cover image Shakespeare's Kitchen

Shakespeare's Kitchen

Lore Segal, . . New Press, $22.95 (225pp) ISBN 978-1595581518

What began as seven interrelated short stories published in the New Yorker (including the O. Henry Prize–winning “The Reverse Bug”) is now a full-length collection of 13, the first major work of fiction in 20 years from the acclaimed author of Her First American . Filled with all the pomp and depressed glory of a modern-day Great Gatsby , each installment delivers an entertaining glimpse into the dysfunctional lives of a group of hoity-toity Connecticut think tank intellectuals as they philosophize over wine and cheese, fall in and out of love, and go about their daily lives with reckless abandon. Most of the action takes place (or is retold, properly discussed and drunkenly digested) in the kitchen of the institute's director, Leslie Shakespeare, while Leslie's wife alternatively entertains and lambastes their friends. Although the plot centers on nothing more than everyday comings and goings, Segal gives readers a peek into the sausage factory of daily routine, in which humdrum but necessary minutiae belie the intrigue and angst stirred up in her self-absorbed characters' internal monologues. When stacked together, these vignettes are hilarious and telling. Segal exhibits a rare insight into the human character that is at once humbling and shamelessly enjoyable to behold. (Apr.)