at long last, selected short fiction from joseph mcelroy

Not as well known as DeLillo and Barth and other figures in the American postmodern pantheon, but arguable more talented than any of then, Joseph McElroy is in large part the great secret of American literature. Now some of McElroy’s short stories have been collected in Night Soul and Other Stories (Dalkey Archive, 2011).  James Gibbons in Bookforum has described these stories as “awash in fragmentary stimuli” and notes that:

It’s best to read Joseph McElroy’s Night Soul slowly, warily even, because you’re never far from an unexpected swerve, a surprising shift of gears, or a disclosure of inconspicuous import. Not all these sly, oblique, yet affecting stories are set in the city, but the mode is always urban to the core—a crowding together of impressions and perceptions not necessarily in harmony, and just as likely to deepen ambiguity as to clarify. Take this portrait of an aggressive stranger on the subway who accosts a fellow New Yorker in “Silk, or the Woman with the Bike”: “To hear her speak, she was quite unafraid. Or it was where she was coming from, a woman almost haggard, almost beautiful. Irritable. Short with him. Not just your blunt city person in passing, and not passing but arrived like a coincidence.” Beautiful or haggard, or both, or neither: The woman’s portrait keeps shifting, revising itself as the agitated phrases trip forward. Yet the description’s fuzziness is precisely what gives it its power, uncanny as the feeling of “coincidence” called forth by the woman. (“Into The Wild”, Bookforum Dec/Jan 2011)

A couple of the stories are available online:

Night Soul” and “Character.”

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1 Comment

  1. Arguably more talented than other figures in the pantheon, indeed; though I’d argue Mcelroy’s work should not be confined to “pomo.” Anyway: These short stories should draw attention to that wonderful talent: he certainly deserves it, as do committed readers.


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