In Gates of Eden, Ethan Coen exhibits on the printed page the striking, twisted, yet devastatingly on-target vision of modern American life familiar from his movies. The world within the world we live in comes alive in fourteen brazenly original tragicomic short stories—from the Midwest mob war that fizzles due to the principals’ ineptness to the trials of a deaf private eye with a blind client to a fugitive’s heartbreaking explanation for having beheaded his wife, alarming in that it almost makes sense.
The title may refer to Eden, but the characters in Coen’s first collection of stories seem to come from anyplace but. The writing half of the acclaimed filmmaking duo (brother Joel directs) peoples his work with such wonderfully unsympathetic leads as a bumbling hit man, in “Johnny Ga-Botz,” who gets himself exiled to Barbados, and a boy who terrorizes his Hebrew school, in “The Old Country.” But it’s not the comic villains so much as the absurdly petty types who give these 14 stories their color?men like Weights and Measures inspector Joe Gendreau, who, in the title story, walks around pondering such imponderables as “what kind of society has ours become, when one kind of lettuce is no longer enough,” and tries to bust men “who laugh at standards.” For all the small-minded selfishness of Coenland residents, the characters never stop being pitiful?and thus never lose their comic edge. We know that Hector Berlioz, Private Investigator (the eponymous character in one of two stories told entirely in dialogue), will not solve a real crime, but the hilarious non sequiturs he and his suspects engage in make them entirely appealing. Anyone familiar with Coen’s films will instantly recognize his two-bit hustlers, and those well-versed in American-Jewish literature will easily identify the immigrant depictions. But many readers will find that familiarity is no obstacle to the enjoyment of this wittily absurd debut. Editor, Colin Dickerman; agent, Anthony Gardner Agency.
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Small-time mobsters, private investigators, adulterers, and Hebrew-school students populate these stories written by Ethan Coen, the Oscar-winning cowriter of the Fargo screenplay. Read mostly by actors who have appeared in his films–including regulars Steve Buscemi, John Goodman, and John Turturro–these vignettes are set primarily in Minneapolis. There is a lot of fighting, farting, and the other f word in these tapes, disqualifying this audiobook for the fainthearted, but the listener is well rewarded with some smart, if brutal, writing. Standouts include the Matt Dillon-read “Destiny,” a Mafioso story about a college graduate-cum-failed boxer whose poverty sucks him into an underworld rivalry, and William H. Macy’s reading of the title story, a tongue-in-cheek noir featuring a Californian who is temporarily distracted from his work by a geisha goddess. (Running time: 5.5 hours, 4 cassettes) –Kimberly Heinrichs –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Here we have selections from Coen’s first book, a collection of short stories, marvelously read by actors associated with Fargo or other of the Coen Brothers’ films. He has a deeply sinister sense of humor and a witty imagination, a phenomenal ear for dialog and regional accents. These are without doubt the darkest, funniest, and most interesting stories by any one author in the past decade. They have the impact of J.D. Salinger’s, John Barth’s, or W.S. Merwin’s stories of the 1960s and 1970s, and with such terrific readings, this audio is absolutely magical. Coen creates some interesting characters, from a teenage Jewish boy in Minneapolis, to an ax murderer, and all are in more interesting social and psychological situations than are apparent or easily imagined. These are adult stories, with language, passion, and situations befitting life in modern America: tales that could offend those sensitive to graphic language or description. Intelligent, interesting, exciting, and highly recommended.ACliff Glaviano, Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.