web site hit counter Night Soul and Other Stories - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Night Soul and Other Stories

Availability: Ready to download

Best known for his complex and beautiful novels—regularly compared to those of Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis, and Don DeLillo—Joseph McElroy is equally at home in the short story, having written numerous pieces over the course of his career that now, collected at last, serve as an ideal introduction to one of the most important contemporary American authors. Combining ele Best known for his complex and beautiful novels—regularly compared to those of Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis, and Don DeLillo—Joseph McElroy is equally at home in the short story, having written numerous pieces over the course of his career that now, collected at last, serve as an ideal introduction to one of the most important contemporary American authors. Combining elements of classic McElroy with tantalizing stories pointing the way ahead (the spare and dangerous “No Man’s Land,” the lush and mischievous “The Campaign Trail”), Night Soul and Other Stories presents a wide range of work from a monumental artist.


Compare

Best known for his complex and beautiful novels—regularly compared to those of Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis, and Don DeLillo—Joseph McElroy is equally at home in the short story, having written numerous pieces over the course of his career that now, collected at last, serve as an ideal introduction to one of the most important contemporary American authors. Combining ele Best known for his complex and beautiful novels—regularly compared to those of Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis, and Don DeLillo—Joseph McElroy is equally at home in the short story, having written numerous pieces over the course of his career that now, collected at last, serve as an ideal introduction to one of the most important contemporary American authors. Combining elements of classic McElroy with tantalizing stories pointing the way ahead (the spare and dangerous “No Man’s Land,” the lush and mischievous “The Campaign Trail”), Night Soul and Other Stories presents a wide range of work from a monumental artist.

30 review for Night Soul and Other Stories

  1. 5 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    ‘Water is always water – above, below, in flood, trickle, rapid or sea, but the traces we leave in it last like our changing thoughts.’ Joseph McElroy, best known for his sprawling novels such as Women and Men or Lookout Cartridge, evinces an equally impressive prowess with his short game in Night Soul and Other Stories. The twelve stories, collected from the past three decades¹, demonstrate his versatility as an author and philosophical investigator as he deals with topics ranging from politics, ‘Water is always water – above, below, in flood, trickle, rapid or sea, but the traces we leave in it last like our changing thoughts.’ Joseph McElroy, best known for his sprawling novels such as Women and Men or Lookout Cartridge, evinces an equally impressive prowess with his short game in Night Soul and Other Stories. The twelve stories, collected from the past three decades¹, demonstrate his versatility as an author and philosophical investigator as he deals with topics ranging from politics, musical theory, family dynamics and the tense racial atmosphere of a post-9/11 America. While these stories appear on the surface to be unrelated, individual stories, McElroy affects an undercurrent of subtle motifs and themes drawing these stories together in a nearly novelistic sense. Despite being twelve separate stories, they beat together with one heart. A highly decorated author, being the recipient of the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1976; the American Academy of Arts and Letters fellowship in ’77; and twice honored with the National Endowment of the Arts fellowship², it is a shame that McElroy has a relatively low readership. The difficulties found in McElroy’s style and prose is rather bewildering initially, which may turn many readers away. As Burns argues in his article on McElroy in the New York Times Book Review, ‘McElroy’s cosmopolitan, erudite fiction needs to be received on a wider bandwidth that also registers signals from other disciplines and earlier literature… [Reading Night Soul] is, in fact, a little like being a member of Marlow’s audience in “Heart of Darkness.” We listen in a foggy void, and try to puzzle out the significance of a narrator’s inconclusive experiences.’ To read McElroy’s collection is like facing down a much better endowed and formidable opponent, yet, if the reader digs in and stands their ground, they will find an author that doesn’t wish to spar for domination, but to build a sense of mutual respect*. McElroy wants his reader to succeed through his trial by fire – like the tyrannical fathers whose obdurate demands spawned the drive to immortality of the world-renowned classical composers, McElroy wants his reader to transcend his safe-zones and really strive for personal glory. He offers to assistance along the way, but privately holds out for hope that a reader can reach his summit. The final line of Unknown Kid best demonstrates McElroy's message to the reader: 'figure it out yourself'. Each story centers about a collision of sorts. There is the collision of culture in No Man’s Land; collisions of political ideals and perspectives in The Campaign Trail or The Last Disarmament But One; and frequently the collision of city and country life shown most effectively in Canoe Repair, a major highlight of the collection, and Character. Dizzy and reeling from each collision they have been dropped into, McElroy’s style effectively has the reader receiving the information around them in a jumbled, incomplete, and often a nearly incoherent manner as they attempt to steady themselves and find their bearings again within each story. The reader is further disoriented through the constantly fluctuating usages of syntax and punctuation. The dialogue in particular varies practically from paragraph to paragraph, being received in one instance in through traditional line breaks and signified by quotation marks, and a few paragraphs later with dialogue embedded within the larger paragraph, often unidentified through punctuation, and even occasionally flowing together without any sort of break similar to José Saramago’s signature style. To call these variances mere inconsistency or laziness would be a gross mistake however, as McElroy’s style is entirely abstemious and alternates to accommodate what is best for that particular instance of the story. Each word or phrase is an individual brick crafted for it’s particular place, however, instead of being a rejection of the overall façade, McElroy manages to interlay each brick to create a potent mosaic when taken in as a whole work of art. Even the narrative perspectives are subject to change, as in Canoe Repair, with the story alternating between Zanes’ first person perspective, or a third person perspective. Interestingly enough, the reader learns more about Zanes from the third person point of view than they do when he is able to openly assess himself to the reader. ‘We are all nomads’ the young boy in No Man’s Land asserts, and like nomads, the ideas of this book are always traveling, taking on new surroundings and meaning, but essentially remain the same as well. Between each individual story is an intricate network of overarching themes and motifs, most notable the water and architectural themes. These motifs, which easily identified, are difficult to pin down there exact meanings within the text, as they take on a nomadic, always altering explanation. Similar to the double-S motif of Gravity's Rainbow, the themes and motifs are wrapped in multiple layers of applicable metaphors and symbolic connotations, taking on different meanings to suit the vast array of literary needs present in this collection. Near the conclusion of Unknown Kid, carefully placed near the end of the book, McElroy alludes heavily to the theories of topology³. Seemingly as a reward to a reader who has made it that far, McElroy constructs his most apparent clue to the overall totality of his work. In a proper postmodernist gesture, he invites the reader to examine the stories as interconnected whole with each theme or motif being the tonal center, to borrow from Particle of Difference, for which he builds his overall melody upon, or perhaps the stand of web for which he grows each story around in a similar fashion to the bone growth specialists in Silk. Had the words ‘and Other Stories’ been removed from the spine of this book, it could have easily worked as a novel of elaborate connected ideas. The overall effect is simply staggering. This little known collection, released relatively under the radar by the Dalkey Archive in 2011, may just be one of the foremost publications of that year. McElroy manages to both deliver exquisite short fiction while still maintaining a novelistic approach complete with intricate thematic networks and cohesion. With a whirlwind of styles, a wide range of stories, and an interesting cast of narratives that often spiral into a flurry of fragmented ideas, this collection is a wonderful postmodernist feast that satisfies on the same level as the best of Pynchon, DFW, and DeLillo. Although he is a difficult author, he is a worth opponent to spar with intellectually. I highly suggest getting in the ring with McElroy. 5/5 ‘…troubled or still, water is always water…the sameness of the Ocean suffers no change.’ ¹ Topological Fiction by Stephen Burns of the New York Times Book Review ²Joseph McElroy ³Topology from Wolfram Alpha * for a further discussion on facing the formidable opponent that is McElroy, and in keeping with the ideas in Annals of Plagiary which say artists always return what they borrow, I would like to direct to to Mr. Nathan "N.R." Gaddis' exquisite review of Actress in the House

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chris Via

    Video review: https://youtu.be/Xds7hrVLkdA My introduction to the world of Joseph McElroy. A brilliant apéritif, a gratifying amuse-bouche before diving into his novels. Video review: https://youtu.be/Xds7hrVLkdA My introduction to the world of Joseph McElroy. A brilliant apéritif, a gratifying amuse-bouche before diving into his novels.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stephen P

    This was a difficult read. But why? Without typical punctuation, unpredictable shifts in subject, object , paragraphs rising out of constellations, time swerving in irregular paths, the shifting of the floor beneath one's feet, I was drained. At first I sweated out who was talking to who, why, what about and what happened . I am a lover of Bernhard, Wallace, Hamsun. I do not believe McElroy's writing is experimental. It is written out of his genius or years of perfecting his craft or both. It is This was a difficult read. But why? Without typical punctuation, unpredictable shifts in subject, object , paragraphs rising out of constellations, time swerving in irregular paths, the shifting of the floor beneath one's feet, I was drained. At first I sweated out who was talking to who, why, what about and what happened . I am a lover of Bernhard, Wallace, Hamsun. I do not believe McElroy's writing is experimental. It is written out of his genius or years of perfecting his craft or both. It is reasoned and purposeful despite at first seeming the opposite. It does not call attention to its design. As a matter of fact in an interview McElroy said that if read with care he tells you how to read these stories. As I began to catch on I found how bad I wanted, needed resolution. It was hinted, even offered then whisked away. I thirsted, having to stop and read something else for the day. The discomfort was settled in my bones, the nerves sending messages to my muscles. The way this book is written, and in what my limited experience has seen, it is unique unto itself without trying to be so. From within McElroy's lines rises experience; not the description of experience or its dramatic portrayal. There is no distance or filter. The raw experience arises from within by the reading of the words. The words often left me without knowing but the wanting to know pushing me on. Finish it yourself, he advises but also points out from one sharp edged paragraph to another, the linkage disjointed but now beginning to follow a master plan cadenced within a knowing of the story and its irregular unfolding, that finishing it is not what is called for. Transitions are lies, our need to connect the dots and be finished is a self-contained cry for an illusion of comfort. He successfully forced me into experiencing the world as it is, unfinished and unresolved, the dots nonexistent, the lines febrile and lost in the ether of dreamt desires. It happened before I knew it and it was too late to back out. I was left without carefully smooth transitions, resolution, connecting my imaginatively creative dots. Cold, bones chilled there was nothing solid to grasp onto. He was not rendering life but placing me within its storm. It is not fun nor is it even enjoyable. Yet I will reread and reread it. I do anyway in my waking moments as well as in my dreams. If anyone ever asks what is the purpose of literature, what is to be gained, answer them wisdom, hand them this book and walk away.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

    Naturally a very nice collection of micro=McElroy. Most of these feel like little chapters out of a larger work ; which is just my insistence that nothing will ever again match Women and Men. That is, several of these feel like they'd belong there or elsewhere too -- "Night Soul" presenting the intimacy of family relations with a new little one, "The Last Disarmament But One" playing upon the sci-fi trope of total national destruction, "No Man's Land" a neighborhood portrait. Lots of water. In o Naturally a very nice collection of micro=McElroy. Most of these feel like little chapters out of a larger work ; which is just my insistence that nothing will ever again match Women and Men. That is, several of these feel like they'd belong there or elsewhere too -- "Night Soul" presenting the intimacy of family relations with a new little one, "The Last Disarmament But One" playing upon the sci-fi trope of total national destruction, "No Man's Land" a neighborhood portrait. Lots of water. In other words, some vintage McElroy tropes. Here's the opening of "Annals of Plagiary", "It came to my attention that a person in the news had voiced a thought at her press conference as if it were hers, when the words that came to her were not her own but mine" which would seem itself a sentence lifted from elsewhere in McElroy, one's own words coming back to one as if they came from elsewhere and not from oneself. Baby steps into McElroy's fiction, into his sentence making, into his thinking. Why it's so damn urgent the Dzanc get that third edition of Women and Men to press soon. ________________ Excerpt from Night Soul and Other Stories, the story “No Man’s Land.” Audio interview with McElroy by Micahel Silverblatt regarding the publication of Night Soul and Other Stories. An essay by Flore Chevaillier from the Electronic Book Review, "Weight Inward into Lightness: A Reading of Canoe Repair." http://www.electronicbookreview.com/t... Stephen Burn review at NYT Sunday Book Review. Topological Fiction Stephen Burn January 28, 2011 “There’s a problem with the way Joseph McElroy’s fiction reaches the contemporary reader. While McElroy comes packaged as a postmodern novelist, the reader who picks up one of his books looking for the superficial imprint of his contemporaries — black humor? joke names? — will be confused by the classification. Although his work certainly feeds off late-20th-century energies, McElroy’s cosmopolitan, erudite fiction needs to be received on a wider bandwidth that also registers signals from other disciplines and earlier literature. The sudden shifts between his paragraphs, for instance, recall Braque and Picasso’s collage techniques, while many of his thematic obsessions overlap with those of modernists like Woolf, Bergson and Nietzsche. Reading Night Soul — a collection of 12 clever and oblique short stories — is, in fact, a little like being a member of Marlow’s audience in Heart of Darkness. We listen in a foggy void, and try to puzzle out the significance of a narrator’s inconclusive experiences.” And Burn also provides the nugget I’ve been looking for. DFW needle jockeys--we have identified which McElroy: “. . . while David Foster Wallace identified McElroy’s Lookout Cartridge (1974) as one of the ancestors of Infinite Jest."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mala

    Honestly, I was going to three star it till stories like 'The Last Disarmament But One', & 'The Unknown Kid' happened. They are way superior to what is mostly collected here. Some other notables are the title story, 'Annals of Plagiary', and 'Canoe Repair'. McElroy is a writer's writer in that he does some cool things structurally; po-mo readers will know them when they see them but for most readers, his writing might turn out to be more slog than fun unless you take those form-related experiment Honestly, I was going to three star it till stories like 'The Last Disarmament But One', & 'The Unknown Kid' happened. They are way superior to what is mostly collected here. Some other notables are the title story, 'Annals of Plagiary', and 'Canoe Repair'. McElroy is a writer's writer in that he does some cool things structurally; po-mo readers will know them when they see them but for most readers, his writing might turn out to be more slog than fun unless you take those form-related experimentations as the payoff itself, the pleasure in the process. I guess I was let down by my over expectations: I was expecting Gass-like beauty & Barth-like sense of fun. My bad, this writer has been compared to Gaddis & Pynchon both of whom I've experienced only second-hand. I find McElroy's echo in Foster Wallace in so far as their proclivity for technical writing goes but DFW is an unbeatable combination of head & heart & his charm & humour makes you happily plod through the sometimes unpalatable sections. McElroy's sensibility is a very urbane one & his empathy somewhat clinical (vis-a-vis DFW & Vollmann). Perhaps I need to disabuse myself of my relative connotations & look at this writer with fresh eyes—it's just that this particular collection didn't seem to elicit that much effort. (Sorry, NR & Jonathan.) I would say this is McElroy lite which could be a good point of entry or not, depending on your temperament. His talent seems suitable for the long form because the lengthier stories here inevitably build upon associations, inference, & layers of accretion-- a style whose indulgence requires space. McElroy's stories lie curled up in the amniotic fluid like water ( Water, water everywhere! ) dreaming up the impossible architectures through which his characters go biking! Given his fondness for science, science majors would enjoy his work more.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Paul Gleason

    Let me begin by saying that no one is going to "Like" this review. (Click "Like"! I dare you!). This is because I never know what to "do" with a McElroy book once I've finished reading it. Moreover, I've published on him and communicated with him personally, but his books always confuse and perplex me. In some cases, I literally need years to digest his work. Night Soul presents a new challenge for any McElroy reader. It's a collection of short stories written by a man known for his experimental Let me begin by saying that no one is going to "Like" this review. (Click "Like"! I dare you!). This is because I never know what to "do" with a McElroy book once I've finished reading it. Moreover, I've published on him and communicated with him personally, but his books always confuse and perplex me. In some cases, I literally need years to digest his work. Night Soul presents a new challenge for any McElroy reader. It's a collection of short stories written by a man known for his experimental excursions in long - or I should type LONG - fiction. The essay that I published on McElroy focused on what I called his "accretive" method of writing narrative. My argument was that McElroy's books somehow manage to tell a story not through conventional dramatic structures but by layering on information. In following his accretive method, McElroy is much more difficult to read than Pynchon, Gaddis, DeLillo, Stephenson, Barth, Gass, Coover, Delany, and Wallace - other, more conventional mega-novelists to whom he's often compared. I mean, most of the writers I just listed employ elements of conventional plot (okay, they all do) and with the exceptions of Gass and perhaps Delany are hilarious. This isn't to say that they don't pile on the information and teach us a lot of stuff - they DO! - but their books observe what old Horace said in the days of ancient Rome. They delight as well as instruct. Now, I have to say it (and maybe even apologize to Joe McE.), but I'm down with Horace. The problem with McElroy is that he's so damn brilliant but - if you're not in the mood to be insanely serious - so damn boring to read. But here's the thing. McElroy is boring to read IN THE MOMENT - as in the moment you're reading. I'm just not smart enough to process everything he has to offer as I read. I don't know what this says about me . . . I reviewed Actress in the House for a newspaper, and my younger self compared McElroy to Henry James - you know, the James of the Major Phase (The Ambassadors, The Golden Bowl, and The Wings of the Dove) - the James who invented literary modernism. But let's face it folks, James is another boring writer. Sure, you can be impressed by his brilliance as you read (I know he and McElroy impress me), but you don't laugh a lot. And I know that I don't itch to return to the book because I know that I'm going to have to work damn hard once I get there. Horace does indeed occupy a pretty prominent part of my brain . . . The short story collection? Of course, it's brilliant. McElroy is in full experimental mode - which is very cool to see. For example, "Mister X" is a tremendous story about . . . Well, in it McElroy allows us to compare the architecture of a man's mind to the architecture of a city to the architecture of his body to the architecture of the story itself. It's a very cool story - revelatory, even, in its commentary on our need for structure. And, of course, nothing about the story is traditional. McElroy piles on the information and somehow magically creates a narrative from it. The other stories in the collection follow suit. They're brilliant - but, in my opinion, they're so very boring. I don't think I'm being ironic in writing this. Am I? I mean, I once argued that McElroy is a better novelist than DeLillo because he's more boring. In the essay, I called DeLillo a name. I called him a "Romantic," mainly because he wants to delight us. Night Soul, despite its boring and intellectual brilliance, taught me that I now need to be delighted. As Bob says, "I was so much older then / I'm younger than that now." As the Joker says, "Why so serious?"

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cody

    We all love different writers for their idiosyncrasies, often shorthanded ‘style.’ For instance, I love Pynchon for his erudition and humor; DeLillo for his prescience; Carver for his minimalism; Mishima for his honor; Joyce for his explosions of possibility; Vollmann for his truth; etcetera, etc. The reason I love McElroy: his rhythms. No one writes with the percussive element to prose the way that Joe does. He has just as much in common with Jaki Liebezeit or Elvin Jones than he does with any We all love different writers for their idiosyncrasies, often shorthanded ‘style.’ For instance, I love Pynchon for his erudition and humor; DeLillo for his prescience; Carver for his minimalism; Mishima for his honor; Joyce for his explosions of possibility; Vollmann for his truth; etcetera, etc. The reason I love McElroy: his rhythms. No one writes with the percussive element to prose the way that Joe does. He has just as much in common with Jaki Liebezeit or Elvin Jones than he does with any of the above-mentioned authors. I am completely enraptured by the insectoid clicking of his writing. It is as singular a voice as has ever existed in Literature, and it taps out a Morse Code that is as urgent as it is genuinely concerned with the State of the State of the State (of the State). Night Soul and Other Stories reads like a sister-piece to Cannonball in many ways. More than a few of the stories are time-stamped Post-Terror (2001 P.T.) and McElroy’s refusal of ethnocentrism is without equal. Just compare DeLillo’s full-length Falling Man with opener “No Man’s Land” found here and dig the difference. McElroy accomplishes in a handful of pages what DeLillo failed at: ethnorelativism. The other stories display an easiness that I hadn’t seen before from Joe; mesmeric, laconic remembrances of (fictional?) youth peppered with its small, inherent tragedies. (“Canoe Repair” would be exceptional in, say, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country.) We are also treated to two Sci-fi à la McElroy tales—one being a mindbender of the miniature Plus variety. The breadth is astonishing. My personal favorite is probably “Particle of Difference,” a musical imagining of fatherhood and divorce that gives new meaning to the term ‘free jazz.’ As I say with every book I finish by JM: just read the thing. You’ll be a better and more-informed person for it. If not? Well, you’ll have some cool looking spines on your shelf when the Dream Police come knocking on your door (“they’re coming to arrest me, oh no!”) This, sadly, brings me to the 60% complete marker on my McElroy Project for the year. I expect I’ll be done by May if I lollygag. A lot. Only four more to go, which I would love to draw out, but I just keep being pulled back in. That’s right: Joseph McElroy has turned me into Michael Corleone. Stugots!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Literary Review The

    By Jeff Bursey For The Literary Review Volume 54 "Emo, Meet Hole" Night Soul and Other Stories displays how Joseph McElroy explores what connects people, states of being and things—“The lake was part of the canoe . . . ” (“Canoe Repair”)—and how this approach, present in his novels too, and perhaps the only way to do justice to such entanglements, starts with re-imagining sentences from the ground up. McElroy, like Xides the architect in “Mister X,” the richest story in this collection of twelve, is By Jeff Bursey For The Literary Review Volume 54 "Emo, Meet Hole" Night Soul and Other Stories displays how Joseph McElroy explores what connects people, states of being and things—“The lake was part of the canoe . . . ” (“Canoe Repair”)—and how this approach, present in his novels too, and perhaps the only way to do justice to such entanglements, starts with re-imagining sentences from the ground up. McElroy, like Xides the architect in “Mister X,” the richest story in this collection of twelve, is a “risk-taker known for the future, for humane blueprints,” and we, the reader, have to get involved and remain involved (going against Robert Glick’s disparagement in the American Book Review of “our quite bizarre expectations that we read every word, that we do not drift in and out of texts”)—we must be attentive, so as to witness the disappearance of the separation between us and what’s going on (not solely the action of the story, but the process), aided in this engagement by the reiteration of the word “you” that, as in McElroy’s 1987 novel Women and Men, for example, simultaneously is aimed at a character and we, the readers, so that we become part of the narrative, though maybe we resist with: Hey, how close does he want us to get? How close do we want to get? The stories, some of which go back to the early 1980s, pack an intensity that’s intellectual and, when they work best, emotional, though calling them stories does a disservice to their extravagant nature, their rude health, their expansiveness, the gesture they make, indirectly pointing to, acutely aware of, the shrivelled nature of contemporary stories that are tidy, hemmed in, that take up little space (and yet too, too much) and offer little back, so that this collection may be a rude gesture toward the writers of spiritually-malnourished offerings, evoking instead, in one case, the genial boulevardier Henry Miller of “A Saturday Afternoon” in the story “The Man With the Bagful of Boomerangs in the Bois de Boulogne” that contains what might be considered a description of McElroy’s efforts, as the man with the boomerangs “aimed each of those bonelike, L-shaped, end-over-end handles along some plane of air as if with his exacting eyes he must pass it under a very low bridge out there before it could swoop upward and slice around and back, a tilted loop whose moving point he kept before him pivoting his body with grim wonder and familiarity.” That “grim wonder and familiarity” illustrates McElroy’s seemingly bottomless, delighted astonishment that people do this or that, and A Smuggler’s Bible (1966), Lookout Cartridge (1974), Actress in the House (2003), for example, are books sent out on the equivalent of “planes of air” under the “very low bridge” (erected by writers who don’t strain for higher altitudes?) and noticed by those who gravitate to him, or to his science fiction/technology concerns displayed in Plus (1977), present here in two speculative stories—“The Campaign Trail,” featuring people, “[a]s God was their witness,” who resemble Obama and Hilary Clinton, a contemporary Adam and Eve (enjoy its Christian, Hemingway, and Wallace Stevens’ allusions), and “The Last Disarmament But One,” a science fantasy about a landlocked nation that commits suicide without endangering surrounding countries, leaving behind indestructible “refugee body-souls,” as one child puts it—and reminding us how it feels to meet again McElroy’s trademark, which, you might say, is the presentation of multiple planes of relationships and existence, where “some wholeness always unfolding” takes in past, present, and future, everyone and everything, frequently rooted in domestic details like an occupation (McElroy’s fiction populated by savants who, not idiots, yet stumble and misread like us) or a marriage close to collapse with children at risk, where what one says can be appropriated (see “Annals of Plagiary,” calling to mind The New Yorker), where it’s underscored that, as one character notes, “We say things. People are affected by them,” where your experiences merge, if you’re in the mood or lucky, with those drawn so well in these stories in a way that can be a mystical experience. In Night Soul and Other Stories we are faced, too, with a subtle mind, highly refined, dealing, at times, with appearances that are almost class-like—“Silk, or the Woman With The Bike” features one bicyclist, prone to or fond of or afflicted with “thinking ahead, to what he did yesterday, the day before, and the day before that, and what he again would do today,” a typical McElroy creation, who encounters an abrasive woman whose “bike perhaps suited her, but she was not quite a bicyclist”— and with ethnicity, when a Muslim family is targeted by the government in “No Man’s Land,” the first story and the collection’s weakest; similarly, where memories of a model whaleboat (in “Character”) are tied up with too many things, the customary energy in McElroy’s writing becomes dissipated, unlike the swirling activity around a family in “The Unknown Kid,” featuring a child’s question, “‘Then why did you bother to have me?’” which is skillfully modulated over the course of the story, always coming back with more in it than it had before, like a wave or energy field, everything changing shape as we read, not least thanks to our involvement as readers, spoken to throughout the book, as we discern shifting meanings. The collection concludes with the title story, and here McElroy isn’t building sentences so much as going for the origin of sounds, with a father looking at his newborn son in the desert night, more accurately listening to his first sounds “in an order more raw and stately—‘uh, ah, eh, ih, aw,’” the father’s palpable desire— “all he wants is to know what the child knows”—completely fruitless, for this man, like so many other characters, “has seen the future and should find tomorrow night that his child has left him with elements no longer of much use and has gone on,” the narrative making it clear that Age cannot catch up with Youth, that the vaster experience cannot overtake a child’s knowledge, and maybe this is humility on the part of Joseph McElroy as he enters his ninth decade, while we, like the pianist Vic’s audience in “Particle of Difference,” are “listeners who . . . absorbed, forget to reach for [our] drinks,” while we wonder where his imagination will bring us next. For more great reading Subscribe to The Literary Review

  9. 5 out of 5

    Маx Nestelieiev

    How&What/Process&Essence How? - Amazing! What? - Knowing is Not-Knowing. "There is in the sentences and in the information a vast amount of overload to give the reader a sense of teetering on the edge of not understanding" (from his interview to Tom LeClair in Anything Can Happen) No Man`s Land - nomad theme (remind me some ideas from Cannonball but probably it must be vice versa), strange family (all family are strange as Leo said; People are strange as Jim said). The Man with the Bagful - a bit aut How&What/Process&Essence How? - Amazing! What? - Knowing is Not-Knowing. "There is in the sentences and in the information a vast amount of overload to give the reader a sense of teetering on the edge of not understanding" (from his interview to Tom LeClair in Anything Can Happen) No Man`s Land - nomad theme (remind me some ideas from Cannonball but probably it must be vice versa), strange family (all family are strange as Leo said; People are strange as Jim said). The Man with the Bagful - a bit autobiographical (Brooklyn Heights detected) sketch about unmentioned Hemingway and something that can return (childhood I guess). a tiny masterpiece. Mister X - [later]. Character - as a part of Voir Dire is dense and dark as a part of mysterious forest (work-in progress). Story about "boats" as I understand it is also a bit autobiographical. Canoe Repair - "about relation of water to the canoe" (Joe`s words) and we all know how water is important for him. Another story about "boat". Annals of Plagiary - a tiny jewel. The Campaign Trail - b&w story about beast (poor killed animal) and beauty (nature). How to write about politicians without politics. The Last Disarmament but One - probably Joe at his best: neologisms, abbreviations, hard mix of technological and romantic / profane and sacred strains. dense prose as we like it. definitely it is the part from Women and Men !Future Shimmers in fact, promises lodging in you like both unknown insight and uncharted infection! Silk - romantic bike-story. too many words as for me. The Unknown Kid - as a part of W&M it`s not bad but as a single story it`s too much dense. Particle of Difference - [later] Night Soul - an impressionistic masterpiece.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Oh, I swoon. I love him so much. And what a sweet thing, to have a collection of short (ish) stories to savor in addition to those thousand-page, out of print novels! I'm not a fan of audiobooks, but it does occur to me after hearing the author read the opening of this collection's title story that it would be nothing short of amazing to have him record all of them. This is one collection I will return to again and again, with pleasure. Oh, I swoon. I love him so much. And what a sweet thing, to have a collection of short (ish) stories to savor in addition to those thousand-page, out of print novels! I'm not a fan of audiobooks, but it does occur to me after hearing the author read the opening of this collection's title story that it would be nothing short of amazing to have him record all of them. This is one collection I will return to again and again, with pleasure.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tuck

    difficult stories about modern life, mostly in nyc. themes of water and architecture prevail. book-ended by the stories "no man's land" and night soul" that will chill one to the core. to be read in a park in the sun. difficult stories about modern life, mostly in nyc. themes of water and architecture prevail. book-ended by the stories "no man's land" and night soul" that will chill one to the core. to be read in a park in the sun.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    Kind of excited about the possibility of interviewing McElroy. I'm sure that he's, hands down, the weirdest man alive. Kind of excited about the possibility of interviewing McElroy. I'm sure that he's, hands down, the weirdest man alive.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Bursey

    A collection of shorter McElroy pieces that, for the new reader, might be a good way into the expansive world of this fine and under recognized novelist.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aiden Heavilin

    Beautiful stories by McElroy. The atmosphere of the entire book, especially the marvelous final story, is so perfectly tranquil that I have to say these stories could probably be used as a therapeutic aid. Water, architecture, time... It's a far cry from William Gaddis's characters and their incessant bickering. McElroy's style is bizarre; he seems strangely uninfluenced, as if he were abandoned as a child without anything to read and developed a way of writing entirely his own. He mashes togeth Beautiful stories by McElroy. The atmosphere of the entire book, especially the marvelous final story, is so perfectly tranquil that I have to say these stories could probably be used as a therapeutic aid. Water, architecture, time... It's a far cry from William Gaddis's characters and their incessant bickering. McElroy's style is bizarre; he seems strangely uninfluenced, as if he were abandoned as a child without anything to read and developed a way of writing entirely his own. He mashes together thoughts in a sentence as if painting rather writing. Recommended!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Glaucon

    Very simple stories, written anything but simply. This was my first McElroy, and I was impressed by his writing. His sentences grow out like vines, flowering at many different points. I'd even say one would be able to take fragments of short stories and turn them into self-sufficient poems. The stories themselves however were strangely muted, not at all reflected in their oblique cadence. One gets the impression that the same stories would have a similar if not congruent effect if told temporally Very simple stories, written anything but simply. This was my first McElroy, and I was impressed by his writing. His sentences grow out like vines, flowering at many different points. I'd even say one would be able to take fragments of short stories and turn them into self-sufficient poems. The stories themselves however were strangely muted, not at all reflected in their oblique cadence. One gets the impression that the same stories would have a similar if not congruent effect if told temporally, through a stable if more boring perspective. There were also very visible points where the text seemed impressed with itself, where certain lines were spoken and reflected upon with visual emphasis' like warranting their own paragraphs. I was also impressed with how contemporary these stories were, even if some of the references were kind of lame. I look forward to reading more, longform works in this style. There is certainly an enticing challenge to be had.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Though a novelist of system like Gaddis and Pynchon, I can now say w/ near certainty that McElroy is almost never a short story writer of systems. His stories are gossamer inventories of impressions; impression opened out onto a great expanse. Open stories. Not contained. Not containable. In his essay "Neural Neighborhoods and Other Concrete Abstracts," McElroy offers up a long quote from Rilke which contains the words: "But outside, everything is immeasurable." This could be read as the core ph Though a novelist of system like Gaddis and Pynchon, I can now say w/ near certainty that McElroy is almost never a short story writer of systems. His stories are gossamer inventories of impressions; impression opened out onto a great expanse. Open stories. Not contained. Not containable. In his essay "Neural Neighborhoods and Other Concrete Abstracts," McElroy offers up a long quote from Rilke which contains the words: "But outside, everything is immeasurable." This could be read as the core philosophy behind these stories. These are stories that move through you like liquid. Rivers suspended in immeasurable expanses. They are hard to catch hold of. They are not bracing, though they contain bracing sentences. I suspect I will remember almost nothing of this book in a year. It is genius that slips away, having briefly intoxicated, not unlike the genius of John Hawkes. So: Night Souls and Other Strories is impossible not to be very, very impressed by (this is the rare real deal), but is also impossible to make much of a feast of. Please read it one story at a time, slowly.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    This was my first taste of McElroy, and in most of the stories I gave up on understanding the plot details. Instead I picked up gorgeous impressions or vague narratives, and I basked in his rich prose. Still, while some were beautiful, sensitive and intriguing, others felt like incomprehensible chores. Maybe these were just too difficult for me to really "get", but the best of these stories would have earned five stars on their own. This was my first taste of McElroy, and in most of the stories I gave up on understanding the plot details. Instead I picked up gorgeous impressions or vague narratives, and I basked in his rich prose. Still, while some were beautiful, sensitive and intriguing, others felt like incomprehensible chores. Maybe these were just too difficult for me to really "get", but the best of these stories would have earned five stars on their own.

  18. 5 out of 5

    George

    Really difficult book to get your head around, but for all its fragmented sentences and garbled syntax, I couldn't help but be intrigued at the whole thing. And despite my reservations I had while reading it, I also find myself admiring its style. You're thrust into it without regard and left thirsting some sort of structure, but I soon got over it which I feel may be a small part of it its point. Of the stories in here, I particularly enjoyed 'The Last Disarmament But One' and 'Particle of Diffe Really difficult book to get your head around, but for all its fragmented sentences and garbled syntax, I couldn't help but be intrigued at the whole thing. And despite my reservations I had while reading it, I also find myself admiring its style. You're thrust into it without regard and left thirsting some sort of structure, but I soon got over it which I feel may be a small part of it its point. Of the stories in here, I particularly enjoyed 'The Last Disarmament But One' and 'Particle of Difference'. I'm most likely going to revisit this at some point, if only to see if I can get it more and if my opinion on it as a whole might change.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alik

    #2 Out there past the brass plaques and dark wood surfaces and the warm glass and the conversation, the city doesn’t happen to answer. Not a student descending from a bus; not a woman hurrying by with two shopping bags like buckets; not a man in the street I’ve seen in many quarters carrying under his arm a very long loaf of bread and once or twice wearing a motorbike helmet. #6 ...I must open my eyes and look again at the newspaper column (that was all it was) and the photo of the dark-haired woma #2 Out there past the brass plaques and dark wood surfaces and the warm glass and the conversation, the city doesn’t happen to answer. Not a student descending from a bus; not a woman hurrying by with two shopping bags like buckets; not a man in the street I’ve seen in many quarters carrying under his arm a very long loaf of bread and once or twice wearing a motorbike helmet. #6 ...I must open my eyes and look again at the newspaper column (that was all it was) and the photo of the dark-haired woman, my borrower both frowning and smiling—and my words, “Water is always water—above, below, in flood, trickle, rapid or sea, but the traces we leave in it last like our changing thoughts.”

  20. 5 out of 5

    m

    Some of my favourite McElroy. Some of my least favourite McElroy (which is still miles better than most). This might change on a reread.

  21. 5 out of 5

    tom bomp

    I might come back to this later but right now, UGH. I feel I could have made it through and enjoyed more of it if it wasn't for the 3rd story being a dreadful interminable bore of a story about some kind of urban planner (except he wasn't ACTUALLY an urban planner - what was he? not explained) going to an accupuncturist (each time described in detail and the SAME details each time as if they have a meaning yet nothing really coming to light). This story takes up 1/5 of the book. I didn't even re I might come back to this later but right now, UGH. I feel I could have made it through and enjoyed more of it if it wasn't for the 3rd story being a dreadful interminable bore of a story about some kind of urban planner (except he wasn't ACTUALLY an urban planner - what was he? not explained) going to an accupuncturist (each time described in detail and the SAME details each time as if they have a meaning yet nothing really coming to light). This story takes up 1/5 of the book. I didn't even reach the end of it. I tried skimming to see if maybe things made more sense after finishing but couldn't even be bothered with that. His language is the only draw for me, but beautiful language doesn't make up for non-existent plots. I'm not expecting some obvious, easy plot, but I want to see something of the character of the characters. Here characters spout many deep statements but they feel inconsistent. By the end they come across as absurdly well educated stereotypes - not because he's a lazy writer who deliberately goes for them, but because I don't feel like I see enough detail to make them unique so I have to resort to applying a template to make them make any sense at all. I feel stupid criticising a book that's clearly written by a highly intelligent, educated expert at English. The thing is, the language is beautiful. I just feel like nothing happens with it. He narrates events that are neither real enough to be relatable nor fantastical enough to be escapist. His characters don't go through emotional development, and we don't see enough of their mind to care about them. The dense prose works against what is there by making the insights come even slower.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    *Although I found certain passages arresting, reading this book felt more like a chore (a particularly onerous one) than anything. “I knew him by a thing he did. He threw boomerangs in the Bois de Boulogne” (35). “...from within that temple of light and color, to view through my favorite window the gray spirit of the riverbank--its founded harmonies of palace and avenue…” (39). “A cork bulletin board crammed with intelligence…” (45). “...but coming at him like terrain to a paratrooper” (45). “To drea *Although I found certain passages arresting, reading this book felt more like a chore (a particularly onerous one) than anything. “I knew him by a thing he did. He threw boomerangs in the Bois de Boulogne” (35). “...from within that temple of light and color, to view through my favorite window the gray spirit of the riverbank--its founded harmonies of palace and avenue…” (39). “A cork bulletin board crammed with intelligence…” (45). “...but coming at him like terrain to a paratrooper” (45). “To dream is to know you’ve slept” (51). “...the Chinese, who had thought up pasta, hadn’t they (?), though not all its shapes…” (68). “...country people sent more men to the war than city people because country people could do things but the things they could do kept them from seeing that the war was, according to my father and mother and their friends, wrong…” (120). “Spiders don’t work well together. They eat each other” (227).

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Wren

    Joseph McElroy writes: Morality is a composed state of mind, said Chuck, the black philosopher, which seemed reassuring that health-club party-day of the forty-third-floor sunset. But now it seemed wrong, its wrongness reassuring. Our organist friend put us on the Unitarian Universalist mailing list and the church’s weekly newsletter came and I found in it under the headline “Ultimate Questions,” this supposedly West African saying: When you think how things are, And you don’t know how they began, An Joseph McElroy writes: Morality is a composed state of mind, said Chuck, the black philosopher, which seemed reassuring that health-club party-day of the forty-third-floor sunset. But now it seemed wrong, its wrongness reassuring. Our organist friend put us on the Unitarian Universalist mailing list and the church’s weekly newsletter came and I found in it under the headline “Ultimate Questions,” this supposedly West African saying: When you think how things are, And you don’t know how they began, And how they will go on, And you don’t know whether they will end… But rather than quote the rest, I’ll paraphrase it according to my own eclectic faith: “Complete it yourself.”

  24. 5 out of 5

    John Pappas

    It is nearly impossible to orient yourself within these stories, yet it is also nearly impossible not to recognize yourself in them. These densely-wrought elliptical narratives are often confounding, which, I suppose, is part of the point. They portray what critic Stephen Burn, in a recent review, calls "doubt in action". Perhaps the best of these stories deal with the self-doubt, confusion and sense of mystery a parent feels when regarding a child or the sense of collective doubt, or "not-knowi It is nearly impossible to orient yourself within these stories, yet it is also nearly impossible not to recognize yourself in them. These densely-wrought elliptical narratives are often confounding, which, I suppose, is part of the point. They portray what critic Stephen Burn, in a recent review, calls "doubt in action". Perhaps the best of these stories deal with the self-doubt, confusion and sense of mystery a parent feels when regarding a child or the sense of collective doubt, or "not-knowing" that the nation felt after 9/11. At times, McElroy comes across as too convoluted and oblique, but that could result from following multiple trails to no discernable resolution. Still, McElroy's voice is completely original and many of his sentences are gorgeous.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Curtainthief

    The two stars reflects my overall frustration with this book. There were certainly some five star stories in here, but there are others containing truly gag-enducing prose, that just BORE. The really successful ones weren't straight-forward but had enough of an emotional core to make me want to do the work of interpretation. Others were over-indulgent in their eccentric syntax, and/or just plain bland. A lot of times I read something and think, "I'm not ready," but a lot of what's here is honest The two stars reflects my overall frustration with this book. There were certainly some five star stories in here, but there are others containing truly gag-enducing prose, that just BORE. The really successful ones weren't straight-forward but had enough of an emotional core to make me want to do the work of interpretation. Others were over-indulgent in their eccentric syntax, and/or just plain bland. A lot of times I read something and think, "I'm not ready," but a lot of what's here is honestly, objectively (ha) bad, because I get what he's going for and it doesn't work. I read Smuggler's Bible and liked it. That, and the glimpses of genius in this collection will keep me moving forward in my exploration of McElroy. I am however, haunted by DFW's "sucked canal-water" comment...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brent Hayward

    McElroy's dreamlike, hyper-intelligent scenes work better when they are set within the expansive and fathomless oceans of his novels rather than in the smaller contexts of these dozen stories-- though the tales in Night Soul are stories in as much as the novels are any form of novel. Nobody writes like this guy. Without fully understanding what I'm trying to process, language and crazy rhythms wash over me, some parts vivid and humane and others obscured and beyond ken. McElroy's dreamlike, hyper-intelligent scenes work better when they are set within the expansive and fathomless oceans of his novels rather than in the smaller contexts of these dozen stories-- though the tales in Night Soul are stories in as much as the novels are any form of novel. Nobody writes like this guy. Without fully understanding what I'm trying to process, language and crazy rhythms wash over me, some parts vivid and humane and others obscured and beyond ken.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    Such pretentious drivel. No plots, no character development, no significant statements about the human condition and certainly no entertainment value. This is my first and last exposure to Mr. McElroy.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Geoff Wehmeyer

    Each of these stories grazed different nerves, but like in the acupuncturist story, these separate meridians converge very effectively. The last three stories, and "The Unknown Kid" in particular, show some of the best representation of family and relationships I have ever read. Each of these stories grazed different nerves, but like in the acupuncturist story, these separate meridians converge very effectively. The last three stories, and "The Unknown Kid" in particular, show some of the best representation of family and relationships I have ever read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rayroy

    "I had an easier time time with "Gravity's Rainbow" then I'm having with this book right now! "I had an easier time time with "Gravity's Rainbow" then I'm having with this book right now!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ben Brackett

    There is difficult to read, and then there are things that are just trash masquerading under that label. Putting this one beside the shitter in case I run out of toilet paper sometime.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.