NYT calls Scandamerican Domestic “absurdist,” “odd,” “unnerving”

A breathtaking surprise to hear that senior staff editor John Williams of the New York Times reviewed The Rise & Fall of the Scandamerican Domestic for the NYT “New Releases” column on January 30, 2014!

The column ran online and in print (C7), and matched my book with two other story collections, one by D.W. Wilson and the other Elizabeth Spencer. Williams matched the books based on…

…what he described as their “vivid sense of place, including an absurdist version of the Midwest” (me!), a gritty corner of British Columbia and a fictional Eastern European country in 1939.

The full review is wonderful:

By Christopher Merkner
228 pages. Coffee House Press. $15.95.

Christopher Merkner wastes no time establishing the odd atmosphere that pervades this debut collection. In the first story, a young man talking to his mother cradles and pets her Vietnamese potbelly pig while withholding the news that he has accidentally killed his uncle, her brother, in a gruesome fishing accident. Some of the shorter stories don’t last long enough to register more than their willful quirkiness, but a few of the longer ones show what Mr. Merkner can do when he marries his absurd plots and unnerving deadpan tone to genuine emotional concerns. In “Cabins,” a man whose wife is expecting their baby is shaken to learn that several couples he knows are getting divorced. And in “We Have Them to Raise Us,” a wife with a newborn son asks her husband to invite 36 of her former lovers, now scattered across the country, to celebrate her 31st birthday. They all agree to attend.

The response from friends and family was awesome, and I was really touched by Coffee House Press’ note on their Facebook page: “Amazing!” and “We’re so proud of this debut.”

I walked over to the Lawrence Student Center on campus at about 8:00pm to see if the review has been run in the physical NYT, also — and there were three NYTs left there … and it turns out it had been, in fact, run in print:



Incredible days.