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News of the Spirit

News of the Spirit by Lee Smith
7 reviews (1997) (304p)
ALA Notable Books - Fiction Finalist

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Book Description

"Delightful...comical...Smith never forgets that a great artist
makes her craft appear effortless. With News of the Spirit, she takes that
one step further: she appears to be having fun."


"Smith's collection will not disappoint her fans."

--The New York Times Book Review

"Smith writes beautifully, evocatively and believably about women and
their feelings....What Smith doesn't write, what she leaves in the
tiny spaces between sentences, between narrative moments, is as important
as what she insists our attention be turned to....Above all, she
delights in storytelling, in the sounds of words and the ways that they
relate to meaning, to memory and to the mayhem we do to ourselves and
others, with the blessings thrown in that things can sometimes be made
whole to our advantage."

--Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Smith excels at creating characters somewhat boggled by the reality of
who they've become."

--Publishers Weekly Review
The warmhearted Southern women who narrate Lee Smith's latest collection of short stories share oddball sensibilities and an irrepressible urge to tell all. In fact, they are the friendliest, most garrulous bunch of liars, posers, and voyeurs you ever met. Although the young narrator in "Live Bottomless" habitually bicycles around town and peeks in windows, for instance, she feels little guilt about it. Instead, she congratulates herself for being such a go-getter: "It was amazing what you could see, especially if you were an athletic and enterprising girl such as myself." There is something very likeable about the young girl's optimism in the face of the sadness she witnesses at home and all across town.

Elsewhere, Smith explores the uses of storytelling itself. In the book's first piece, a college freshman tells her sorority sisters that she has a wild brother named Bubba just to make her life seem more exciting. It works, and lying becomes one of the aspiring writer's favorite pastimes. In "The Happy Memories Club," an old woman in a nursing home joins a writing group and shares the grim stories of her youth with the other members, shocking them. The stories don't make the old woman sad--in fact, reciting them seems to sustain her at a time when her health is declining rapidly. Lee Smith's stories are light but infectious, the kind of literary confections it's tempting to consume a handful at a time. Fans of Ellen Gilchrist and Bobbie Ann Mason are likely to enjoy these tales of strong, occasionally tipsy women and their wild, wild families. --Jill Marquis

Lee Smith Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 1  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 1  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 0  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award


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