by Michael Lee
With an Introduction by James Carroll
"What a good
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.
Praise for Paradise Dance
"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."
—Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2002)
"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
—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
—Gordon Weaver, Author of Circling
"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 jobs—teacher, cook, shell fisherman, construction worker, shrimp peeler, humor editor—each paying less than the last. He holds an MFA in Writing from Emerson College and is a Senior Editor at The Cape Cod Voice.