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Short stories


Crazy Enough: A Memoir

Storm Large

Free Press, $25/hardcover

You want to know Storm Large. A Portland, Ore., rock legend, she's tall, talented and self-aware enough to describe her teenage self as "a turd in a punch bowl." She was loud, obnoxious, slutty and druggy, and she's the first to admit it. Crazy Enough: A Memoir seemed like a book that would focus more on Large's outrageous stage presence and music career — she's best-known for her appearance on Rock Star Supernova — but this tome is about Large's relationship with her mother, who spent most of her life struggling with mental and emotional problems. Thus, Crazy Enough feels like it veers a bit once Large enters adulthood and escapes to the West Coast. As indicated by her college days in Alphabet City and her heroin era in San Francisco (where she calls herself "a loser among real addicts"), Large has plenty of stories to tell, and they deserve the full treatment. Maybe another memoir is in order. — Edie Adelstein


Smut: Stories

Alan Bennett

Picador, $14/paperback

Brit Alan Bennett is the master of the long-ish short story that skewers middle-class mores — for example, The Clothes They Stood Up In — and this pair of tales of challenged sexual morality fits the bill. In "The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson," the eponymous widow takes in some boarders and, when they can't pay the rent, accepts their offer to let her watch — which leads her to discover all sorts of things about herself. In "The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes," the rigid morality of the title character (who is very much peripheral to the story) requires all sorts of rule-bending, dissembling and back-alley deals on the part of her family in order to keep her from discovering the reality of their lives. Both stories drip with a gentle irony, and serve up a good-natured cynicism with a dollop of love for flawed humanity. Smut: Stories is anything but pornography; mostly, it's compassionate. — Kel Munger


The Essential Urban Farmer

Novella Carpenter and Willow Rosenthal

Penguin, $25/paperback

"Essential" doesn't begin to describe this encyclopedic (almost 600 illustrated pages) handbook for urban farming. Novella Carpenter (author of the fun and funny Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer) is the homesteader of GhostTown Farm, located on a dead-end street in Oakland, Calif., while Willow Rosenthal is the founder of City Slicker Farms, also in Oakland. They've put together a compendium for turning everything from your backyard to your fire escape into organic agricultural space. Even better, the detailed illustrations give a clear picture of what Carpenter and Rosenthal describe. That makes The Essential Urban Farmer easy to use for even novices in the art of local — as in, "outside my door"— food. The message: Put a little work into it and feed yourself well, even if you live in a city. If you eat, this book belongs on your shelf, right next to the Michael Pollan row. — Kel Munger

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