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Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories

Edith Pearlman

Lookout Books
$18.95 paperback
5½ x 8½  
392 pages
January 2011

Introduction by Ann Patchett

In this sumptuous offering, one of our premier storytellers provides a feast for fiction aficionados. Spanning four decades and three prize-winning collections, these 21 vintage selected stories and 13 scintillating new ones take us around the world, from Jerusalem to Central America, from tsarist Russia to London during the Blitz, from central Europe to Manhattan, and from the Maine coast to Godolphin, Massachusetts, a fictional suburb of Boston. These charged locales, and the lives of the endlessly varied characters within them, are evoked with a tenderness and incisiveness found in only our most observant seers.
    No matter the situation in which her characters find themselves-an unforeseen love affair between adolescent cousins, a lifetime of memories unearthed by an elderly couple's decision to shoplift, the deathbed secret of a young girl's forbidden forest tryst with the tsar, the danger that befalls a wealthy couple's child in a European inn of misfits-Edith Pearlman conveys their experience with wit and aplomb, with relentless but clear-eyed optimism, and with a supple prose that reminds us, sentence by sentence, page by page, of the gifts our greatest verbal innovators can bestow.
    Binocular Vision reveals a true American original, a master of the story, showing us, with her classic sensibility and lasting artistry, the cruelties, the longings, and the rituals that connect human beings across space and time.

Edith Pearlman's fiction has won three O. Henry Prizes and has appeared three times in Best American Short Stories, twice in The Pushcart Prize, and once in New Stories from the South. She is the author of three previous story collections: Vaquita(winner of the Drue Heinz Prize for Literature), Love Among the Greats (winner of the Spokane Fiction Award), and How to Fall (winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize). She lives in Boston, Massachusetts. 


  • Winner, National Book Critics Circle
  • Winner, PEN/Faulkner Award
  • Finalist, National Book Award
  • Finalist, Story Prize


Binocular Vision should be the book with which Edith Pearlman casts off her secret-handshake status and takes up her rightful position as a national treasure. Put her stories beside those of John Updike and Alice Munro. That’s where they belong.” —Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto
“The small but insistent crowd that has been telling us Edith Pearlman is a master of the short story has been correct, and we’re lucky to have Binocular Vision, this generous book of new and selected stories. Pearlman’s characters—struggling to help Jewish children rescued from the Nazis during the London blitz, managing a European inn where nobody fits in, or living private life in the Boston streetcar suburb of Godolphin—are complicated, fully alive. You can’t stop reading, because you know they’ll astonish you on the very next page.” —Alice Mattison, author of Nothing is Quite Forgotten in Brooklyn
“A new book by Edith Pearlman is always cause for celebration, and this is doubly so in the case of her Binocular Vision. Some of these stories are new to me, and some are old favorites, but all of them are witty and wise; all of them allow readers to live in a world that is like theirs, except brighter and word-happier. Binocular Vision is a major, glorious book from one of our most important and (until now) overlooked fiction writers.” —Brock Clarke, author of An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England
“In a world where volume is often prized over what's actually been said, and the death of the short story is treated as a perennial topic, it is a great comfort to know there are writers like Edith Pearlman, who works outside the noise and writes alongside Chekhov and Frank O’Connor and other master storytellers. Pearlman’s characters are intensely aware of the world around and within them, and her gaze into their worlds is both sympathetic and critical. With a lucid perception of unchanging and unchangeable human nature, Pearlman presents, without easy quirks or facile pretense, a fantastical world made of people like you and me. Please enter and rejoice.”
—Yiyun Li, author of The Vagrants
"Edith Pearlman is an absolute master of the form: these are stories that abjure tricks and flash for brilliantly drawn characters, classic construction, and language that sings and aches all at once." —T. C. Boyle, author of Wild Child and Other Stories and The Tortilla Curtain
"A finely tuned collection by writer's writer Pearlman combines the best of previous collections (How to Fall; etc.) with austere, polished new work. Pearlman's characters for the most part are stiff-upper-lipped Northeasterners who take what comes and don't grumble: in "The Noncombatant," Richard, a 49-year-old doctor suffering gravely from cancer during the tail end of WWII, rages quietly in his small Cape Cod town as celebrations erupt and memories of the wasted lives of the dead are swept away. A fictional Godolphin, Mass., is the setting for many of the stories, such as "Rules," in which the well-meaning staff at a soup kitchen try not to pry into the lives of the "cheats and crazies, drunks and dealers" who frequent the place. "Hanging Fire" is a perfectly crafted story about a 21-year-old college graduate, Nancy, on the cusp of embarking on life and certain only of her obligation to herself. The tale of retired gastroenterologist Cornelia Fitch in "Self-Reliance" reads like the fulfillment of Nancy's own self-determined trajectory: after a successful career, she determines how she wants to leave this life: with dignity and a wink. This should win new converts for Pearlman." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"When reading these stories, one is left with the awareness that all the hallmarks of capable writing are present, including efficient dialogue, the knowledge of what to say and what to leave unsaid, expert foregrounding, intriguing characters, and formidable pacing. But one also feels that the usual review-speak can’t fully capture what makes Pearlman’s signature her own.Karen Rigby, The Rumpus, 1/10/11
"Of all the remarkable things about "Binocular Vision," this may be the most compelling, that it enacts a worldview in 34 precise and subtle movements, reminding us that if connection is elusive, there is nobility in perseverance, and that we are almost always greater than the sum of our parts." —David Ulin, Los Angeles Times, 11/16/11
"...the volume is an excellent introduction to a writer who should not need one. Maybe from now on everyone will know of Edith Pearlman." —Roxanna Robinson, New York Times Book Review, 11/16/11