Michael Lee is a New England literary treasure—and until now, a secret. An original voice from the working-class outskirts of Boston, Lee’s standing-room-only readings have been delighting audiences for twenty years. Leapfrog is proud to be the first to collect his poignant and hilarious stories. In this moving and often quite humorous debut collection, Mike Lee enters the territory of Richard Russo and Russell Banks, the New England of forgotten mill towns and abandoned hopes, of people with few illusions trying to put their losses behind them. A late bloomer, much like the characters in these stories, Lee has performed and polished his stories in backwater Boston-area bars and coffee houses for over twenty years. Drawing praise from acknowledged writing masters as well as budding stars, Lee’s stories touch all generations, and all social classes, with their rendering of lives down but not out; of self-declared failures—writing teachers, Nam vets, hopelessly clumsy teenage athletes, widows of unfaithful politicians—who nonetheless try and try again. In the words of National Book Award winner James Carroll, “What is eternity, Lee asks, but standing under a fly ball, waiting for the ambulance, thinking of what to engrave on a tombstone, regretting a marriage, asking for a date, hoping for the Red Sox? And what is the ordinary world when observed with feeling, wisdom, generosity, and, yes, love—if not paradise after all?” Indeed, what is Paradise Dance but the overdue introduction of a wise and tender new voice.
“Until this debut, Lee had been New England’s best-kept literary secret. Leapfrog is to be commended for revealing this strong new voice to American literature. Strongly recommended.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“In the fading dreams of ordinary men and women, Lee captures the beating heart of a city…and comes to symbolize much more.”
—Time Out New York
“Well-honed short stories that sparkle with a sweetness and salty tang, Lee’s aging warriors have few illusions and plenty of regrets but they also have remarkable insight, often expressed with sarcastic wit.”
—The Hartford Courant
“Mixing sly humor with a gritty refusal to roll over, Lee’s stories make us hold our breath and root for life’s little miracles.”
—The Metrowest Daily News
"A varied and accomplished debut collection from a longtime live storyteller. Breadth rules here but more often than not these are stories of people running from mistakes, recent or ancient. Lee's voice fits perfectly...Solid work from a writer who should have been recognized long ago."
“Following in the stylistic footsteps of Andre Dubus and Raymond Carver, Lee makes an impressive debut, offering a heady blend of compassion, razor sharp wit, and well-honed story-telling skills.”
“Lee’s prose is perfect for these extraordinary tales of ordinary, small town Massachusetts.”
"In Lee's hands, would-be failures are redeemed by human contact and surprising kindness [which is] part of the magic of Lee's storytelling."
—The Boston Herald
"Michael Lee's short stories have a rare quality. They are tough, hard-bitten, and surprisingly sensitive to the nuances that motivate behavior in people we assume too quickly are without nuance. What a good read!"
"In Michael Lee's stunningly crafted stories, we find people who suffer few illusions as to how they've lost their way, people on the cusp of making peace with all that will never be, yet who still yearn for one good kiss, one true triumph, one moment of lasting grace. Lee's vision is full of compassion, forgiveness, and hope, but is also unsparing in its veracity made all the more symphonic with humor: a tender humor that does not mask the wounds here, but tends to them. This is an important and memorable collection."
—Andre Dubus III
"Viet vets, failed musicians, waitresses, office workers, mediocre professors, middle managers, bartenders, fathers and sons: Michael Lee’s Paradise Dance is a world peopled by adult men and their women who are having a hard time of it, but who will not lay down and die and who cling for dear life to that which holds them up, their sense of humor and a few fleeting moments of love. These are guys who stand up and square off with life even when they know they can’t win, hard-boiled ne’er-do-wells indefatigably cracking wise in the teeth of it all. And their stories are equal parts sadness and belly laugh. A trace of Raymond Carver mixed with Damon Runyon and Dave Barry, Lee fulfills the time-honored ingredient for a good read: make ‘em laugh, make ‘em weep!
—Thomas E. Kennedy, author of Drive, Dive, Dance & Fight and The Book of Angels
“Mike Lee's stories provide a literary feast! They're gritty, but unafraid of the risks of sentiment, and leavened with wit. Here's a range of characters to delight in, all of them flawed, but courageously human. And his milieu, Albright, Massachusetts, a mill town in decline, is a world-in-small, one this reader came to know as if he had lived there himself. And the title story alone is worth the price of this collection. What a fine gathering of fictions, craft and heart and style—bravo!”
—Gordon Weaver, Author of Circling Byzantium and The Way We Know in Dreams
"I've always admired Lee for his fast ball. His breaking stuff never sucked either. But not until the publication of Paradise Dance did I get a look at his change-up. It's an education watching him work. And a thrill to see him throwing in the majors. To him and to all who have yet to read him: Welcome to the show."
—Robert Sabbag, Author of Snowblind and Loaded: A Misadventure on the Marijuana Trail
Michael Lee's humor columns and articles have been published extensively in Massachusetts newspapers such as The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and The Cape Cod Times. He is a Vietnam veteran, having served in the U.S. Marine Corps at Khe Sanh. He went on to become a commercial diver in Miami and started his free lance writing career there, eventually being named editor of Miami magazine. Since moving to Cape Cod three decades ago, Lee has held a variety of jobsteacher, cook, shell fisherman, construction worker, shrimp peeler, humor editoreach paying less than the last. He holds an MFA in Writing from Emerson College and is a Senior Editor at The Cape Cod Voice.
Read the Introduction by James Carroll
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