From New York City to the former East Germany, from rural Virginia to affluent suburbia, the stories in this collection visit the territory of recent history. The Vietnam War, the Kennedy era, the destruction of the Berlin Wall and renovation of Ellis Island serve as a backdrop against which Kirshenbaum’s characters find themselves on the human quest for who they are and where they belong, grappling with love, loss, and other awful truths. Lydia Langorelli, the town greaser who wears conical-cupped bras and thick black eyeliner, learns just how cruel the peace-and-love crowd can be in “For Widgit Stands.” The title story leaves Lorraine, a Southerner, wondering if her German paramour will find the inspiration to leave his wife amidst the destruction of the Berlin Wall. “The Zen of Driving” takes an urban wife on imaginary road trips throughout America, suggesting that her desire to belong to herself is ultimately a desire to escape her stifling marriage.
Whether realistic or allegorical, witty or contemplative, the reader invariably enters into a fictional world laced with black humor. Touching the social and political pulse points of America and at the same time transcending their historical background, these are wise and timeless stories about the human condition, told in a unique narrative voice that is at once profoundly intelligent and admirably unassuming, belonging to a born storyteller who makes us laugh—until it hurts.
Praise for History on a personal Note
"Kirshenbaum has a strong moral aptitude and a ballistic sense of humor, launching anti-assumption rockets with cool precision . . . Her candor about the female psyche is not unlike Margaret Atwood's, but her feisty voice, gutsy humor, mischievous dispassion, and gift for setting schemes and conjuring moments of realization are all her own."
"Deceptively light in tone, these stories nevertheless carry weight, as do the characters. . . A wide variety of styles and voices . . . demonstrate Kirshenbaum's versatility and wit."