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James Michener Fellowship winner Joshua Furst's widely acclaimed debut collection explores the perils and paradoxes of childhood in ten harrowing, moving, and surprising stories, offering a rare and unsentimental depiction of the lives of American youth.
In "The Age of Exploration," two boys experience the world so differently—Billy through science; Jason with fantastical powers of imagination—that they sense their lives will stray irrevocably away from each other. In "Red Lobster," which won the Nelson Algren Award, a gaggle of children try to please the father who has rounded them up from their various homes to take them to a fateful dinner. And in the collection's climactic story, "Failure to Thrive," a maternity ward nurse takes compassion too far. Emotionally astute, brilliantly written, these stories mark the arrival of a powerful new voice in American literature.
“A near-magical collection. . . . This is a book that will stay with you for a long, long time.” —The Miami Herald
“Sharp, funny, generous-minded. . . . Joshua Furst has an abiding interest in what kids do, and what they’re thinking when they do it.” —The Washington Post
“[Furst] captures the utter joy and wonder of the formative years, making real the awe we long ago forgot, along with time's bleak and nefarious sides. . . . Furst makes it all explicit–the cruelty, the astonishment, the treachery, the rapture–and in doing so creates a thoughtful if disturbing portrait of what it means to be a child. Or, more to the point, what it means to be human.” —Los Angeles Times
“[A] charged debut collection. . . . Like children, each story has its own way of demanding the reader's attention. . . . Furst’s attention to his characters, his allegiance, remains constant. There's real humor here, and terror, and an enormous sense of all that can be lost.” —Chicago Tribune
“Complex and compassionate . . . a literary and social force that challenges the preconceptions of what it is truly like to be a kid today.” —The Hartford Courant
“Short People is a remarkable collection of stories, a wide-ranging, unsentimental exploration of the lost worlds of childhood and adolescence, where the angles are all slightly askew and the logic is more rigorous than our own. These are scary, funny, brilliantly observed narratives; Joshua Furst is a terrific writer.” —Jay McInerney
“A subtle, richly textured book.” —Daily Mail
“[These] stories are must reading. . . . Joshua Furst has a real knack for these childhood and adolescent traumas; his stories capture this sensitive and often-forgotten time of transforming human experience.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Both stomach turning and heart wrenching. These powerful stories are unnerving and scary.” —The Boston Globe
“Joshua Furst's debut collection is a book about childhood, not war, yet it has the feel of a letter from the front written to a soldier just graduating from boot camp and dreading what's to come. Its message is heartbreakingly mature: it doesn't matter what the conflict's about. Once the fighting has started, you have no choice but to see it through.” —Dale Peck
“Raymond Carver-esque. . . . Like fairy tales, Furst's fables are full of hazards and temptations.” —Newsday
“Any one of these stories is enough to break your heart. . . . Joshua Furst's debut is both enjoyable and important. It succeeds not only in questioning the behavioral norms of America, but also in reawakening our understanding of what it feels like to be a child.” —The Times Literary Supplement (London)
“Joshua Furst writes about the world of young people with a complexity and lack of sentimentality that is rarely, if ever, explored in American literature. To read these stories is to enter into some dark worlds, but the magic here lies in Furst's affection for his characters and, moreover, his almost parental desire for them to turn out okay. Short People is, at its core, a book about caring, and no one has taken more care than the author himself.” —Meghan Daum
“Arresting. . . . As chilling as ghost stories–which, as the penultimate story reveals, they are in a way.” —The Observer
"[Furst] examines childhood and its discontents with utmost empathy, refusing to sentimentalize the harrowing process of growing up. . . . Wonderful, a reminder of the chaos of youth that makes you relieved you never have to go through it again.” —New City Chicago
“The tragedy for many of the children in Furst's stories is their inability to see beyond the frail boundaries of their own restricted domains. . . . Furst's prose is precise and controlled. He is very good on the anomalies and misnomers revealed from a child's perspective, and these stories amount to a powerful and moving commentary on our society's often cynical and contradictory attitudes to childhood.” —The Daily Telegraph
“So filled with energy, the lively characters of these stories jump off the page into the room, and amuse, shock, and also touch the heart of the reader with all the spirit of bright young people discovering the heights and depths of an astonishing new world.” —David Plante
“Furst clearly hasn't forgotten what it's like to be a child, but he also has a rare adult perception for the child's inner life. His refusal to take a romantic view can be disturbing, but it's also profound and often funny.” —Glasgow Herald