Venus in the Afternoon

  • Review
By – July 24, 2013

Venus in the After­noon, Lieberman’s debut book and win­ner of the Kather­ine Anne Porter Prize in short fic­tion, boasts nine pow­erfully told and well-exe­cut­ed short sto­ries. The open­ing sto­ry, The Way I See It,” fea­tures a gruff win­dow-wash­er nar­ra­tor who spies on the domes­tic scenes of oth­ers while also gain­ing new per­spec­tive on his life. In a strik­ing first-per­son voice, he grieves for his wife — in one poignant scene going to the library to find out what kinds of books she liked. In Rein­venting Olivia,” we observe the dis­so­lu­tion of a rela­tion­ship between a finan­cial ana­lyst and a cre­ative writ­ing teacher, while in Cul de Sac” we fol­low the inter­weav­ing and vexed lives of neigh­bors for whom very lit­tle can tru­ly be kept secret. Fault Lines” is a heart-rend­ing tragedy — told only through frag­ments — of a life that begins in an orphan­age; it is deli­cious melo­dra­ma with a stun­ning end­ing. Waltz on East 6th Street” and Anya’s Angel” engage with the Holo­caust: its lega­cy and its pow­er over con­tem­po­rary lives. 

Through­out, Lieber­man is inter­est­ed in our not-so-pri­vate lives and the coin­ci­dences that per­sis­tent­ly con­nect us to oth­ers. Per­haps more than any oth­er piece in the col­lec­tion, the title sto­ry reveals Lieberman’s wry atti­tude toward every­day life — the sub­ject of the narrator’s affec­tions is an avant-garde per­for­mance artist — and also her hope­ful vision in the face of adver­si­ty. Giv­en these won­der­ful­ly craft­ed sto­ries, one has to won­der if Lieber­man, an expe­ri­enced trav­el writer, will even­tu­al­ly take on the longer form of a nov­el or trav­el mem­oir, in addi­tion to, hope­ful­ly, many more sto­ries in the future.

Read Tehi­la’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

When a Sto­ry is Born Form First

Dou­ble Vision

The Oth­er

Per­ils of the Writ­ing Life

Phil Sandick is a grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son. He has taught cours­es in lit­er­a­ture, com­po­si­tion, and cre­ative writ­ing since 2006. Phil is cur­rent­ly study­ing rhetoric and com­po­si­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na-Chapel Hill.

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