"As enchanting as fairy tales, as mysterious as dreams, these exquisitely composed fictions are as urgent and original as any being written today.” —Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend, winner of the 2018 National Book Award for Fiction
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An urgent and unsettling collection of women on the verge from Laura van den Berg, author of The Third Hotel
I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, Laura van den Berg’s first story collection since her acclaimed and prizewinning Isle of Youth, draws readers into a world of wholly original, sideways ghost stories that linger in the mouth and mind like rotten, fragrant fruit. Both timeless and urgent, these eleven stories confront misogyny, violence, and the impossible economics of America with van den Berg’s trademark spiky humor and surreal eye. Moving from the peculiarities of Florida to liminal spaces of travel in Mexico City, Sicily, and Iceland, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears is uncannily attuned to our current moment, and to the thoughts we reveal to no one but ourselves.
In “Lizards,” a man mutes his wife's anxieties by giving her a La Croix–like seltzer laced with sedatives. In the title story, a woman poses as her more successful sister during a botched Italian holiday, a choice that brings about strange and violent consequences, while in “Karolina,” a woman discovers her prickly ex-sister-in-law in the aftermath of an earthquake and is forced to face the truth about her violent brother.
I Hold a Wolf by the Ears presents a collection of women on the verge, trying to grasp what’s left of life: grieving, divorced, and hyperaware, searching, vulnerable, and unhinged, they exist in a world that deviates from our own only when you look too close. With remarkable control and transcendent talent, van den Berg dissolves, in the words of the narrator of “Slumberland," “that border between magic and annihilation,” and further establishes herself as a defining fiction writer of our time.
About the Author
Laura van den Berg is the author of the story collections What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us and The Isle of Youth, and the novel Find Me. She is the recipient of a Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Bard Fiction Prize, an O. Henry Award, and a MacDowell Colony fellowship. Born and raised in Florida, she lives in Cambridge, MA, with her husband and dog.
"Startling, precise . . . Van den Berg maintains an unsettling tone throughout these darkly imagined tales. This collection shows the author at her best." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"All 11 stories here are sharp as they are haunting; in this world—maybe like the real one—nothing is exactly what it seems. . .The stories here, vibrating with loss, but wickedly funny, are a distinctly van den Berg-ian hybrid, as biting as they are dreamy. Witty, painful, and thoroughly unsettling." --Kirkus (starred review)
“Another bravura display from one of our most imaginative storytellers. Each enthralling new plot seeks to uncover the essence of human experience by way of the uncanny. As enchanting as fairy tales, as mysterious as dreams, these exquisitely composed fictions are as urgent and original as any being written today.” —Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend, winner of the 2018 National Book Award for Fiction
"Laura van den Berg has this uncanny ability to strip away the window dressing that her characters, like us all, attempt to hide behind. Fears, anxieties, nightmares all rise to the surface. So tempting to make comparisons, throw around names like Jackson, O'Connor, even Renata Adler who makes a tiny cameo. No need: van den Berg is van den Berg and I was as stunned by the stories in I Hold a Wolf by the Ears as I was beautifully unsettled by them." —Peter Orner, author of Maggie Brown & Others
"You might be tempted to race through all 11 stories in Van Den Berg’s new collection, her first since Isle of Youth in 2013. This would be unwise, because haste and haunting are incompatible, and you really need to live with these ghosts, to slow your eyes over their uncanny weirdness until you’re both unsettled and seen—the hallmark quality of van den Berg’s writing." --The Millions