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The Pier Falls
Cover of The Pier Falls
The Pier Falls
And Other Stories
Borrow Borrow
From Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, A Spot of Bother, and The Red House, nine dazzling stories diverse in style but united in emotional power
The tales in Mark Haddon's lyrical and uncompromising new collection take many forms—Victorian adventure story, science fiction, morality tale, contemporary realism—but they all showcase his virtuoso gifts as a stylist and the deep well of empathy that made his three bestselling novels so compelling.
The characters here are often isolated physically or estranged from their families, yet they yearn for connection. In aggregate the stories become a meditation on the essential aloneness of the human condition but also on the connections, however tenuous and imperfect, that link people to one another. In the title story, an unnamed narrator describes with cool precision a catastrophe that strikes a seaside town, both tearing lives apart and bringing them together.
In the prizewinning story "The Gun," a boy's life is marked by the afternoon he encounters a semiautomatic pistol belonging to his friend's older brother; in "The Island," a Greek princess is abandoned on an island by her abductor; in "The Boys Who Left Home to Learn Fear," a group of adventurers travel deep into the Amazonian jungle but discover the gravest danger lurking among their own number; and in "The Woodpecker and the Wolf," a woman wonders whether she has chosen to travel to Mars only to escape the entanglement of human relationships back here on Earth.
Drawing inventively from history, myth, folktales, and modern life, The Pier Falls showcases Haddon's immense gifts of invention and penetrating insight.
From Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, A Spot of Bother, and The Red House, nine dazzling stories diverse in style but united in emotional power
The tales in Mark Haddon's lyrical and uncompromising new collection take many forms—Victorian adventure story, science fiction, morality tale, contemporary realism—but they all showcase his virtuoso gifts as a stylist and the deep well of empathy that made his three bestselling novels so compelling.
The characters here are often isolated physically or estranged from their families, yet they yearn for connection. In aggregate the stories become a meditation on the essential aloneness of the human condition but also on the connections, however tenuous and imperfect, that link people to one another. In the title story, an unnamed narrator describes with cool precision a catastrophe that strikes a seaside town, both tearing lives apart and bringing them together.
In the prizewinning story "The Gun," a boy's life is marked by the afternoon he encounters a semiautomatic pistol belonging to his friend's older brother; in "The Island," a Greek princess is abandoned on an island by her abductor; in "The Boys Who Left Home to Learn Fear," a group of adventurers travel deep into the Amazonian jungle but discover the gravest danger lurking among their own number; and in "The Woodpecker and the Wolf," a woman wonders whether she has chosen to travel to Mars only to escape the entanglement of human relationships back here on Earth.
Drawing inventively from history, myth, folktales, and modern life, The Pier Falls showcases Haddon's immense gifts of invention and penetrating insight.
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Excerpts-
  • From the cover T H E PI E R F A L L S



    23 July 1970, the end of the afternoon. A cool breeze off the Chan- nel, a mackerel sky overhead and, far out, a column of sunlight falling onto a trawler as if God had picked it out for some kind of blessing. The upper storeys of the Regency buildings along the front sit above a gaudy rank of coffee houses and fish bars and knick-knack shops with striped awnings selling 99s and dried seahorses in cellophane envelopes. The names of the hotels are writ large in neon and weatherproof paint. The Excelsior, the Camden, the Royal. The word Royal is missing an o.

    Gulls wheel and cry. Two thousand people saunter along the prom, some carrying towels and Tizer to the beach, others paus- ing to put a shilling in the telescope or to lean against a balus- trade whose pistachio-green paint has blistered and popped in a hundred years of salt air. A gull picks up a wafer from a dropped ice cream and lifts into the wind.

    On the beach a portly woman hammers a windbreak into the sand with the heel of a shoe while a pair of freckled twins build a fort from sand and lolly sticks. The deckchair man is collecting rentals, doling out change from a leather pouch at his hip. "No deeper than your waist," shouts a father. "Susan? No deeper than your waist."

    The air on the pier is thick with the smell of engine grease and fried onions spooned onto hot dogs. The boys from the ticket booth ride shotgun on the rubber rims of the bumper cars, the contacts scraping and sparking on the live chicken wire nailed to the roof above their heads. A barrel organ plays Strauss waltzes on repeat.

    Nine minutes to five. Ozone and sea-sparkle and carnival licence.

    This is how it begins.

    A rivet fails, one of eight which should clamp the joint between two weight-bearing girders on the western side of the pier. Five have sheared already in heavy January seas earlier this year. There is a faint tremor underfoot as if a suitcase or a step- ladder has been dropped somewhere nearby. No one takes any notice. There are now two rivets holding the tonnage previously supported by eight.

    In the aquarium by the marina the dolphins turn in their blue prison.

    Twelve and a half minutes later another rivet snaps and a sec- tion of the pier drops by half an inch with a soft thump. People turn to look at one another. The same momentary reduction in weight you feel when a lift starts descending. But the pier is always moving in the wind and the tide, so everyone returns to eating their pineapple fritters and rolling coins into the fruit machines.
    The noise, when it comes, is like the noise of a redwood being felled, wood and metal bending and splitting under pressure. Everyone looks at their feet, feeling the hum and judder of the
    struts. The noise stops and there is a moment of silence, as if the sea itself were holding its breath. Then, with a peal of biblical thunder, a wide semicircle of walkway is hauled seaward by the weight of the broken girders underneath. A woman and three children standing at the rail drop instantly. Six more people are poured, scrabbling, down the half-crater of shattered wood into the sea. If you look through the black haystack of planks and beams you can see three figures thrashing in the dark water, a fourth floating face-down and a fifth folded over a weed-covered beam. The rest are trapped underwater somewhere. Up on the pier a man hurls five lifebelts one after the other into the sea. Other holidaymakers drop their possessions as they flee so that the walkway is littered with bottles and sunglasses and cardboard cones of chips. A cocker spaniel runs in circles trailing...
About the Author-
  • Mark Haddon is the author of the bestselling novels The Red House and A Spot of Bother. His novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction and is the basis for the Tony Award–winning play. He is the author of a collection of poetry, The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea, has written and illustrated numerous children's books, and has won awards for both his radio dramas and his television screenplays. He teaches creative writing for the Arvon Foundation and lives in Oxford, England.
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Haddon, whose celebrated novel THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME became an instant classic, presents a short story collection united by themes of empathy and fearless honesty. Claire Corbett's performances are precise and bright; they feature careful pacing and enthusiasm that invites the listener into each story. Daniel Weyman's performances have a brisk, wry delivery; his tone serves to make the stories he animates even more lively. The nine stories vary widely in subject matter and impact. Listeners can expect each title to create a completely new experience as it presents yet another harrowing human trial. A few stories fall short, but this collection will make listeners willing to take each journey nonetheless. L.B.F. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine
  • Library Journal

    Starred review from September 15, 2016

    Wildly varying in topics from a seaside disaster in the titular opening story to an unlikely relationship that develops between an older man and the suicide attemptee he rescues in "The Weir," Haddon's nine stories here are thematically linked through a common sense of aloneness that haunts his characters. The sole survivor of a royal massacre in ancient Greece is deserted on "The Island" and struggles to stay alive. A woman joins a mission to Mars in "The Woodpecker and the Wolf," seemingly to escape the burden of earthbound relationships. A daughter returns to her childhood home in "Breathe" and is harshly confronted by her estranged mother and resentful sister. By revealing the dark disconnects, Haddon exposes the vulnerability of isolated individuals, masterfully eliciting ready empathy from listeners. Clare Corbett and Daniel Weyman take turns narrating; Corbett is unequivocally the stronger, with a wider, more versatile emotive range. VERDICT Haddon groupies will surely be driven by curiosity to pick up Falls and be gratified with unexpected rewards. Literary short story aficionados will want to explore and appreciate, as well. ["In pristinely detailed prose, Haddon shocks us with the strong sense of our humanity. Highly recommended": LJ 3/15/16 starred review of the Doubleday hc.]--Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Mark Haddon
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