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Indentations and Other Stories

Copyright Date: 1991
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 182
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  • Book Info
    Indentations and Other Stories
    Book Description:

    Indentation and Other Stories is a collection of nine stories ranging from the wildly funny and idiosyncratic to the downright bizarre. The title story features a pathological dentist who seeks a quirky catharsis by decorating his apartment in hygienic dental paraphernalia. Other tales frolic through the lives of characters who border on the delightfully absurd: a woman, after going through menopause, struggles to recreate her menstrual periods by altering her diet; a former New York street reporter, fired because of his "ideals," aspires to become a credible street person and decides, tentatively, to have a religious experience; an English major turned psychologist writes a pseudoscientific "article" - complete with footnotes and a University of New Jersey cover letter - which argues, by example, for the use of figurative language in scientific journal writing. Other stories are more humanizing: "The Perils of Asthma" is a sympathetic lok at a twelve-year-old boy struggling to grow up amidst his perplexing asthma, his eccentric Catholic parents, and his mystifying quasi-erections. All of the stories are grounded in the allure of language, the luxuriance of detail, and the celebration of human compulsion and obsession.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-4149-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. 1-18)

    Donald David Sandborn read that twelve million Americans feared him so completely that they never came to visit. So he decided to beautify his apartment to attract tourists, to show the world he was a regular guy. Impression trays, he knew, should be the basic décor. Since everyone had a mouth, he reasoned, everyone would respond to impression trays with open grins. He had been taught that you had to appeal to all five of the senses if you hoped to create something aesthetic and alive. If handled properly, impression trays simultaneously activated all five of the senses, and they...

    (pp. 19-66)

    Bub Lilly was certain of four things when he was twelve: he had acute asthma, he hovered between eighty-two and eighty-five pounds, he did not want to play the trumpet ever again, and he longed to own a Zebra finch and name it Goldy and let it fly free in his bedroom. Like cleats on a slow, spongy, indoor track, these certainties flopped around the perimeter of Bub’s head, setting pace and direction for his life.

    He spoke to his dad about it.

    “Pop,” he said, practicing the speech alone in his room. “I remember when I was eleven and...

    (pp. 67-90)

    Mrs. Bill’s son, Jerry, usually watched her tend her garden for hours from his invention room window just to be certain that she was indeed insane. Although Mrs. Bill boasted an entire hardware story of non-mechanical gardening tools in her garage, Jerry noted that she had a fetish for a particular shovel. Sometimes she even stood just below his window, embracing the shovel in her calloused hands and, Jerry was sure, whispered intimacies to it. Then Jerry opened his window and glided his torso out over his mother’s head, with his abdomen and palms on the windowsill, his knees locked,...

    (pp. 91-108)

    April 1, 1990

    Verna Hoffer

    Department of English

    The Pennsylvania State University

    University Park, PA 16802

    Dear Ms. Hoffer:

    Thank you for your interesting and unusual letter of a few months ago. Although it was a passionate and generic form letter, I’m taking the time to make a controlled personal response. My colleagues are right now sitting in the coffee room and scoffing at me for doing this—they have shredded their copies of your letter and given them to the rats.

    I must challenge you on the point that the scientific community of which I am a member writes...

    (pp. 109-112)

    I know you thought you’d heard all there was to know about my wife by now, but I’m here to give you the inside scoop. My wife was a typical New York divorced woman well before we were divorced. She jumped from career to career like a frog on a mating spree. First she ran the famous Alfred E. Packer Student Union Grill at New York University, named after the only man ever convicted of cannibalism in the United States. Those were the good days. She even let me quote her in my first interview, which I published in a...

    (pp. 113-122)

    Some said I was a witch. I let them believe as they wished. To tease them, I knelt at the picture window each weekday at 3:08 p.m. when the schoolchildren came, flailing my arms and chomping my teeth, gnashing wild and artistic with none of them realizing that I was really flashing a grin. They saw me: a hideous, interesting mouth surrounded by a wreath of streaked, brittle hair pulled back from the face with a blue rubber band and a few bobby pins, rubbing my head against the wool curtains so that my hair loosened and stood on end...

    (pp. 123-140)

    I first met John Nibbs near the ground hog hole in the cemetery. He was jogging frantically around a headstone, slapping his knees with his palms and puffing grief with his chin. Never had I witnessed such discipline coupled with misery. Overwhelmed with compassion I rushed forward with a ready handshake and heartfelt condolences.

    “Close friends?”

    “No, we never met!” he sobbed, increasing his pace and bobbing his head from side to side.

    The headstone read:

    Here lies Manford Tussey,

    Professor of Science at Juniata College for 29 years,

    loving father and husband,

    who died at 80 of natural causes....

    (pp. 141-170)

    For a long while Thomas’s mind was completely occupied by whatever scrapbook sat on the desk in front of him, and he read by the light of a yellow bulb, uninterrupted by his usual daydreams about sharply angled anorexic women and the world’s fastest printing press. Occasionally he fell asleep and woke up a few hours later with his nose clamped between the opened pages of a scrapbook, a spittle stain spread over some of the articles. When this had first happened, he decided that his nose and forehead were always a bit too rounded anyway, and he began to...

    (pp. 171-172)

    When he couldn’t sleep, he liked to imagine being unmarried. Plucking items off the shelves as he saw fit. Black olives instead of green. Ground beef instead of celery and carrots. Complete freedom to smear raspberry gelatin over the face of secretary named Brenda or Kelli, her delighted giggles pillowing him back to the days before he had married Natalie, before all the talk of proteins and philodendrons, when women were girls damn it and eager to open themselves over him, like once-reliable umbrellas with broken handles that he just couldn’t bear to dispose of because they were still so...

  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 173-173)