The Bigness of the World
In Lori Ostlund’s award-winning debut collection, people seeking escape from situations at home venture out into a world that they find is just as complicated and troubled as the one they left behind.
In prose highlighted by both satire and poignant observation, The Bigness of the World contains characters that represent a different sort of everyman—men and women who poke fun at ideological rigidity while holding fast to good grammar and manners, people seeking connections in a world that seems increasingly foreign. In “Upon Completion of Baldness,” a young woman shaves her head for a part in a movie in Hong Kong that will help her escape life with her lover in Albuquerque. In “All Boy,” a young logophile encounters the limits of language when he finds he prefers the comfort of a dark closet over the struggle to make friends at school. In “Dr. Deneau’s Punishment,” a math teacher leaving New York for Minnesota as a means of punishing himself engages in an unsettling method of discipline. In “Bed Death,” a couple travels Malaysia to teach only to find their relationship crumbling as they are accepted in their new environment. And in “Idyllic Little Bali,” a group of Americans gather around a pool in Java to discuss their brushes with fame and end up witnessing a man’s fatal flight from his wife.
“Ostlund constantly delights the reader with the subtlety of her insights as well as the carefulness of her prose” (San Francisco Chronicle), revealing that wherever you are in the world, where you came from is never far away. “Each piece is sublime” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).