Handbook for Drowning

A Novel in Stories

by David Shields

Price: $14.00


Table of Contents

The Imaginary Dead Baby Sea Gull
Gookus Explains the Eternal Mysteries
The War on Poverty
The Heroic Mode
The Gun in the Grass at Your Feet
Brief Survey of Ideal Desire
Sudden Affection
Northern Light
The Moon, Falling
The Sixties
The Sheer Joy of Amoral Creation
Father's Day
The Fourth Wonder of the World
Heart of a Dybbuk
Comp Lit 101: Walt Grows Up
Contemporary Film Criticism
Ode to the Donner Party
War Wounds

© Copyright 2007, David Shields

About this Edition

This edition of David Shields’s Handbook for Drowning: A Novel in Stories includes a brilliant new foreword by Stuart Dybek, who probes the novel-in-stories form in general and “the lasting beauty” of Handbook for Drowning in particular. Shields’s book charts the education of Walter Jaffe, an impassioned, awkward, and engaging young man growing up fixated on his parents’ political idealism and his own morality. Follow Walter, in college, obsessed with the heroic mode of Prometheus and Beethoven until he sees a documentary film scene of American soldiers with Vietnamese prostitutes; monomaniacally in love with Nina, talking in riddles about a dead baby sea gull, reading her diary while she’s asleep, pushing their closeness to the breaking point; so intent upon analyzing his parents’ letters to him that he can’t see the baffled love they feel for each other or for him; at fifteen, fraught with desire for every girl he sees on the street, but unable to dance, up close, with the girl who wants him; and in combat with his father, even in dreams, and how their conflict helps Walter understand that any obsession, ideology or fear can become a kind of drowning. This is a book in which moral passion calcifies into destructive and self-destructive rigidity. And what could be more pertinent to the current state of the world through which we all find ourselves navigating?