SCANDAMERICAN REVIEWS from Goodreads, Cooper Street

Two nice reviews popped up recently for SCANDAMERICAN DOMESTIC, one on Goodreads that was particularly awesome and one from the inaugural issue of Cooper Street Journal, a sweet online journal hosted by the Rutgers University Camden’s MFA program. The Goodreads review came from editor and flash-fiction author Tara Masih, and the Cooper Street review […]

by writer Michael Deagler.

Deagler’s review (which you can read in full here) matches me up with the new collection Karate Chop: Stories by Norwegian writer Dorthe Nors–which is a huge treat for me. Deagler makes a number of really generous remarks about the stories, and he shares this insane reflection on me: “Merkner writes with a practiced precision equal to anyone in short fiction today.”  Good lord.  Thank you, Michael Deagler.

Masih‘s review on Goodreads was equally treat-awesome.  I am so glad she notes what I have for quite a while worried over: the collection’s first story. I’m not a huge fan of the story, and for the most part I wish it weren’t in the collection. It’s troubling to me that so many have enjoyed that story. Yet, I’m exceptionally grateful for it: it’s really the story that sets the tone for the collection as a whole. Tone and substance aren’t always in concert, and I think that’s a real problem with my book. Somehow, Masih is good enough, big enough to overlook this, and I am so grateful for her words. Here’ the are in full:

There are so many talented writers publishing today, and it’s not easy to stand out in such a large pack. Merkner does. He is developing into one of our most original voices in contemporary American literary fiction. In a deceptively simple but loaded prose style reminiscent of Grimm’s fairytales, he pulls you in to his domestic tales, where his quirky point of view works best. No one looks at the world as he does. Here is a humorous “taste” of his observation on mall pizza:

“Strange breadless pizza–robust, god-awful huge–is smoking in front of us.”

And then within his sometimes twisted, dark, confined stories of family, marriage, parenthood, and community come profound insights:

“When they are among us, those we love are so much among us we pretend we don’t need to do anything. And when they are no longer among us, those we love are so much completely gone we pretend we have do something, everything, to try to bring them back. It occurs to me we probably have this completely backwards.”

My copy is much dog-eared to mark many such passages.

If you can get past the first difficult story in the collection, you’re in for a special ride. It even caught the attention of The New York Times. Read it and see why….

Thank you, Tara Masih — and thank you Michael Deagler!