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The Wallcreeper

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  3,477 ratings  ·  528 reviews
Nell Zink’s debut novel follows a downwardly mobile secretary from Philadelphia who marries an ambitious soon-to-be-expat pharmaceutical researcher in hopes that she will never work again. They end up in Germany, where it turns out that her new husband is tougher, sneakier, more sincere, more contradictory, and smarter than she is; she’d naturally thought it was ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published March 10th 2016 by 4th Estate (first published October 1st 2014)
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Bob Lopez Near the beginning there's an off-hand reference to a review of "Man Who Loved Children."

"'Oh, you go,' I said. 'I'm reading a book some guy raved…more
Near the beginning there's an off-hand reference to a review of "Man Who Loved Children."

"'Oh, you go,' I said. 'I'm reading a book some guy raved about in the Times called The Man Who Loved Children.'"

That 'Some Guy' is Franzen. I only know this bc he included his review in his last collection, Farther Away.

In fact, here's a link to the review:

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Average rating 3.28  · 
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J.A. Carter-Winward
Sep 26, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ugh-just-no
Reviews: the reason people read reviews is to decide for themselves whether or not they should invest the time, money and energy into reading a novel. This is only my opinion, and reflects not on the author personally, but on this particular work of fiction.

I read the New York Times book review of The Wallcreeper AFTER finishing the book. What came to my mind was, The Emperor's New Clothes. But the author, the Times, the famous "blurber," all want us to see gilded gold and refined cloth. But
Sep 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strangely enough, this is the second female-authored 2015 bestselling US novel about an adulterous expatriate American housewife living in Switzerland that I've read this year. However, putting down Jill Alexander Essbaum's Hausfrau and turning to Nell Zink's The Wallcreeper, as I did while preparing this review, feels like leaping out of a coma singing the opening bars of Sha-La-La by Al Green. Rarely do you get such a chance to see how themes that were trite and plodding with one writer can ...more
Paul Bryant
Jul 13, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
They are all gaga for this novel. All of them. For all these reviewers The Wallcreeper is like a heart transplant, they’re bounding around, they’re happy again.

I don’t know, it was okay but -

It wasn’t like the day of the Rapture for American fiction. I’ve read stuff that isn’t a million miles away from Nell Zink.

Absolutely – all these people saying how weird and far out she is have never come across Alissa Nutting or Matt Bell -

Miranda July -

Or even the venerable and ancient firm of George
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book could have a great pulp-erotica cover and a tagline like SHE WOULD DO ANYTHING. . . FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, but instead it’s tastefully covered up by an intriguing and surrealistic front (it’s actually a great design.) I can only imagine the bewilderment of some people who were expecting a much more serious, literary book. Take for example, our current most popular review of this book, a one-star rating by a reviewer who is disappointed that this book wasn’t written with “heart,” and ...more
Jenna Evans
Sep 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, this is one weird, fucked-up, compelling, funny, angry, sexy, twisted, intellectual little book. I don't know how she managed to get it published in today's world -- it's so offbeat and unclassifiable -- but I'm excited that she did. I couldn't really put it down. Really interested to see what Zink does next, too.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Oct 22, 2017 marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: PW 7/21/14
This is going to be one book from the Dorothy Project that I will not be finishing. It's described all over as a funny book and I'm sorry but it starts with a woman having a miscarriage and almost dying because her husband is a trying to find a bird? I just don't see the humor. This is not the book for me. I even kept going after that, but that was a mistake.
Lee Klein
Dec 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked its flighty sexy fun for the most part but also found myself against its caprice as idea/art. But then once I finished -- thanks to the end -- I started thinking about it as a contemporary feminist companion piece to Kenzaburo Oe's A Personal Matter (oh, it's a moral tale about taking responsibility for yourself!) and knocked the rating up a bit. Franzen blurbed it for the birding and Berlin, and those bits -- the insider info on Germany/thereabouts and similes involving angry robins, ...more
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't know if I'm too prudish for this book, or not artistic enough, or if this really is just a terrible book. The characters are all unlikable (I think intentionally), there's a whole theme of birds and bird watching that does nothing for the main narrative, and, most importantly, the narrative is a build up to nothing. It ended and I was just happy it was over, I didn't care what happened to any of the characters. At least it was short.
This book is about a twenty-something woman growing up late. Tiffany draws us in to her odd life on the power of her fresh and quirky way of looking at the world. It’s a fun, but confusing ride. In the end it’s only her writing of it that is admirable.

At the start we have she and her husband living in Berne, Switzerland, where he has transferred from the States to work in marketing for a pharmaceutical company. A collision of their car with a bird called a wallcreeper helps facilitate a growing
Natalie Draper
Narcissistic Tiffany's total apathy and the improbable Stephen delivered a bunch of snappy zingers at each other, screwed around on each other, did things that made no sense in any dimension, and then I didn't really care anymore, plus bird watching. There were some damn good sentences in this book though. Nell Zink could be a master of twitter. I went back and forth between liking it and total alienation from the story and characters.
Far be it from me to read what Jonathan Franzen tells me to read, but this was given to me by an in-law with notably good taste in books. He has not let me down.

This book is a much better book than I give it credit for. But I feel things deeply, and I like feeling things deeply, and this book does neither. It skips and hovers over things and never really pokes them too hard. It's worth reading, for sure but it and I were never meant to love each other.
Ben Loory
a lot of sparkling writing draped over yet another miserable story about a married couple having affairs
Jim Elkins
Frantic Cleverness

Zink clamors for the reader's attention in every line, unremittingly, for an exhausting 150 pages. At times this works well. The opening pages are bound to be surprising, because there is not yet enough text to judge what she's up to. It works, as several of the hundreds of reviewers on Goodreads have noted, in the passage on anal sex, because it's unusual to see that subject treated to so many changes of viewpoint (pp. 7-8). But it does not work for the majority of the book.

I’d been desperately eager to try Zink’s work but – now that I finally found a copy of one of her books at my new library – can’t think why. I liked the madcap birdwatching and ecoterrorism material, and there are some genuinely hilarious lines, but most of the characters seem to be here just to say some goofy stuff and then disappear once they’ve served their purpose. I could relate to Tiff’s sense of dislocation and purposelessness, but not at all to most of her decisions. Plus the sexual ...more
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Too "clever" for its own good (could use a healthy dose of "kill your darlings").

Almost became a case study on self delusion and futility. This was ruined by a too tidy and moralistic ending.

Hype is the enemy. I should know by now to not be seduced.
Julianne (Outlandish Lit)
Oct 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
The characters in this book are some weird, confusing assholes. The Wallcreeper is a strange tale about some pretentious weirdos who are married. Well, Tiffany married Stephen really quickly and then they kind of also explore extra-marital affairs, which is sometimes not a big deal but is other times a very big deal. They're kind of both lazily interested in a future together and furthering potential careers, but not to the extent that they aren't just floating around talking about birds one ...more
Dov Zeller
This book does interesting things with prose and movement. As Warwick says in his gr review, Zink shifts gears a lot in one paragraph. That's exactly it. She shifts gears which creates a fascinating kind of movement and slippage (a wake or a vacuum), and there are brilliant, shining moments.

What Zink does with emotional geography is disconcerting and refreshing. She defamiliarizes the mundane and mundanes the outrageous and does so quite matter-of-factly.

The book itself as a whole I did not
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Tricky to rate this one. I think even Zink herself has referred to this as “unpublishable”. But I kind of got obsessed with it.

It’s not deep but it’s very wide. It’s short and funny so I reread it to take another crack at some of the references. In fact it needs the references to work. (Even franzen didn’t get all of them according to that Dutch Zink interview) It also needs to be read quickly. The first time through I even missed some of the references to earlier events in the book. A book
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, american-lit
The cover quotes on ‘The Wallcreeper’ really talk it up, and rightly so for once. Nell Zink’s prose has an incredible clipped, ironic sincerity that is much harder to describe than it is to appreciate. Historically, I have been bored and irritated by novels about marriage, adultery, and couples deciding whether to have children, particularly if they were written in the last twenty years. Although ostensibly ‘The Wallcreeper’ ticks all these boxes, and features a main female character seemingly ...more
Jan 04, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not ashamed to admit I didn't get or like this book. A couple marries, is into birds, sleeps with everyone around them, is sort of into river ecology...I guess I'm not sure anything happened in this book. Worst part? The writing read like it was written for the approval of a creative writing teacher. Best part? It's really short.
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: hipsters, female authors
Recommended to mark by: n+1
The wallcreeper is a rare bird that resides in central Europe. It’s similar to the American nuthatch, the Brown Creeper, with a similar voice “Twee v. “See,” and habits – they both search for food on vertical mass from bottom to top - moving upward. The bird, ‘Rudi,’ dies a quarter of the way through the story, eaten by a sparrowhawk after being rescued, nurtured, and then freed, by the heroine and her husband, Tiffany and Stephen, young nerdy, needy, Americans living and working in Central ...more
Marina Sofia
Not sure if I liked this more or less than Hausfrau - also a book about a bored expat wife living in Switzerland who takes up adultery as a hobby. What is it about this country which drives women to such extreme cries for attention? Although in this case it's more of a young person's voice, utter lack of concern for consequences and a strange disconnect with other people's feelings - completely self-absorbed.
Yet, in spite of this overall coldness and lack of empathy which I felt that most of the
Mar 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I don't care about birds or riparian ecosystems or the sex lives of birdwatching ex-pats, but I loved reading Zink's sentences. A real savage, smirking wit lurks in these pages that is both delightful and erotic. That's two five star reads in two days set (partially) in Switzerland. I'm off to write my erotic thriller set at James Joyce's grave...
Jan 12, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I won’t bore you with a detailed summary of this book, you can google, it’s a simple enough story, basically the narrator Tiff is married, has a miscarriage, has numerous affairs, gets involved with her husband’s environmentalist excursions, has some more affairs, moves to Europe with said husband and tries to “find herself” or something … maybe it’s an indictment against the feminist project, whatever the fuck that is, regardless the narrator gets nowhere and is dependent on men throughout, ...more
Conor Ahern
I love Nell Zink. She is a fantastic writer, weird and wry. This was her first book and it wasn't as good, IMO, as "Nicotine" or "Mislaid," but it's got the same bones.
Charles Dee Mitchell
I read this book in two sittings, and I feel almost like I read two different books. The first was a not particularly engaging book about not very interesting youngish people who were making what promised to be a bad marriage. There was bird watching and a wounded wild bird, the titular wallcreeper, that lived in their Swiss apartment.

When I sat down with the book the next morning either it got very funny or I realized for the first time how funny it was. But I didn’t care one way or the other
Jan 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A directionless American woman named Tiffany is interrupted in the middle of attempted corporate sabotage/whistleblowing by a man asking her out on a date; she abandons her plans, they get married, move to Europe and eventually begin exploring the finer points of deep green resistance and sex with strangers with similar enthusiasm.

It's an odd, meandering story, originally executed--I was reminded of writers as diverse as Lorrie Moore, Don Delillo, Doris Lessing, only funnier than all of them. I
Nov 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably more like 3.5 stars. This is a quirky little book that is hard to describe. It's one of those books where there is a lot going on but nothing really happens. I really liked the first half but I didn't really like the last part and found the ending to be really abrupt.
John Madera
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Comic, digressive, sharply observed, Nell Zink's THE WALLCREEPER is a singular novel by a singular stylist, the narrative peopled with engagingly odd and delightfully "unrelatable" characters engaging in odd conversations and falling into thoroughly engrossing odd events.
Dec 25, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: snoot, xmas2014
This is kind of like a fake book. Like someone smart and funny and educated wrote a parody of the kind of book that garners praise like "Nell Zink is a writer of extraordinary talent and range" from Jonathan Franzen even though it's the author's first novel, and a monotonic one at that. I'm not saying that tone is bad. It's really good! It's hilarious and acridly bitter and occasionally profound, but not terribly varied, and that profundity is all in asides, all in pot shots. Without that you're ...more
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Born in California in 1964, Nell Zink was raised in rural Virginia, a setting she draws on in her second novel, Mislaid. She attended Stuart Hall School and the College of William and Mary. In 1993, while living in West Philadelphia, Zink founded a zine called Animal Review, which ran until 1997.

Zink has worked as a secretary at Colgate-Palmolive and as a technical writer in Tel Aviv. She moved to
“She was young the way an actual young person is young.” 3 likes
“I wanted to hear my own whispers in the next room and know that I was thinking of me.” 3 likes
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