, she explores the theme of belonging either to friends, lovers, family members or how one goes through the process of creating a new set of people to belong to. The stories have the slightly dusty feeling of occurring in another decade--the lighting is more amber and correspondences are sent through hand-written letters. Some stories are filled with great ...more
Jun 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Betsy Brainerd
This "novel" started as several short stories that the author later put together and tried to give a common thread. It revolves around a young woman, Ilka, who is hired to work at an academic institute, and whose evolving relationship with Eliza and Leslie Shakespeare (an academic and his wife)forms the center of the novel. General consensus among my book club members was that it was disjointed product. While the writing is excellent and we could appreciate her attempts to capture what it was li ...more
Jeremy Hornik
Dec 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A lovely, humane book. I am in love with Lore Segal's ability to tell a story about adult relationships without judgment. You are left (quite happily) to make up your own minds about these people and their abilities to be friends, to alienate, to love, to hate, and to betray.

This is the third book (for adults) of hers that I've read. They're very much based in her life, to the point of going over some of the same biographical material again. Some of the characters have the same names as in their
Nov 07, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: someone who likes ensemble stories
I have mixed feelings about this book. What started out as seven interconnected short stories in the New Yorker ended up as a full book which explains why you read a lot of the chapters/stories and think "huh?" I liked the world of the Concordance Institute that the write created but found the main two charachters tiresome and annoying. I would much rather if the rather the stories had involved each of the peripheral players instead of leaving potentially interesting charachters off the center s ...more
Adriana Diaz
I just finished this book this afternoon, and maybe if I think about it for (quite) a while I'll feel differently. However, frankly, it's as though the writer had a number of story lines and couldn't decide which one to develop, so she didn't develop any of them. She had some wonderful opportunities, especially around page 150, but unfortunately she just jumped from one thing to another. I think an unpublished author would not have found a publisher for this book. I've never read anything by Lor ...more
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Lore Segal was born in Vienna in 1928. In 1938, she arrived in England as one of the thousands of Jewish children brought out of Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia by the Kindertransport and lived with several foster families in succession. She graduated from the University of London and, after a sojourn in Trujillo's Dominican Republic, came to New York City. She married the editor David Segal ...more
More about Lore Segal

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