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When The New Yorker published a short story by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh in 2010, it marked the emergence of a startling new voice in fiction. In this astonishing book, Sayrafiezadeh conjures up a nameless American city and its unmoored denizens: a call-center employee jealous of the attention lavished on a co-worker newly returned from a foreign war; a history teacher dealing with a classroom of maliciously indifferent students; a grocery store janitor caught up in a romantic relationship with a kleptomaniac customer. These men’s struggles and fleeting triumphs—with women, with cruel bosses, with the morning commute—are transformed into storytelling that is both universally resonant and wonderfully strange. Sometimes the effect is hilarious, as when a would-be suitor tries to take his sheltered, religious date on a tunnel of love carnival ride. Other times it’s devastating, as in the unforgettable story that gives the book its title: A soldier on his last routine patrol on a deserted mountain path finally encounters “the enemy” he’s long sought a glimpse of.
Upon giving the author the Whiting Writers’ Award for his memoir, When Skateboards Will Be Free, the judges hailed his writing as “intelligent, funny, utterly unsmug and unpreening.” These fiercely original stories show their author employing his considerable gifts to offer a lens on our collective dreams and anxieties, casting them in a revelatory new light.
“A tantalizing fiction debut . . . [that] menaces and mesmerizes.”—Elle
“Saïd Sayrafiezadeh is a masterly storyteller, working from deep in the American grain. This is a splendid fiction debut.”—Philip Gourevitch, author of The Ballad of Abu Ghraib
“In this beautiful collection, we see the wages of war, brought very close to home.”—Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion
“Bizarre and compelling and painfully funny, and something else, too: important.”—John Wray, author of Lowboy
“A vivid collection about the indignities and consolations of dead-end jobs, the joy of a stolen kiss, and the mysteries of friendship.”—Nathaniel Rich, author of Odds Against Tomorrow
“Saïd Sayrafiezadeh is a slyly subversive absurdist whose true subject is the deeply serious matter of our obligations to one another as human beings.”—John Burnham Schwartz, author of Northwest Corner
“Fun, moving, and reads like the work of a master.”—Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life
“Gritty, compelling stories about our embattled working class. This is a thrilling report from the trenches.”—Edmund White, author of Jack Holmes and His Friend
“An arresting fiction debut . . . With insightful humor and a keen eye for offbeat details, Sayrafiezadeh, entertaining and political without being heavy-handed, is a force to be reckoned with.”—Booklist