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Upright Beasts Paperback – October 13, 2015
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Praise for Lincoln Michel:
"Lincoln Michel is one of contemporary literary culture's greatest natural resources."—Justin Taylor, Vice
Time passes unexpectedly or, perhaps, inexactly at the school. It's hard to remember what semester we are supposed to be in. Several of the clocks still operate, but they don't show the same time. The red bells, affixed in every room, erupt several times each day, yet the intervals between the disruptions wax and wane with an unknown algorithm. The windows are obscured by construction paper murals. Consequently, the sun rises and falls in complete ignorance of those of us attending the school. Many of us participated in the decorations in some lost point of childhood. A few of us still have dried glue under our fingernails.
In the room I sit in now, the windows are covered with a glitter and glue reenactment of the colonization of Roanoke by Sir Walter Raleigh. Outside of the window, who knows?
Children go to school long after all the teachers have disappeared, a man manages an apartment complex of attempted suicides, and a couple navigates their relationship in the midst of a zombie attack. In these short stories, we are the upright beasts, doing battle with our darker, weirder impulses as the world collapses around us.
Lincoln Michel's work has appeared in BOMB, Oxford American, Tin House, the Believer, the Paris Review Daily, and elsewhere. A founding editor of the literary magazine Gigantic, Michel also serves as an online editor for Electric Literature.
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"Lincoln Michel is a master of where literary culture and the internet meet. His recent collection of funny, dark short stories, Upright Beasts, similarly blends worlds and bend rules."Brooklyn Magazine
[Upright Beasts creates] a world twisted just enough to feel strange, and defies easy categorization.”Publishers Weekly
Michel’s stories are often an uncanny combination of sinister and funny, tender and sad. Laura van den Berg calls them 'mighty surrealist wonders, mordantly funny and fiercely intelligent,' and many of them will soon be released together in Michel’s first story collection Upright Beasts.”The Millions
Michel ably handles modes from lyrical to ironic, but he is most comfortable in a purposefully flat stye that reads something like translated Kafka.”New York Times Sunday Book Review
Some of the stories are remarkable . . . A strong debut."Kirkus
Sometimes hysterically funny and sometimes quietly disturbing, Michel’s visions will appeal to readers looking for a few hours of purposefully unorthodox but refreshingly creative entertainment.” Booklist
...Lincoln Michel is a master of where literary culture and the internet meet. His recent collection of funny, dark short stories, Upright Beasts, similarly blends worlds and bends rules.” Brooklyn, "The Brooklyn 100: Lincoln Michel, Electric Literature & Gigantic Magazine”
Deadpan and life affirming, the stories in this genre-bending debut veer from an apartment complex for the suicidal to a ghostly artists’ colony to the innards of wild things.”O Magazine
Michel ably handles modes from lyrical to ironic, but he is most comfortable in a purposefully flat style that reads something like translated Kafka.”New York Times Book Review
The stories are full of monstrous surprises and eerie silences. But who is the real beast? Michel quietly, but unequivocally, leads readers to the answer as he navigates weird tragicomedy of daily life. With zombies. ”Vanity Fair
"It is rare, and refreshing, to see such range in a collection." Kenyon Review
"There is a bold, unpremeditated feel to Upright Beasts, a debut whose great strength is a changeability that keeps the pages turning as it veers from lucidity to madness and back again." Colorado Review
Like a Russell Edson prose poem or Joe Frank monologue, the stories are compelling and the resolutions often left me bewildered but strangely satisfied.”Critical Angst
The twenty-five stories in this vibrant, bold and often funny book are full of such confusions of time and place. Characters stumble around in the dark, seeking a sense of community, deciding to wrestle with or else secretly indulge their own most beastly instincts. There are stories within stories within stories, and grizzly bears swallowed by sharks that are then swallowed by sperm whales. Upright beasts don’t stay upright for long.”Guernica
Dark, surreal, and imaginative, Lincoln Michel’s short story collection Upright Beasts is full of surprises at every turn.”BuzzFeed
Michel captures the strangeness of the suburban South, and the rural wilderness surrounding it, through its chorus of blunt voices. His stories are absurd enough to reel you in, and emotionally honest enough to keep you reading.”Huffington Post
Michel, one of the country's most respected literary journalists, is also well known for his short stories that defy easy classification. This volume collects 21 of his offbeat tales, dealing with zombies, the apocalypse, and other bizarre, darkly surreal themes.”Men's Journal
[To] write a killer short story ... is a total miracle. But if you’re some kind deranged monster like Lincoln Michel, you can churn these puppies out in your sleep.”Tor
There was Lincoln Michel’s debut collection Upright Beasts, which collected a variety of modes of dark fiction from the Aickmanesque to the Kafkaesque.”Weird Fiction Review
[Upright Beasts is] a dark, dreamy spiral into a world mostly like ours, but a few degrees off, and this distance is more than compelling.”The Rumpus
I was delighted, and still am, at the fact that Michel is so aware of expectations and rules that he is able to break them with such aplomb, and without apology. Upright Beasts is a lovely, finally genreless, collection, and one that is sure to continue finding an eager audience."The Collagist
Many writers can show us the known aches in the known ways. I favor those who present new weirdness. Michel does a little of both in this collection. It may be read as the record of a talented writer learning the old procedures before bending them to new purposes."Green Mountains Review
Lincoln Michel’s debut collection, Upright Beasts, contains an element of unreality that delights even as it unsettles.”The Rumpus
Lincoln Michel has brought off a worthy debut in Upright Beasts, a rowdy klatch of stories with a number of winners.”The Brooklyn Rail
Upright Beasts, the debut collection from Lincoln Michel, offers numerous windows into the surreal and menacing. . . . It’s impressive, hypnotic work.”Vol. 1 Brooklyn
Lincoln Michel’s fiction defies genre in often-inventive ways. His first collection involves alien presences, mysterious schools, humans devoured by animals, and much more. If you like your short stories with a heady dose of the surreal and unpredictable, look no further.”Vol. 1 Brooklyn
[Upright Beasts is] a praiseworthy debut collection. It will haunt you long after the beasts have returned to the shadows.”KGB Bar Lit Magazine
Upright Beasts is an immersive and original book, and Michel’s stories often have a one more bite” quality. They’re swift, fun to read, and urge readers to compulsively turn the page.”Full Stop
Lincoln Michel's short story collection Upright Beasts enthralls with its tales of the surreal and the absurd.”Largehearted Boy
The imaginative Lincoln Michel presents his bestiary of strange and captivating stories.”Largehearted Boy
"I’ve been waiting for the release of his debut collection of short stories with all the anticipation of a kid standing outside the locked doors of a candy store just before it opens."The Quivering Pen
Peculiar deaths, zombie attacks, and apocalyptic events abound in 21 stories that showcase the absurdities of both ordinary and extraordinary human experience. Written with plentiful humor and heart, Michel’s collection is a wry exploration of all the ways in which wehumansare upright beasts.”Buzzfeed
Sly, obscure, and beyond terrific.”Fiction Advocate
[A] diverse, wonderful collection.”Airborne Aspidistra
While humble about his talent, it was obvious to everyone in the room that writing is what Michel is meant to do.”Cavalier Daily
Michel’s writing is both approachable and inspiring. You read [these stories], and you want to write them.”Lawnchair Boys
Upright Beasts is Lincoln Michel’s much anticipated debut story collection, out from the fabulous Coffee House Press.”The Masters Review
Though each story was published previously as a standalone piece, the nuance with which they’ve been organized in the book warps and enhances the reading experience. Some stories lean in the general direction of something resembling reality; others tack strongly toward the surreal.”C-ville
Weird, whimsical, horrific, romanticvery short stories can make room for some of the strangest, most wonderful things.”Catapult
"Put on your seat belt, it’s a ride towards Lovecraftian country houses and Long Island-like suburbia, to places we know and love and places we dare not think of. . . some of these stories will ignite your imagination, while others will force you to retreat from the real world temporarily. . . For all of the elements in this collection that make this fiction, there is an absolutely stunning image of what it’s like to be human, to live life and allow it to slip away, as Michel says: 'Death, in all its myriad incarnations, was, as always, right around the corner.' . . . it’s not just about how frighteningly close a writer can bring us to our imagination, it’s how close he can bring us to our reality."Heavy Feather Review
Upright Beasts heralds a fresh, uncompromising voice in literature.”The Man Behind Winkie's
About the Author
- Publisher : Coffee House Press; First Edition (October 13, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 216 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1566894182
- ISBN-13 : 978-1566894180
- Item Weight : 9.5 ounces
- Dimensions : 5 x 1 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #294,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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My son felt confused by things that were left unsaid, things that were hinted at and not spelled out, and by unwritten endings. What caused the teachers to vanish in that post-apocalyptic school? Who were the pale figures one character sees on the top of a treeline? I told my son it doesn’t matter - pay attention to the feelings they engender and use that to fill in the blanks on his own. And isn’t that the way life is? Things that aren’t spelled out sometimes give way to fear.
The stories are a blackly humorous take on the current, downward slope of white, middle-class America – failure at the office, failure at money, failure at school, failure at love – and, in this way, they seem particularly timely. The one feature of the American middle class that is not shared in many other parts of the world is the feeling of security – we wake up expecting to eat from a store of clean, plentiful food, to put on clean clothes, to have certain freedoms when we leave our houses. Michel upends this feeling of security by threading it with the sense of crisis that has begun to intrude on it, and which is particular to our modern age.
Another problem is that too many impossible or illogical things are in the stories for no reason that distract from the stories. These aren't things, so far as I can tell, that are supposed to be accepted for the story (for example, aliens show up at one point, but they are central to the point of that story, so complaining about logic would be unfair in that case). To give you an example of what I mean: in the first story kids have been left at a school for a very long time after the teachers and adults mysteriously disappear. The teachers have been gone long enough that their existence is starting to fade into myth, yet there is still cafeteria food to eat every day. It isn't important to the story, so why include this point? When you read it, it just distracts from what the author is trying to say. That sort of thing happens frequently.
The stories are frequently written in a way that come across as creepy, weird, or disturbing. I don't know that I can nail down exactly what it was that bothered me (though the story where the children play at hanging each other during recess was one such flag). Perhaps the best example that I can give is this passage: "I read the email from my mother on my phone while I was naked and urinating. 'Foster made it to Colorado,' it said." The first sentence doesn't tell you anything important about the narrator, his relationship to his brother (Foster) or his mother. Nothing is ever made of this. It doesn't illustrate anything or move the plot forward. It seems like a good editor would have pointed this out.
One of the book's strong points is that the author has such a strong voice and vision. This does become, in a short story collection, a weakness though. For example, the author frequently writes about unhappy childhoods, especially abusive or neglectful or unsuccessful fathers. If one of his stronger stories here had been included in anthology, it would have been fine, but getting all this in a concentrated dose was, for me, too much.
I did like "What We Have Surmised About the John Adams Incarnation", a story in which future scholars try to explain the founding of America and John Adams, which had humorous moments and interesting points to make about the view of the founders and the office of the presidency. I also liked "What You Need to Know about the Weathervane", a very good short view of someone who is wronged and then completely overreacts but is still justified in his own mind. And "Routine" was a fresh and interesting view of a horror staple.