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The Great American Songbook

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  63 ratings  ·  9 reviews
For the characters in these stories, love and music are almost indistinguishable. A famous songwriting duo is destroyed by their creative differences, a jazz musician is consumed by his inability to speak or play, a man takes a pop song literally and charts his love onto buildings. These stories cover songs and riff on melodies. They unearth chords that bridge the gap betw ...more
Paperback, 181 pages
Published May 8th 2018 by Strange Object
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Lee Klein
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Consistently unpredictable movement, unexpectedly moving (the story named after a Talking Heads song in particular), with unspecified yet recognizable neighborhoods always evoked by spare and engaging language.
Mark Leidner
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Utterly great stories. The kind of book by a contemporary writer I've been looking for. Easy to read. Formally inventive. Characters I felt for. Hopscotching places and times. Carefully observed. Prose that moves like a cheetah. Wise but un-self-righteous. Political but not 1-dimensional. Ironic but not insincere. Lyrically, more interested in doing a lot with a little than a lot with a lot, like Chopin as opposed to Mozart. Some stories feel like Chekhov: you're following these people's sad bea ...more
Nov 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am perhaps a little biased because "Bar Joke, Arizona" is the reason I met my spouse, but this collection is a little wonder. "Stockholm Syndrome" had me on the edge of my seat; "Rodgers and Hart" is a heartbreaking, knife-edge exploration of male friendship and partnership. "One Hundred Characters" has resonant echoes of Lydia Davis. And the title story will make you marvel at the fact that any author at all (even one as talented as my pal Sam) can make clarinetist Artie Shaw into a more intr ...more
Aaron Ambrose
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was ok
Show-offy style, misfiring humor, patronizing characterizations. Reading these stories reminded me of all the laundry I should be doing. I wish I could remember who recommended this to me, so I would stop listening to their recommendations.
Apr 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I put this on my to read list a few years ago after reading an Electric Literature list of the best short story collections of the year. I finally got around to ordering the book from Amazon. I had a good feeling when I read the bio on the back cover and found out he is a Philly guy, and this collection did not disappoint. To me the two best stories were “Two Cities Made or Ashes” and the title story. As a musician I can certainly empathize with the take: “a song spits on your grave.” Looking fo ...more
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite collections of short stories I have read. Each story was unique both in its narration style and its characters, so with each new story I found myself excited to embark on a new adventure. I greatly enjoyed the variation in how each story was told, and connected with many of the characters in ways I would not have expected, even when they were ostensibly quite different from myself. Truly a delightful read.
Emma Eisenberg
Dec 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sam Allingham is a super exciting writer of immense heart and razor sharp wit. A true delight to read <3
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Showcasing both a strong understanding of empathy and bad relationships, and an adeptness for surreal humor, Allingham's collection is a very enjoyable--and occasionally chilling--trip through pain, love, loss and buildings.

Some of the stories focus on the dynamics of relationships, including one particularly scary view of a controlling, abusive relationship in Stockholm Syndrome, while others are fun adventures of absurdist wordplay and deadpan humor.

It also explains the circumstances that dri
Tom John
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you love short stories – and more especially short stories that are both thought-provoking and beautifully written – you must read this remarkable collection. The stories here combine breathtaking lyricism with penetrating insights into the endless obstacles to real human connections, and glimpses of the glorious music created when against all odds we sometimes succeed. Sam Allingham’s debut is a wonderful book.
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Sam Allingham‘s short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including One Story, Epoch, American Short Fiction, StoryQuarterly, and Five Points, and has received a Special Mention for the Pushcart Prize. His story collection The Great American Songbook publishes from A Strange Object in 2016. He lives with his wife in Philadelphia, and teaches at Temple University.

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