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

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  632 Ratings  ·  94 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 she digs 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 mothe
Hardcover, 197 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by Small Beer Press (first published 2002)
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Negar Khalili
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
تلخ و عجیب و فکر بر انگیزنده و و تاثیر گذار و خواندنی در عین کوتاهی
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
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
Michael Beeman
May 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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.
Mar 24, 2018 rated it liked it
What an interesting set of short stories. I enjoyed this book because of its quirkiness. It was a bit difficult to read through some of the stories though because they were a bit dry. But overall, a solid 3 stars.
Feb 11, 2018 marked it as xx-dnf-skim-reference
Because of Pelican Bar, which in Evolution of SF group is noted as not actually being SF or fantasy except for nictitating membranes, even though it won genre awards.
Well. I thought it was SF. It was also ugly and opaque. I tried to read a couple others in the collection and couldn't.
Aug 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book
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
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
With a short story collection, you have to be willing to allow for stories to which you are indifferent and measure the quality of the collection by the height of the best stories. (The same goes for collections of essays, Nine Gates by Jane Hirshfield earned my 5-star appreciation despite my indifference to over half the essays because a couple were so exemplary.)

I thought "Booth's Ghost" was thoughtful, but not moving enough to remember a few weeks after reading it. Likewise "The Dark" and "Pr
Vel Veeter
Jul 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: cbr-9
So I have only read one of Karen Joy Fowler’s books before: We are Completely Beside Ourselves. I really liked it. It’s about a family who raises a chimp alongside their other child and its various fallouts. It’s good.

But I also know her as the author of The Jane Austen Book Club which could be good, but I am suspicious of any book circulating around Jane Austen and her books because there’s so many of them.

And then her other books come with a variety of mixed subjects and reviews: so I can’t fi
Maree Kimberley
May 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Sometimes the quotes on the back blurb of a novel or short story collection can set expectations a little too high, and this was the case for me with Fowler's What I Didn't See Coming. With descriptions such as "Fowler's stories measure the human capacities for hope and despair, brutality and kindness" I was expecting a lot from this short story collection, and although I think several of the stories were excellent, overall it didn't live up to the back blurb hype.

The opening story, The Pelican
David Raz
I got this book from the Super Nebula Author Showcase Humble Bundle so I was expecting something much more SF/Fantasy. That being said, I really enjoyed this collection so I am happy it was put on the collection.
While I usually read in paper, this was an exception and I read it on my cellphone. I waste much time waiting for and taking meetings, so it is very nice to have a book of short stories you can read. Most stories were read over days and sometimes weeks, and the fact that the stories were
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this collection to be wildly imaginative and creative, but also with a twist of nostalgia and food for thought. This was my first read of Karen Joy Fowler and I am anxious to see what else she has to offer.....truly a gifted and talented writer.
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: women
I really struggled to finish this collection of stories. I can't say that they are not good, maybe just that they tend to be slow at first, and mostly realistic, with some touches of fantastic elements. Not my cup of tea.
Well, that was boring. And the explicit details of spiders made it even less enjoyable since I have arachnophobia. Oh, and I'm Black; so the casual racism exhibited by the characters made it even worse than the spiders.

Alex Linschoten
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Wow. There are some uncomfortable stories in this anthology.

I may raise the rating on reflection. I just need some time to digest.
Rachel Ann Brickner
I love this collection so much. It's so imaginative, funny, dark, & unique. Can't wait to go back to "The Dark" and "What I Didn't See" in particular.
Holly Walrath
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-read for any Karen Joy Fowler fan. These stories are wild and unexpected. Fowler is an expert of the short story form.
May 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
The title story is pretty good. For me most of the other stories are neither fantasy nor weird nor literary.
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nov 06, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: stories, wiscon35
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
Feb 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Carolyn Mck
May 05, 2015 rated it liked it
This is the first set of stories I have read from this author, who is highly regarded in the short story field. She writes about the margins - between reality and fantasy, animal and human, history and myth. While her view is aslant, her voice is incisive. The two stories I will particularly remember are The Pelican Bar (a fierce look at what might be done to troublesome teenage girls who are sent for 'rehabilitation') and What I Didn't See, a story set in the jungles of the Congo in the 1920s i ...more
Kyle Muntz
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
A solid collection with a huge range, though I thought the voice of the narrator's was generally more interesting than what happened in the stories. A few great ones though, especially The Pelican Bar, about a girl in a cruel boarding school maybe run by aliens, and the title story, which had a setting that almost reminded me of Tarzan with a very interesting focus on feminism. Fowler's novels have never looked very interesting to me, so this collection was a big eye opener, especially how sharp ...more
Jenni Moody
Dec 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
It's weird, because my overall impression of this collection was "it's okay," which is probably because the last two stories did not hit with me, so I exited on a down note. Plus I read it directly after reading Kelly Link. But looking at my individual ratings, this averages right at 3.5, which is good.

There was something a little too solid, a little too heavy about some of these. Is that a weird thing to say? Not heavy like tragic content and emotional scarring, but weighed down somehow. The st
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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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“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?” 5 likes
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