A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2014
"Readers will want to live inside this wonderful book — not just in its parties and wrecked gatherings and sophisticated conversations but in the sentences themselves, which are genuine shelters: long, erudite, warmhearted and capable, brimming with scholarship and knowledge. In its own way, each sentence is a container filled with something revelatory." —The New York Times Book Review, Sunday Shortlist
The Kirkus Star:
“Masterful stories by a writer of great lyrical gifts. Upton focuses on personal relationships, especially the immediacy and estrangement that emerge from the intensity of family life … Upton specializes in ending her stories with epiphanies that can be searing in their poignancy. These 17 tales explore personal and familial relationships with both pathos and humor—and all are well worth reading." —Kirkus *Starred* Review
“Poet, essayist, and fiction writer Upton’s stories are playful, full of clever allusions that are deftly presented … Upton’s story openings tend to be vivid; they’re great hooks … This is a smart and highly entertaining book." —PW
“Upton, award-winning poet and literary critic, shows her mastery of the short form … This entertaining collection will appeal to fans of a variety of literary authors, such as Grace Paley, Edith Pearlman, and Lewis Nordan." —Booklist
"Upton elicits tremendous sympathy on the part of the reader for these and other characters facing existential crises, often with great aplomb ... These well-imagined stories bear the mark of the poet in the best sense, and the reader will not soon forget them.” —Library Journal *Starred* Review
"Lee Upton's stories in The Tao of Humiliation are startlingly original, emotionally compelling, and delicately crafted, making them that most satisfying of finds: a great read."
—Bathsheba Monk, WDIY, Lehigh Valley’s NPR Affiliate
“Simply put, this is one of the finest short story collections published in 2014. Alternately chilling, funny, devastating, and hopeful, Upton’s stories introduce us to a theater critic who winds up in a hot tub with the actress he routinely savages in reviews; a biographer who struggles to discover why a novelist stopped writing; a woman who searches through her past lives to recall a romantic encounter with the poet Yeats; a student who contends with her predatory professor; and the poignant scenario of the last satyr meeting his last woman. This is short story writing at its best.” —BUSTLE
“'Iris and Jacob slept with their backs to one another, as if even during dreams they were headed in opposite directions.' If you’re charmed by that sentence—the opening sentence of 'Touch Us,'—then Lee Upton’s gracefully written collection of stories The Tao of Humiliation is for you. For Upton, fiction is a primary form imagination assumes to reveal the contours of the inviolable mysteriousness of human relationships. Her stories are at once deeply insightful, and wise enough to leave the mystery intact.”
“Lee Upton’s new story collection The Tao of Humiliation is funny and wise, in the way that Grace Paley’s and Edith Pearlman’s stories are funny and wise. Which is to say, the humor and wisdom in Upton’s stories are never cheap, always hard earned, and the stories themselves are beautifully written and moving, even, or especially, at their most perverse ... What a collection! Another remarkable book by one of our most remarkable writers.”
—Brock Clarke, author of Exley
“Imagine if M.C. Escher had taken up the short story form, or Borges had constructed labyrinths not out of libraries but lives of quiet desperation, and you have a sense of Lee Upton’s sublime The Tao of Humiliation. This is the rare book that reminds us how, once upon a time, storytelling was both a maker’s and seer’s art; Upton’s stories have the quality of winding dreams—illusory, intricately textured and architectured—and you emerge from them with the uncanny feeling that their world hasn’t quite let go of you yet. The Tao of Humiliation is transcendent.”
—Joseph Bates, author of Tomorrowland: Stories
Excerpt from The Tao of Humiliation, "The Last Satyr"
The satyr apologized to whatever powers cast him into the human world as the last of his kind. He apologized for despoiling, yanking, mewling. For adopting the language and mannerisms of every woman he touristed, for "shedding on the camp bed," for "sundry pharmaceutical trips." For his preference for the wives of easily dissatisfied men.
It was on the curdling skin of the swimming pool that he caught sight of the future--his greusome hairy face out of which his eyes winced. He told himself he did not want to know why at some future moment he was wincing. The water flashed and sparkled and the future disappeared, filling instantly with the reflection of a diving board. .....................................
About the Author
A poet, fiction writer, and essayist, Lee Upton is the author of thirteen books. Her poetry appears widely in such venues as The Best American Poetry, The New Republic, American Poetry Review, and The Atlantic, and more than three dozen of her short stories have been published in various places. Upton’s awards include the Lyric Poetry Award and The Writer/Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Pushcart Prize, and the National Poetry Series Award, among many others. She is currently the Writer-in-Residence and a professor of English at Lafayette College.