Jeffrey Renard Allen

Holding Pattern [Graywolf Press]

Books Reviews Jeffrey Renard Allen
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Jeffrey Renard Allen

A Chagall of Chicago stories

If you haven’t yet heard of Allen, you will. Junot Diaz and Mary Gaitskill, two of our finest contemporary fiction writers, are unabashed fans, yelling of this prose surrealist, “prodigiously talented” (Diaz) and “stunning, tragic, wildly funny” (Gaitskill).

Though he now lives and teaches in New York City, Allen’s urban voice remains more a product of his native Chicago, where the fantastic and miraculous would seem deeply at odds with the Windy City’s grit and grift. But in Allen’s stories, pennies literally fall from heaven (“It Shall Be Again”), and prisoners hover about the grey walls of their cells on tiny absurd wings (“Holding Pattern”), and a demon child bedevils a reckless businessman (“Shimmy”).

Allen’s first calling was verse, and his considerable poetic gifts of observance and language help keep aloft stories that might crash and burn in lesser hands.