Problems with People (Vintage Contemporaries)
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These ten wise, extraordinary tales explore the mysteries of love and our complex desire for connection. Spanning wide and diverse geographies—America, Nepal, South Africa, Germany—they showcase Guterson’s gifts for psychological nuance, emotional suspense, and evocation of the natural world.
In these pages, we meet, among others, a lonely landlord trying to reach out to his tenants; a middle-aged widower looking for love online; an American Jew traveling to Berlin to confront his haunted past. Celebrating the surprises that lurk within the dramas of our daily lives, Problems with People marks the return of a contemporary American master to the form that launched his literary career.
other, the Maoist with his imposing stave, he with his sunscreen, water bottle, and hat. While other pedestrians passed in droves, the reality of his circumstances soon became clear to him: he had to go back, he couldn’t cross. He retreated, but only by fifty yards—back to the first patch of shade he could find—and stood there, wondering if he should get out his wallet, produce a wad of Nepalese rupees, and try, again, to cross the bridge. He was considering this when someone tapped his hip—a
in this son’s brand new “Smart Car,” he wished his son wouldn’t tool along in the slow lane. Nevertheless, they were 105 minutes early, which should have given him plenty of extra time, except that his son thought it necessary to park, roll his suitcase for him, and read signs the way you’d read them to a three-year-old, instead of, more efficiently, just dropping him at Departures. What could he do? His son handled the seat assignments, boarding passes, and baggage tag. He led the way down the
flaming arrows. Going out like a Viking. This hospice wasn’t that. In fact, what was happening to Lou seemed terribly ignominious. He didn’t even have a window, she noticed. He was dying to the tune of his own smell here. And he was dying alone. Where was that granddaughter? Where were the straight-arrow and the alkie sons? Vivian said, “Hey, Lou, are you there, can you hear me?” She shook him next, but touched his covers, not him. “Lou!” she said, and he gurgled again. What did it mean, this
gurgling he was doing? Was he trying to communicate from a hundred leagues under? If so, it must be something important. “Lou!” she said again. “It’s me, Vivian Lee. If you’ve got something to say, you should go ahead and say it.” And, holding her nose, she put an ear to his lips. “I wuv you,” whispered Lou, bridgeless, doped up. Vivian sat back. This was something to think about, because she didn’t want to say the wrong thing in reply. Her words could be the last words he heard. Between now and
sent attached, as if, by extrapolation from his prior communiqués, she should assume it was from the secretary of the BVHA instead of from him—a strategy of minor but not innocent misdirection—to wit, “A reminder that if you are going to be away for an extended period of time, please turn off your main water valve. And it wouldn’t hurt to let one of your neighbors know how to reach you just in case there is a need to enter—you know, like for frozen pipes that burst and create havoc.” Conceivably