The Complexities of Intimacy

Stories by Mary Caponegro

October 1, 2008 • 6 x 9 • 233 pages • 978-1-56689-120-2

Dark, rich, rewarding stories that present the American family as a Heironymous Bosch painting.

The stories in The Complexities of Intimacy offer a surreal and darkly comedic exploration of that most complex of all institutions—the nuclear family. A breathtaking stylist, Mary Caponegro imbues her collection with startling details: a sister with an anatomical secret, a brother who invents a hammock from a harp, and precocious children who choose their own parents. Buoyed by her arch, Jamesian prose and psychological tone, Caponegro’s stories are as delicately intricate as the fragile and difficult relationships they describe.

About the Author

Mary Caponegro is the author of The Star Café, The Complexities of Intimacy, and All Fall Down, among other collections of short fiction. Her stories have been anthologized in The Anchor Book of New American Fiction, The Italian American Reader, and Wild Dreams: The Best of Italian Americana. Born in Brooklyn, she has lived in Italy, and now resides in New York’s Hudson Valley, where she is currently the Richard B. Fisher Family Professor in Literature and Writing at Bard College and contributing editor of Conjunctions.


The Complexities of Intimacy offers a topology of dreams, a world in which deformations and revelations are the same; and its stories are true in the exact same way dreams are true. Modifiers that fit this book include: baroque, eerie, elegant, funny, good, and thoroughly upsetting.” —David Foster Wallace

“The signs and wonders of muted unhappiness, subtle cruelties, and obscure dementias, not to mention the absolutely fantastic, are herein revealed in a language that is curiously dispassionate and placed. This is an amazing book.” —Gilbert Sorrentino

“Mary Caponegro [is] one of our great national literary treasures, a daring writer who reminds us in every line that the true business of fiction is intelligence and presence and compassion. This book is a delight, a challenge, and a celebration of the human mind and heart.” —Gilbert Sorrentino

The Complexities of Intimacy richly confirms Mary Caponegro’s reputation as one of our most perceptive explorers of the mysterious, often perilous universe of family. With language as intricate as the terrains of love and fear, desire and dread these connected stories evoke, Caponegro continues to reinvent the Gothic as a personal narrative of the fragility of being flesh and blood.” —Bradford Morrow

“If she were a metal, she would be quicksilver.
Her constellation: Berenice’s Hair.
Were she a flower, she would be lethal;
A scholar? Cryptographer. And creature?
The serpent of the garden of Hesperides.
And if Mary Caponegro were a practice,
That practice would be alchemy.”
—Rikki Ducornet