Drowning Lessons


Title Details

Pages: 250

Trim size: 5.250in x 8.000in



Pub Date: 03/01/2011

ISBN: 9-780-8203-3819-4

List Price: $24.95

Drowning Lessons


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  • Description
  • Reviews

The stories in Drowning Lessons engage water as both a vital and a potentially hazardous presence in our lives. "You can touch water," says Peter Selgin, "you can taste it and feel its temperature, you can even hold it in your hands. Still it remains elusive, ill-defined, shaped only by what surrounds or contains it."

With empathy and wit Selgin introduces us to characters navigating the choppy waters of human relationships. In "Swimming" an avid swimmer fights the stasis in his marriage by prodding his out-of-shape but contented wife to take up the sport-with near-disastrous results. A pond is the setting of "The Wolf House," which tells of the reunion and dissolution of a group of high school friends brought together for a funeral. "The Sinking Ship Man" chronicles a day in the life of an African American caretaker in charge of the only remaining survivor of the Titanic disaster. In "El Malecón" a toothless old Dominican tries to recapture his lost dignity by "borrowing" a shiny Cadillac convertible and aiming it down the coastal highway toward his childhood village. In "The Sea Cure" two travelers in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula confront death in the form of a mysterious woman living in an abandoned beachfront apartment complex.

In all thirteen tales in Drowning Lessons, Selgin exhibits a keen eye for the forces that push people toward-and sometimes beyond-their very human limits, forces as intrinsic, elemental, and elusive as the liquid that makes up two-thirds of their bodies. These stories remind us that of all bodies of water, none is deeper or more dangerous than our own.

A wine-dark blood rushes through the pages of Drowning Lessons. Tap a vein and drink deeply and taste the best and the worst kind of love. In these pages you will experience lust, spite, jealousy, fidelity, rose-flavored romance, and doe-eyed affection, sometimes all in the same story. Thank goodness for Peter Selgin, who shares with us the mysteries of the human heart in this electric, revealing collection.

—Benjamin Percy, author of Refresh, Refresh

A stellar collection deserving recognition. Selgin possesses a mature, complex voice and is able to conceptualize, compose, and perfect stories of brilliant diversity and tone. High emotional intelligence, empathy, courage, and intellectual curiosity fuel this collection, giving it a rare narrative fire beyond the obvious and admirable excellence of craft.

—Melissa Pritchard, author of Late Bloomer

Selgin's stories are mordantly funny, at times desperately sad, but always full of hard-earned wisdom and subversive irony. He ranges across time and space in a way few other writers have. Drowning Lessons is a book that deserves serious attention from all lovers of American short fiction.

—Jess Row, author of The Train to Lo Wu

Water flows through these stories, giving Selgin's characters moments of grace from their lives and also propelling them forward, as they try to swim through the problems that face them. Drowning Lessons is an extraordinary book; Selgin's writing creates a current that will carry readers farther than they would ever have expected, and leave them on a new shore.

—Hannah Tinti, author of Animal Crackers

Drowning Lessons displays that fine combination of mystery and manners that drove Flannery O'Connor's work and drives all good fiction: mystery over what our behaviors and misbehaviors reveal about us, and manners in the peculiar style or vision by which the author conducts the investigation.

Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee University Review

[Selgin's] ability to sling together desire and suffering in complex and moving ways is singular and memorable.


The stories in Selgin's often masterful debut collection . . . focus on faulty passions and dysfunctional romances. . . . Poignant, evocative prose.

Publishers Weekly

About the Author/Editor

PETER SELGIN's stories and essays have appeared in dozens of publications, including the Missouri Review, Glimmer Train, and Best American Essays. He is the author of the forthcoming novel Life Goes to the Movies, as well as By Cunning and Craft: Sound Advice and Practical Wisdom for Fiction Writers.