One Day's Perfect Weather: More Twice Told Tales

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Southern Methodist University Press, 1999 - Fiction - 202 pages
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In this collection, Stern’s third, he returns to the literary adventure he began in Twice Told Tales and continued in Twice Upon a Time--weaving fresh modern tales from the thematic threads of great texts of the past. His premise is that a classic work by a writer or artist one loves "could be basic to a fiction: as basic as a love affair, a trauma, a mother, a landscape, a job, or a sexual passion.” Each of the seven tales in One Day’s Perfect Weather uses elements from an earlier work. Each story is independently vibrant and vital but, infused by the energy and creative tension of the backdrop work of art, it takes on added reverberations of meaning: rich, entertaining, and wise.

In "Duet for Past and Future,” inspired by Robert Frost’s "The Road Not Taken,” Newman, a lawyer in Indianapolis, having lost his musical career (along with his wife and child), thinks he recognizes the very cello he had sold to finance his legal education and new life. He and the young woman who plays that cello become involved in a relationship that threatens to tie them together for a moment or forever.

In "A Man of Sorrows and Acquainted with Grief,” inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach’s "The Passion According to St. John,” Kraft, an exiled New Yorker and a Jew, is the conductor of a high school orchestra in a small Texas town. He talks his way out of a traffic ticket by telling the born-again state trooper of his own special relationship with Jesus; Kraft tells the credulous lawman that the reason he exceeded the speed limit was that he’d been carried away by Bach’s "Passion” on the car radio. The resulting comic imbroglio turns Kraft’s life upside down.

In the title story, inspired by Frost’s "Grievances and Griefs,” a dying stage director and his new Russian-born wife, who has acute but temporary arthritis, are confined to a sickroom from which only one of them will ultimately emerge. Determined to escape their fate, if only for one perfect spring day, they make a comic and touching game of weighing their mutual and personal woes.

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About the author (1999)

DANIEL STERN is the author of nine novels, two story collections, a play, several screenplays, and many essays. He received the International Prix du Souvenir in 1978 for his novel Who Shall Live, Who Shall Die, and in 1990 Twice Told Tales won the Rosenthal Foundation Award given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He’s been at various times in his working life a professional cellist, a professor at Wesleyan University, head of advertising for Warner Bros. Motion Pictures and for CBS Entertainment, and director of humanities at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. He is currently Cullen Distinguished Professor of English in the creative writing program at the University of Houston.

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