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The Age Of Grief

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3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,419 Ratings  ·  139 Reviews
This stunning collection of five stories and one novella confirms Jane Smiley's place as one of the country's most gifted writers. Clear, elegant and filled with the unmistakable sound of real people going about real life, The Age of Grief is a true cause of celebration.
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Published March 17th 1997 by Flamingo (first published August 12th 1987)
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Paul
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I read the title novella earlier this year and to say I loved it would be an understatement, so I thought I'd check out the collection. It's an unfair criticism, perhaps, but the five preceding stories just don't really compare (or perhaps even hold up) to the novella. It feels like so much throat clearing. Really eloquent throat clearing, of course, but because I knew what was coming at the end, I could never fully immerse myself in the stories. A couple are pretty great, then conclude with a l ...more
Daniel
Dec 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
CIRCA 2002

Publisher A: Hey, Jane Smiley wrote a great novella, let's get it out there.

Publisher B: But wait, we can't, like, put out a 90-page story as-is; we need to put more stuff in between the covers so we can slap a $14 price tag on the whole enchilada.

Publisher A: Let me dig up some short stories she put out, make an anthology.

Publisher B: That's the ticket.


THE PRESENT

Author: I have a great novella that I want people to read...

Author: ...I know, I'll put it out as an eBook, charge a couple
...more
Mindy
Feb 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This series of short stories (and the novella for which the collection is named) showed a level of mastery and sensitivity to the day-to-day, and to the disparity that lies between how things seem and how they are. Smiley's prose is suited to this kind of study; moreover, her perspective is so sensitive and interesting. I loved the novella. Life is messy, and we are so busy dealing with some details that it's easy to miss or mis-handle others. Highly, highly recommend this.
Alena Guggemos
Feb 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are some stories that resonate with such innate truth that they stay with you - you recognize your own thoughts on the page and wonder at the writer who seems to intimately know you, even though you've never met. This is how I feel about Jane Smiley and The Age of Grief. This is how I feel about this passage:

"I am thirty-five years old, and it seems to me that I have reached the age of grief. Others arrive there sooner. Almost no one arrives much later. I don't think it is the years themse
...more
Will Walton
Jul 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first story was good; clean, incisive, unsparing, and unique. The second story was a perfect examination of human wants and needs. (Why do we need to fall in love? Is it simply because loving ourselves is so difficult, impossible even, at times? Is selfless love even POSSIBLE?) The third story was my favorite "story" in the collection; it knocked the wind out of me. And the fourth and fifth stories were really, really great.
But, hey, the show-stopper in this collection is the novella that g
...more
Paula Dembeck
Dec 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For those who follow my posts it is not a secret that I struggle with short stories and sometimes even novellas. I have rarely found them satisfying, feeling either like I have been left hanging at the end or simply wanting more after investing my attention in an interesting group of characters. But my strategy of just keeping at it, knowing the fault is with me rather than the genre, seems to be working. Either I am choosing authors who have mastered this type of writing or I have finally learn ...more
Amy
Nov 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-star-books
The word that comes to mind when I think about Jane Smiley's writing is 'deft'. I hadn't read anything by her for years, not since returning to her for The All True Travels...Lidie Newton, which I didn't warm to. But this book, this novella and a handful of stories, caught me and held me throughout. I found myself rereading whole pages after any interruption to ensure that no nuance escaped me, no phrase, both for beauty of composition and meaning.

A book about people navigating the everyday, the
...more
Nikki Morse
Jul 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I spent most of this book saying I wasn't going to read more Jane Smiley - they were ok, good even, but with so much good, modern fiction out there I wasn't sure she was compelling enough. And then I really liked the title novella, enough to leave me open to more...
Deborah
Mar 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of the stories I'm not a huge fan of. But the reason to buy this/read this is the novella at the end, the age of grief. Which later was turned into "The Secret Lives of Dentists" movie, which really didn't do it justice in my opinion. But I don't think it could, because the essence of this novella is the internal dialogue of the main character. (Why is spell check saying dialogue is wrong? dialog?) Anyways, this is one of those stories I always come back to... I wish I wouldn't, it leaves t ...more
Eduardo
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My evaluation is closer to 4.5. The very endings of two of the short stories (“Lily” and “The Age of Grief”) are, in my view, missed opportunities, as they are clearly anticlimactic and almost destroy altogether the tension the narrator cleverly builds up in each. In the first tale, it is the last sentence; in the other one, it is the last paragraph. In both cases they were superfluous, and unnecessary.
Melanie
May 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just love Jane Smiley....She is such a gifted storyteller and writes with such nuance. You might not like all the characters, but you certainly feel them. This is a book full of short stories and a novella. Great read.
Nancy
Oct 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nancy by: daughter, Heather
I really enjoyed reading this book. Some of the short stories were not exactly what I would normally read, but I found them all surprisingly refreshing, and interesting.
Ronnie
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This small collection is well-titled, but it might just as aptly been called The Age of Turmoil or The Age of Regret. All selections focus on relationships of various forms, with the first five shorter stories forming a kind of crescendo to the titular novella at the end. Although all entries are exquisitely written, that concluding longer piece struck me as the most accomplished. (I saw the film version, "The Secret Lives of Dentists," more than a decade ago without realizing until picking up t ...more
Lane
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 short stories and one novella
The Pleasure of Her Company - my favorite; Florence, Frannie and Phillip; next door neighbors
"We needed you, Florence; it was nice to have you fall in love with us and admire us. It was a relief to talk about something else besides the central issue. Do you understand what I mean?"
"No one was happy but me?" She looks at him again and he shakes his head.

Lily and Kevin and Nancy Humbolt; old friends who haven't seen one another in several years; Lily looks to the for
...more
Brett
Oct 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Smiley is a better novelist than a short story writer. There was a certain quirkiness to the endings of the stories that kinda left me going eh...ok? sure I guess that makes sense maybe? They definitely had a different feel to them that other's short stories I've read for whatever that's worth. And then I came to the novella. The married dentists. I wanted to kill the husband, what a weak loser and the way he let the youngest kid run his life to her instructions was a truly pathetic example of 2 ...more
Marigold
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just when I was thinking that 2018 was not starting out well in terms of good reads, Jane Smiley came, as always, to rescue me. This is a wonderful, short collection of Smiley's short stories and a novella, on the theme of marriage and friendship. "The Age of Grief" itself - the novella - is a beautifully written first person narrative about marriage and children, from the viewpoint of a man who realizes his wife is in love with someone else. His observations of her and himself and their life to ...more
Susan
Feb 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
. Jane Smiley is clearly a brilliant person and deft writer. She spoke at our school and I wasn't impressed with her presenting. ( as smart and clever as she is on the page, she surely didnt she it in person, as she read her "speech"; quite disappointing... ) nonetheless, the way she writes gives good clear descriptions to take the reader to that place.
Karin
Dec 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Often I'd rather not

describe why I loved a book. But greedy Amazon requires more than just stars. Ok so then here:

These stories: genius-prose, love-shine, night-velvet. Five stars not nearly enough.



Lehtomaki
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: toread-2017
Short stories
Tiffany
The novella, The Age of Grief is the real star of this collect.
Jim Woolwine
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was out of my usual line of reading. Not sure I appreciated the reason that the stories of these troubled people or troubling events needed to have been written.
Carfig
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't always like short stories because I like to discover more about the characters and have more of a plot, so that may have affected my feelings after reading this collection. But there was a pervasive feeling of gloom, and I couldn't finish one of the stories because it went into the too much information area for me. I do like Smiley's novels for the most part though.
Aly
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not my favorite, particularly the titular novella.
Shay Caroline
Dec 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
This book consists of five short stories and a novella. First, let me state the obvious: that Jane Smiley, who won a Pulitzer for "A Thousand Acres" can really write. Her grasp of what really goes on at the heart of relationships, and within people in the course of their daily lives, is remarkable. These stories explore connections between friends, parents and children, and men and women. I will say that the stories all tend toward the down side. While there is genuine truth here, I think she sh ...more
Blue
Aug 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am on a short story kick lately, and Smiley fed my addiction perfectly. The collection has five shorts and the novella that gives the book its title. One thing that is immediately clear is Smiley is extremely apt in creating different voices. Some short story writers prefer third-person narration and thus tend to have the same narration voice throughout their stories (for example, Carver). Smiley writes (in this collection) mostly in first-person and with incredible agility, creates characters ...more
Pascale
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the second book by Smiley I've read, and possibly the last. While it is less far-fetched than "Duplicate Keys", it is eminently forgettable. The first 2 stories, "The Pleasure of her Company" and "Lily" start promisingly enough as an exploration of the always tenuous relationship between a couple and a female friend whose own needs blind her to the cracks at the core of the marriage. However, neither story fulfills its potential. "Dynamite" tells, rather elliptically and implausibly, of ...more
Louisa
Aug 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished this novella by Jane Smiley. Someone writing in a recent Poets & Writers article had recommended it as one of the best examples of writing he knew--something he teaches all the time. I was curious so I got it out of the library.

It is very understated and deceptively simple. But it is masterful piece of work--a long meditation on marriage, family, one's place in those.

The arc of the narrative seems rather long and drawn out, but I think it's necessary to give the reader a sens
...more
Patty
Back in June, I read Lauren Winner's book, Still. In it she mentioned that she rereads the novella, "The Age of Grief" by Jane Smiley every year. I found this to be very interesting. I had only read A Thousand Acres by Smiley and I found that story very difficult. I had trouble imagining rereading anything every year. So I thought it was worth finding the novella and maybe figuring out the attraction.

I am glad that I did not turn to the novella, which is the last piece in this book and either sk
...more
Joel
Jul 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes I choose a book simply based on a desire to experience the power that writing can contain, when done at its' peak. When I want to self-consciously enjoy good writing I will often turn to anything by Marilynne Robinson, or for a short story Maclean's A River Runs Through It, last summer it was Harding's Tinkers, based on Robinson's own recommend of the book. Somewhere back I stumbled upon a recommend for this Jane Smiley book from Anne Lamott (though now I can't locate where I read it), ...more
Steve
Jul 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read Smiley in forever - like since "Greenlanders" came out! But I heard such good things about the title novella, I wanted to give this a try. Plus there is the movie tie-in (released as "The Secret Life of Dentists" - makes the crabby patient role much bigger than in the story, played by Dennis Leary). A collection from 1977-1987, the short stories included are very Caveresque. They often seem to deal with people in a university setting or university town, struggling w/ the personal ...more
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Jane Smiley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist.

Born in Los Angeles, California, Smiley grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and graduated from John Burroughs School. She obtained a A.B. at Vassar College, then earned a M.F.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. While working towards her doctorate, she also spent a year studying in Iceland as a Fulbright Scholar
...more
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“I am thirty-five years old, and it seems to me that I have arrived at the age of grief. Others arrive there sooner. Almost no one arrives much later. I don’t think it is years themselves, or the disintegration of the body. Most of our bodies are better taken care of and better-looking than ever. What it is, is what we know, now that in spite of ourselves we have stopped to think about it. It is not only that we know that love ends, children are stolen, parents die feeling that their lives have been meaningless. It is not only that, by this time, a lot of acquaintances and friends have died and all the others are getting ready to sooner or later. It is more that the barriers between the circumstances of oneself and of the rest of the world have broken down, after all—after all that schooling, all that care. Lord, if it be thy will, let this cup pass from me. But when you are thirty-three, or thirty-five, the cup must come around, cannot pass from you, and it is the same cup of pain that every mortal drinks from. Dana cried over Mrs. Hilton. My eyes filled during the nightly news. Obviously we were grieving for ourselves, but we were also thinking that if they were feeling what we were feeling, how could they stand it? We were grieving for them, too. I understand that later you come to an age of hope, or at least resignation. I suspect it takes a long time to get there.” 7 likes
“I am thirty-five years old, and it seems to me that I have reached the age of grief. Others arrive there sooner. Almost no one arrives much later. I don't think it is the years themselves, or the disintegration of the body. Most of our bodies are better taken care of and better looking than ever. What it is, is what we know, now that in spite of ourselves we have stopped to think about it. It is not only that we know that love ends, children are stolen, parents die feeling that their lives have been meaningless. It is not only that, by this time, a lot of acquaintances and friends have died and all the others are getting ready to sooner or later. It is more that the barriers between the circumstances of oneself and the rest of the world have broken down, after all - after all that schooling, all that care. Lord, if it be thy will, let this cup pass from me. But when you are thirty-three, or thirty-five, the cup must come around, cannot pass from you, and it is the same cup of pain that every mortal drinks from.” 1 likes
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