New Books From NER Authors

Lori Ostlund’s wonderful novel After the Parade should come with a set of instructions: Be perfectly still. Listen carefully. Peer beneath every placid surface. Be alive to the possibility of wonder.  Richard Russo, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Empire Falls.

81hmrXVScaLNew England Review congratulates Lori Ostlund on the publication of her debut novel, After the Parade (Scribner). Ostlund’s stories “The Children Beneath the Seat” and “Domestic Interiors of the Midwest: Two Stories” were published in NER 27.1 and 30.3.

“Written over the course of 15 years, Ostlund’s debut novel follows a broken and empty man who embarks on a six-month journey to make sense of his past, in hopes of comfortably inhabiting his present.” —Publishers Weekly 

Ostlund’s collection, The Bigness of the World, was the recipient of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the California Book Award for First Fiction, and the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award. Her stories have appeared in many literary publications including Best American Short Stories, O Henry Prize Stories, New England Review, Southern Review, and Kenyon Review. She has been a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference fellow, and currently lives in San Francisco.

After the Parade is available from Powell’s Books and other independent booksellers.

The most striking element of Saer’s writing is his prose, at once dynamic and poetic … It is brilliant. Harvard Review

41rgVmsHZaL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_New England Review congratulates Juan José Saer on the publication of The One Before (Open Letter Books). Saer’s novel excerpt “Thursdays at La Giralda” appeared in  NER 35.1.

From the publisher: “From the story of the two characters who decide to bury a message in a bottle that simply says “MESSAGE,” to Pigeon Garay’s attempt to avoid the rising tides and escape Argentina for Europe, The One Before evocatively introduces readers to Saer’s world and gives the already indoctrinated new material about their favorite characters.”

Juan José Saer is a leading Argentinian author of stories and novels, and received Spain’s competitive Nadal Prize in 1987 for his novel The Event.

The One Before is available from Open Letter Books and other independent booksellers.

A brilliant demonstration that less can be more and that readers can find entire worlds in a page or two.—Alan Cheuse, author of Prayers for the Living

Congratulations to Robert Shapard, Christopher Merrill, and James Thomas on theUnknown publication of their very-short-stories collection, Flash Fiction International (W. W. Norton). NER has published Shapard’s short story “The Old Bathysphere Film” (NER 12.4), as well as  Christopher Merrill’s review, “Reclaiming the Frontier: New Writings from the West” (NER 12.2).

From the publisher: “What is a flash fiction called in other countries? In Latin America it is a micro, in Denmark kortprosa, in Bulgaria mikro razkaz. These short shorts, usually no more than 750 words, range from linear narratives to the more unusual: stories based on mathematical forms, a paragraph-length novel, a scientific report on volcanic fireflies that proliferate in nightclubs. Flash has always—and everywhere—been a form of experiment, of possibility.”

Robert Shapard directed the University of Hawaii MFA program and now lives in Austin, Texas. Christopher Merrill directs the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.

Get your copy of Flash Fiction International at W.W. Norton & Company or at independent booksellers.

The mystery of the process of expansion and the state of never having enough are expertly envisioned and tested in Teague’s powerful, relevant poems, which give us a glimpse of our past and mirror our present. Booklist

51aiKZPdF9L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Alexandra Teague has released a new book of poetry, The Wise and Foolish Builders (Persea Books). Teague’s poems have appeared in both NER (29.2 and 25.1), and NER Digital—”Stone Disease” and “Safe.”

“These detail-rich poems possess both the attractions and the dangers of popular prose histories, even as they break out into lyricism that connects era to era, as when an early photographer’s “portable darknesses/fill with faces we keep hoping to/like.” —Publisher’s Weekly

Teague’s poetry is included in Best American Poetry 2009 and has been published in Missouri Review, Iowa Review, New England Review, Threepenny Review, and Southern Review. She was the 2014 winner of the Jeffrey E. Smith Missouri Review Editors’ prize and is Assistant Professor of Poetry at the University of Idaho and the editor of Broadside Press.

Purchase The Wise and Foolish Builders at Powell’s Books and other independent booksellers.

41VZVnYLRsL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Matthew Vollmer has a newly published book of short stories, Gateway to Paradise (Persea Books). Vollmer’s essay, “Keeper of the Flame,” appeared in NER 33.1.

From the publisher: “In these bold stories set in the mountains and small towns of the south, men and women looking for escape from dull routines and a culture of hype (whether of consumerism, sex, or religion) are led to places of danger and self-reckoning. A dentist on a tryst is seduced by and impregnates an impetuous ghost. A beleaguered young writing professor follows his imagination one step too far while escorting a famous writer he finds darkly alluring . . . Gateway to Paradise surpasses the promise of Vollmer’s first collection.”

Vollmer is the author of Future Missionaries of America, a collection of stories, as well as Inscriptions for Headstones, a collection of essays. He is the editor of A Book of Uncommon Prayer, and with David Shields is co-editor of Fakes; An Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, “Found” Texts, and Other Fraudulent Artifacts. His work has appeared in, among others, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, Tin House, Virginia Quarterly Review, Epoch, Best American Essays, the Pushcart Prize Anthology, and New England Review. He directs the undergraduate creative writing program at Virginia Tech.

Gateway to Paradise is available from Powell’s Books and from other independent booksellers.

NER DIGITAL | La Sagrada Familia: Spires | Alexandra Teague


SagradaFamiliaMy husband, his parents, and I stand at the top of La Sagrada Familia, spires spiking and tilting around us like great stone ocean waves, as if we are on the crow’s nest of a ship that is simultaneously pitching into sky and sinking. I’m usually scared of heights, but up here, even fear is under construction. After a century, only eight of the eighteen spires. After a century, the first stones of the Glory Façade: its roads to God and Hell both equally unbuilt.

After a decade, my husband still sleeping nightly on a pillowcase speckled with blood from his brother’s death, still angry at his father for, in the hours immediately after, disassembling his brother’s cage of finches, giving them all to somewhere. The sky. The ground. The noise his brother made gurgling blood into tubes because he had AIDS and no one had yet drawn the plans for pills to save him.

Gaudi wanted the Passion Façade to strike the onlooker with fear, the guidebook tells us. We are supposed to feel Christ’s sacrifice, to believe in death with high purpose. Forgiveness. But nothing is finished. The spire for Mary isn’t started yet; her body only more air.

My husband believed—does he still believe?—he would betray his brother’s life if he let grief go. He carried what he had—the fading stain on a pillowcase, the space where finches once rustled in the corner of a California apartment—like stone for a medieval cathedral. That blood:  brown into blue into white. He hated the inevitable washing. “Color is life,” Gaudi said. Also:  “My client is not in a hurry.”

Everything is possible in God’s time, but nothing is for sure, an Irish singer we love tells us. My husband’s family is Irish and Mexican Catholic. Mine, Irish Protestant. My husband and I are atheists. We believe in suffering for love. My mother is three years dead. We travel everywhere as a family. We play Quiddler and drink sidra and take pictures leaning into the blue between stones.

Asked why he’d lavished painstaking care on the tips of the pinnacles no one could get to, Gaudi answered, “The angels will see them.” My mother-in-law believed when her oldest son first came out he was a sinner. He died knowing she loved him. She still wouldn’t forgive herself for having to build backwards from faith to love.

My father-in-law never talked, in the six years I knew him, about the cage of finches. That hammering. The way the finches belonged to no one. I never talked about what I feared: that I could not go on carrying, around the world, the same unchanging stone.

Still: only eight apostles. Still no Virgin or Jesus. The guidebook says not even Gaudi drew plans for the whole basilica. He couldn’t know how others would need to complete it. A new subway tunnel shakes beneath now, like jackhammers, like heartbeats. The engineers say this is threatening the foundation. The engineers say this is threatening nothing. The angels say nothing. They roost, invisible on invisible spires.


Alexandra Teague is the author of Mortal Geography, winner of the 2009 Lexi Rudnitsky Prize and 2010 California Book Award, and The Wise and Foolish Builders (Persea 2015). She is Assistant Professor of Poetry at University of Idaho and an editor for Broadsided Press.

NER Digital is New England Review’s online project dedicated to original creative writing for the web. “Confluences” presents writers’ encounters with works of art such as books, plays, poems, films, paintings, sculptures, or buildings. 



Stone Disease | By Alexandra Teague

Landscape(“Stone Disease,” n:  The Victorian obsession with constructing monuments)

Sarah Winchester, Having Been Rescued from Her House, Considers Rebuilding (Apr 20, 1906)

Already, the newspapers are shilling for new buildings:  safer, stronger, walls that will withstand the earth’s dis-ease, as if windows could be willows:  tousled, weeping glass, unbreaking. Why should I believe?—stretching the chimney back to sky:  unsteady cache of bricks, like prayer words stacked inside a shaking throat. Who finds firm ground in probability? Having contracted like a crushed egg shell, the earth is stronger now, less likely to explode. As if my floorboards didn’t quiver like oaks again, rocked by the wind—my room, those hours I waited, a cradle held in breaking branches. Who—having dovetailed plank to plank or breast to breast—hasn’t felt the space that still resists? That fissure where our blent compulsions meet. I cannot consent to heaven and earth, this world and the next, beaten like the white and yolk of egg, Hawthorne wrote. And yet what holds them separate? Even strong walls bend:  soft as envelopes around a page of fear. Last year, in Argentina, I read, a girl’s heart stopped as she dressed for dinner—silk ribbon at her throat, silk stillness of her blood. She woke to stone, scraped knuckles raw against the dark:  that Doric-columned mausoleum built to honor her. There is no reason for fear, the papers tell us now: No need to leave this beauty spot of earth. We still have sunny skies, invigorating breezes, fertile soil. As if we could live, Edened, inside a peach pit—those fine-webbed hollows deep enough for breath. Who says the ground can’t be mistaken? Cannot take back what’s taken? They found her there months later. The thinnest doors stay locked; yet marble crumbles under its own shine like sandcastles under the gleam of waves. We have so little—chiseled stone, small scars—to mark the earth-flung earth.


ReadSafe,” Teague’s companion sketch to “Stone Disease.”

Secret Americas features writing about images from the U.S. National Archives. 

Image via Wikimedia CommonsSan Francisco Earthquake 1906: Fairmont Hotel and Synagogue, National Archives and Records Administration College Park.

Alexandra Teague is the author of Mortal Geography (Persea, 2010), winner of the 2009 Lexi Rudnitsky Prize and a 2010 California Book Award. She is Assistant Professor of Poetry at University of Idaho and an editor for Broadsided Press. Her work previously appeared in NER 25.1-2.

Safe | By Alexandra Teague

“The more comfortable man makes himself indoors,
the more dangerous do earthquakes become.”
“Let us all banish from our minds forebodings of
the future. WE ARE SAFE. Of this we may feel assured.”
-San Jose Mercury News, late April 1906

When your city wakes as the new ancient ruins:  blocks’ scrambled rubble:  Delphi’s oracle stone-lipped and raving in the streets (wasn’t it she who said to place your faith in wooden walls?). When buildings crumple like newsprint, catch in the wind’s fist, words burning into voweled cries, the living asleep with the dead—whom can you believe? A man shoots a man for stealing a can of tomatoes for his wife and child. A man shoots a man for cutting rings from a corpse’s fingers. Men crowd up broken brick to watch the bank safe opened:  Grecian doorway gaping dark as a throat. Natural contractions of the Earth’s crust, say the papers. Sun spots. Men who were millionaires at daybreak paupers. Saw blade of wall above dark bowler hats, the white sky cut. Inside the safe:  safe gold? Or paper money? Wings of bees? Or olive branches? Siren songs that drove the gods to murder? There is always a future, the past says. Always temples falling. Prophesies offered in a death-smoke high:  We Will Rebuild Better, Stronger.   Theater Dark Until Further Notice.   (Phroso, The Mysterious, Performance Cancelled)   Barnett Real Estate:  Proudly Selling The Earth. 


ReadStone Disease,” Teague’s companion sketch to “Safe.”

Secret Americas features writing about images from the U.S. National Archives.

Image via Wikimedia Commons – San Francisco Earthquake 1906, Opening a Safe, National Archives and Records Administration College Park

Alexandra Teague is the author of Mortal Geography (Persea, 2010), winner of the 2009 Lexi Rudnitsky Prize and a 2010 California Book Award. She is Assistant Professor of Poetry at University of Idaho and an editor for Broadsided Press. Her work previously appeared in NER 25.1-2.