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Night Soul and Other Stories

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  117 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
Best known for his complex and beautiful novels—regularly compared to those of Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis, and Don DeLillo—Joseph McElroy is equally at home in the short story, having written numerous pieces over the course of his career that now, collected at last, serve as an ideal introduction to one of the most important contemporary American authors. Combining ele ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 11th 2011 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published January 3rd 2011)
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Dec 02, 2014 s.penkevich rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Shelves: short-story, po-mo, dalkey
Water is always water – above, below, in flood, trickle, rapid or sea, but the traces we leave in it last like our changing thoughts.

Joseph McElroy, best known for his sprawling novels such as Women and Men or Lookout Cartridge, evinces an equally impressive prowess with his short game in Night Soul and Other Stories. The twelve stories, collected from the past three decades, demonstrate his versatility as an author and philosophical investigator as he deals with topics ranging from politics,
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Naturally a very nice collection of micro=McElroy. Most of these feel like little chapters out of a larger work ; which is just my insistence that nothing will ever again match Women and Men. That is, several of these feel like they'd belong there or elsewhere too -- "Night Soul" presenting the intimacy of family relations with a new little one, "The Last Disarmament But One" playing upon the sci-fi trope of total national destruction, "No Man's Land" a neighborhood portrait. Lots of water. In o ...more
Stephen P
Dec 06, 2012 Stephen P rated it it was amazing
This was a difficult read. But why? Without typical punctuation, unpredictable shifts in subject, object , paragraphs rising out of constellations, time swerving in irregular paths, the shifting of the floor beneath one's feet, I was drained. At first I sweated out who was talking to who, why, what about and what happened . I am a lover of Bernhard, Wallace, Hamsun. I do not believe McElroy's writing is experimental. It is written out of his genius or years of perfecting his craft or both. It is ...more
Jun 24, 2012 Hadrian rated it really liked it
My first McElroy. I'd rather dip my toe with the short stories rather than drown in Women and Men.

The thing that most struck me about these stories was their ephemeral, dream-like quality, a constant shifting of details yet you're absorbed in them. Many people go without names or are only introduced later. "On the Campaign Trail", an imagined tryst between Barack and Hillary, mentions no names.

The one 'omission' is that these stories had no previous publishing information, but they all seemed re
Honestly, I was going to three star it till stories like 'The Last Disarmament But One', & 'The Unknown Kid' happened. They are way superior to what is mostly collected here. Some other notables are the title story, 'Annals of Plagiary', and 'Canoe Repair'.
McElroy is a writer's writer in that he does some cool things structurally; po-mo readers will know them when they see them but for most readers, his writing might turn out to be more slog than fun unless you take those form-related experi
Mar 02, 2016 Cody rated it really liked it
We all love different writers for their idiosyncrasies, often shorthanded ‘style.’ For instance, I love Pynchon for his erudition and humor; DeLillo for his prescience; Carver for his minimalism; Mishima for his honor; Joyce for his explosions of possibility; Vollmann for his truth; etcetera, etc. The reason I love McElroy: his rhythms. No one writes with the percussive element to prose the way that Joe does. He has just as much in common with Jaki Liebezeit or Elvin Jones than he does with any ...more
Paul Gleason
Nov 19, 2012 Paul Gleason rated it really liked it
Let me begin by saying that no one is going to "Like" this review. (Click "Like"! I dare you!). This is because I never know what to "do" with a McElroy book once I've finished reading it. Moreover, I've published on him and communicated with him personally, but his books always confuse and perplex me. In some cases, I literally need years to digest his work.

Night Soul presents a new challenge for any McElroy reader. It's a collection of short stories written by a man known for his experimental
Literary Review The
Feb 06, 2013 Literary Review The rated it it was amazing
By Jeff Bursey

For The Literary Review
Volume 54 "Emo, Meet Hole"

Night Soul and Other Stories displays how Joseph McElroy explores what connects
people, states of being and things—“The lake was part of the canoe . . . ” (“Canoe
Repair”)—and how this approach, present in his novels too, and perhaps the only
way to do justice to such entanglements, starts with re-imagining sentences from
the ground up.
McElroy, like Xides the architect in “Mister X,” the richest story in this collection of twelve, is
Apr 07, 2011 Tuck rated it really liked it
difficult stories about modern life, mostly in nyc. themes of water and architecture prevail. book-ended by the stories "no man's land" and night soul" that will chill one to the core. to be read in a park in the sun.
Маx Nestelieiev
Dec 11, 2015 Маx Nestelieiev rated it it was amazing
Shelves: english

How? - Amazing!
What? - Knowing is Not-Knowing.

"There is in the sentences and in the information a vast amount of overload to give the reader a sense of teetering on the edge of not understanding" (from his interview to Tom LeClair in Anything Can Happen)

No Man`s Land - nomad theme (remind me some ideas from Cannonball but probably it must be vice versa), strange family (all family are strange as Leo said; People are strange as Jim said).

The Man with the Bagful - a
Jun 23, 2015 Andrea rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Oh, I swoon. I love him so much. And what a sweet thing, to have a collection of short (ish) stories to savor in addition to those thousand-page, out of print novels!

I'm not a fan of audiobooks, but it does occur to me after hearing the author read the opening of this collection's title story that it would be nothing short of amazing to have him record all of them.

This is one collection I will return to again and again, with pleasure.
Oct 01, 2014 Morgan rated it really liked it
This was my first taste of McElroy, and in most of the stories I gave up on understanding the plot details. Instead I picked up gorgeous impressions or vague narratives, and I basked in his rich prose. Still, while some were beautiful, sensitive and intriguing, others felt like incomprehensible chores. Maybe these were just too difficult for me to really "get", but the best of these stories would have earned five stars on their own.
Mar 31, 2012 Adam rated it really liked it
He was on Bookworm this week. An aside just before he read-- 'It may be ego; no I'm sure it's ego, but when I read this story I feel proud. And I know we live in the age of television, but I'm very happy to be reading this on the radio' --was so odd and sudden and honest. He's a truly moving and interesting human. I can't wait to read his fiction.
Jeff Bursey
Dec 27, 2015 Jeff Bursey rated it really liked it
A collection of shorter McElroy pieces that, for the new reader, might be a good way into the expansive world of this fine and under recognized novelist.
Sep 23, 2010 Jimmy marked it as to-read
Shelves: fiction
Kind of excited about the possibility of interviewing McElroy. I'm sure that he's, hands down, the weirdest man alive.
Jan 30, 2016 Jason rated it really liked it
Though a novelist of system like Gaddis and Pynchon, I can now say w/ near certainty that McElroy is almost never a short story writer of systems. His stories are gossamer inventories of impressions; impression opened out onto a great expanse. Open stories. Not contained. Not containable. In his essay "Neural Neighborhoods and Other Concrete Abstracts," McElroy offers up a long quote from Rilke which contains the words: "But outside, everything is immeasurable." This could be read as the core ph ...more
Mark Sacha
I've been meaning to sample McElroy's writing for a while. He taught at my school for a number of years, before my time, and the comparisons to DeLillo and Pynchon that I suppose is valid according to certain people (people who realized that the way to market "postmodern" lit is to rattle off the names of other, popular postmodern guys) meant that, eventually, I would get around to it.

I'm walking away from this collection with a mixed impression. I would like to believe that it's mostly positive
Mar 25, 2016 Reuben rated it liked it
Like many others, this was my first exposure to Joe: Joe Momma, Bobby JoeMack, etc. And I tentatively enjoyed it. (Obligatory, "if Goodreads had half-stars this would be 2.5 stars", comment).

McElroy seems to take a lot of care in presenting abstractions, such as concepts and systems, in living, breathing ways. How he does this varies throughout the stories: In the title story there appears a metempsychosis of the soul of language into the infant child of the narrator (the transmigration of langu
Nov 10, 2014 Evan rated it liked it
Half of the stories were beautiful and half of them were too cryptic.
Aug 08, 2016 Filip rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Premda se čitanje većine priča pokazalo nimalo lakim zadatkom, trud se svakako isplatio, i isplatio se ne samo nakon čitanja knjige, već i, pre svega, u toku čitanja. Priče se katkad čine apstraktnim, katkad nepotpunim, ali se iza njih kriju ozbiljne teme od kojih je, protkana kroz sve priče, tema o odnosima među ljudima--između žena i muškaraca, očeva i sinova, pre svega, ali i globalne teme o društvu, ratovima, tehnologiji itd. mada posmatrane kroz oči pojedinca, kao i onoj koja se čini omilje ...more
tom bomp
I might come back to this later but right now, UGH. I feel I could have made it through and enjoyed more of it if it wasn't for the 3rd story being a dreadful interminable bore of a story about some kind of urban planner (except he wasn't ACTUALLY an urban planner - what was he? not explained) going to an accupuncturist (each time described in detail and the SAME details each time as if they have a meaning yet nothing really coming to light). This story takes up 1/5 of the book. I didn't even re ...more
Oct 03, 2015 Katherine rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
*Although I found certain passages arresting, reading this book felt more like a chore (a particularly onerous one) than anything.

“I knew him by a thing he did. He threw boomerangs in the Bois de Boulogne” (35).
“...from within that temple of light and color, to view through my favorite window the gray spirit of the riverbank--its founded harmonies of palace and avenue…” (39).
“A cork bulletin board crammed with intelligence…” (45).
“...but coming at him like terrain to a paratrooper” (45).
“To drea
Aug 04, 2016 Curtainthief rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016-tome-tower
The two stars reflects my overall frustration with this book. There were certainly some five star stories in here, but there are others containing truly gag-enducing prose, that just BORE. The really successful ones weren't straight-forward but had enough of an emotional core to make me want to do the work of interpretation. Others were over-indulgent in their eccentric syntax, and/or just plain bland. A lot of times I read something and think, "I'm not ready," but a lot of what's here is honest ...more
John Pappas
Jul 27, 2011 John Pappas rated it really liked it
It is nearly impossible to orient yourself within these stories, yet it is also nearly impossible not to recognize yourself in them. These densely-wrought elliptical narratives are often confounding, which, I suppose, is part of the point. They portray what critic Stephen Burn, in a recent review, calls "doubt in action". Perhaps the best of these stories deal with the self-doubt, confusion and sense of mystery a parent feels when regarding a child or the sense of collective doubt, or "not-knowi ...more
Jacob Wren
Joseph McElroy writes:

Morality is a composed state of mind, said Chuck, the black philosopher, which seemed reassuring that health-club party-day of the forty-third-floor sunset. But now it seemed wrong, its wrongness reassuring.

Our organist friend put us on the Unitarian Universalist mailing list and the church’s weekly newsletter came and I found in it under the headline “Ultimate Questions,” this supposedly West African saying:

When you think how things are,
And you don’t know how they began,
Ben Brackett
Apr 10, 2014 Ben Brackett rated it did not like it
There is difficult to read, and then there are things that are just trash masquerading under that label. Putting this one beside the shitter in case I run out of toilet paper sometime.
I rated and reviewed this book, just not for Goodreads/Amazon. See
Geoff Wehmeyer
Jun 04, 2011 Geoff Wehmeyer rated it it was amazing
Each of these stories grazed different nerves, but like in the acupuncturist story, these separate meridians converge very effectively. The last three stories, and "The Unknown Kid" in particular, show some of the best representation of family and relationships I have ever read.
Apr 24, 2012 Pat rated it did not like it
Such pretentious drivel. No plots, no character development, no significant statements about the human condition and certainly no entertainment value. This is my first and last exposure to Mr. McElroy.
Oct 30, 2012 Rayroy rated it it was ok
"I had an easier time time with "Gravity's Rainbow" then I'm having with this book right now!
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Women and Men: Night Soul and Other Stories -- 2011 3 27 Nov 27, 2013 08:00AM  
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Joseph McElroy is an American novelist, short story writer, and essayist.

McElroy grew up in Brooklyn Heights, NY, a neighborhood that features prominently in much of his fiction. He received his B.A. from Williams College in 1951 and his M.A. from Columbia University in 1952. He served in the Coast Guard from 1952–4, and then returned to Columbia to complete his Ph.D. in 1961. As an English instru
More about Joseph McElroy...

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