Off-kilter, witty, often funny stories displaying sharp intelligence and love of language. A snooty goose disturbs a bored wedding guest in Italy; a fearful husband lets his wife investigate scary sounds in their abode; and a female academic theorizing on contemporary male preoccupation with facial hair are among the collection's delights. — Mike Hare
A masterly collection of eleven stories about the way we live now from the best-selling author of Netherland.
From bourgeois facial-hair trends to parental sleep deprivation, Joseph O’Neill closely observes the mores of his characters, whose vacillations and second thoughts expose the mysterious pettiness, underlying violence, and, sometimes, surprising beauty of ordinary life in the early twenty-first century. A lonely wedding guest talks to a goose; two poets struggle over whether to participate in a “pardon Edward Snowden” verse petition; a cowardly husband lets his wife face a possible intruder in their home; a potential co-op renter in New York City can’t find anyone to give him a character reference.
On the surface, these men and women may be in only mild trouble, but in these perfectly made, fiercely modern stories O’Neill reminds us of the real, secretly political consequences of our internal monologues. No writer is more incisive about the strange world we live in now; the laugh-out-loud vulnerability of his people is also fodder for tears.
About the Author
JOSEPH O’NEILL is the author of the novels The Dog, Netherland (which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award), The Breezes, and This Is the Life. He has also written a family history, Blood-Dark Track. He lives in New York City and teaches at Bard College.
“O’Neill writes with an urgent timeliness, as if these stories were written yesterday, with the politics and news you might have shared with your friends this very morning. The thrill of seeing the here and now transmuted into morally serious and comically rich prose is heightened once you realize its rarity.” —Ryan Chapman, Guernica
“An essential book, full of unexpected bursts of meaning and beauty . . . Compelling . . . Funny and fierce . . . [O’Neill] wields an acerbic blade, rendering the weird and violent with a determined frugality and control . . . The eleven stories in Good Trouble read like a string of understated poems that progress, implode, and digress.” —Feroz Rather,Ploughshares
“A chewy collection of stories, often elegant, often challenging, and always entertaining. . . . A pleasure of reading this collection is watching a skilled writer at work using fine-tuned language to pinpoint states of mind and feeling.” —Claire Hopley, The Washington Times
“If the decentering of white men has met with intensifying pushback since the 2016 US election, then conventional masculinity needs shrewd anatomists like Joseph O’Neill more than ever before.” —Benjamin Evans, The Guardian
“The characters are subtly crafted, nuanced in their observations of others, and understated. . . . Instead of thwacking the reader over the head with a trumped-up lesson of ‘count your blessings,’ [O’Neill] quietly leads us toward a reflection of ourselves that, perhaps, makes us just a bit more appreciative of all the ‘good trouble’ we have.” —Colleen M. Geiger, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“[A] fine collection . . . Many of the stories take surprisingly unexpected turns, [as] O’Neill confronts the lure of despair.” —Michael Magras, Houston Chronicle
“The angst of modern life pervades the daily lives of the characters in these stories from the author of Netherland, whose subversive humor finds new angles on everything from facial hair to circumcision.” —Time
“A thoroughly enjoyable collection . . . O’Neill treats his characters with a wry sympathy and a sense of fun, [probing] the frictions that make marriages and families fissure or fight for survival, the situations where discomfort breeds anxiety and resentment mushrooms into malaise.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Beautifully crafted short stories . . . O’Neill’s tales often echo [David Foster] Wallace’s mixture of humor and profundity, demonstrating a similar, almost preternatural eye for the absurdities of contemporary life.” —Alexander Moran, Booklist
“Absorbing . . . In his typically sharp, smart language, [O’Neill] shows us characters undone by contemporary life, not grandly but in the small, essential ways that define our culture.” —Library Journal