In Cities in the Sea, Maura Stanton taps into the mysterious force of the fairy tale, with its rhyming images and magic patterns. Hans Christian Andersen shows up as a character in one story, and his imagination and ability to reveal the truth through tale-telling sets the tone for the other stories in this collection, which explore the unstable, dangerous world beneath the calm surface of everyday existence.
These stories, set in the Midwest and the Southwest, in Florida and in Europe, blur the boundaries between fairy tale and verité. A range of characters - from a businessman to a pianist, from a county coroner to a hardware store clerk, from a Greek immigrant to a Danish artist - come to discover that the past is a ruined kingdom, lost forever, but still a place to visit in wish, dream, and memory.
"I am incapable of doing good work unless it contains an element of the fairy tale," the film director Jean Renoir says in his autobiography. In the same way, Cities in the Sea attempts to wrest a deeper pattern, full of humor and wonder, out of the disturbing events of contemporary life.
Maura Stanton's previous books include the novel Molly Companion and the story collections The Country I Come From and Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling. Stanton is the recipient of the Yale Series of Younger Poets award and a two-time winner of the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award. She teaches in the M.F.A. program at Indiana University.
"Blurring the boundaries between fairy tale and vérité, Stanton incisively taps into the mysteries of contemporary life in these magical new stories, examining the nature of narrative and dreams."
—Ploughshares, Winter 2003
"The ten stories in the Stanton collection are short, artfully composed, and appealingly readable. . . . [An] eerie and compelling book."
—Michigan Quarterly Review
". . . triumphantly scales the walls between reality, fantasy and imagination. This may be the best book I've read in years. Stanton links the eight short stories using the psychological drama that we humans play out in our minds as we examine our past, comparing it to our present."
—Avon Waters, Herald Bulletin (Anderson, Indiana)