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Music Through the Floor: Stories

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  442 ratings  ·  69 reviews
Includes a new story, "Body Language"!

Now in paperback, Eric Puchner's celebrated debut collection, a finalist for the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award, established him as one of our most brilliant and promising new literary voices.

Writing from an impressive range of perspectives -- men and women, children and adults, immigrants and tourists -- Puc
Paperback, 240 pages
Published July 24th 2007 by Scribner (first published 2005)
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Average rating 4.10  · 
Rating details
 ·  442 ratings  ·  69 reviews

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Worth reading for the Leda and the Swan "essay" alone. The author has a particular way with slow buildup and abrupt, almost freefall endings. Like, if you graphed the stories they would look like a series of long isosceles triangles lying on their sides. ...more
Joachim Stoop
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I could compile a best of-mix from both Music through the floor and and Puchner's Last day on earth, it would probably be in my top 10 all time short story collections.

But in both books there were weaker attempts.

Still a very fine writer to follow in the future
Oct 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
I think I'm drawn to short stories that have a melancholy slant. These stories fit the bill. It's an uneven collection, but there are some very good ones included. One of the best is one of the shortest: "Neon Tetras". In the span of the few pages of this story, a boy comes to an understanding of why his father is obsessed with the pet shop. Also, liked:
"Children of God" - in which an unfocused college graduate takes care of several mentally retarded adults in a group living situation.
"Animals D
Nov 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Bill by: Andrea
I am somewhat chagrined to admit that it's taken me quite awhile to get around to reading this (even though I have been recommending it in various bookstore jobs I've had for several years now), but I am very glad that I did. A, and I, knew Eric from when we lived in San Francisco; and I always felt confident recommending his work based on conversations I had had with him. Now I know that those recommendations were well founded.

It is an incredibly well written collection of short fiction. Someti
Rich Italiano
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought 'Music Through the Floor' about 10-12 years ago at Tattered Cover in Denver. It wasn't until this summer, the summer of the pandemic, that the collection grabbed my attention. It is an intriguing set of nine short stories by Eric Puchner. The stories are filled with characters who are a bit damaged, but believable, have a darkness to their souls, but show resilience. The writing is brilliant with many layers of meaning and nuance. The stories are not necessarily out to teach or inform, ...more
Apr 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Take joy in the melancholy
Wow.. Amazing doesn't even begin to say it. I will read anything this man put's to paper. The improbable combination of being supremely depressing and inspiring, makes me yearn for more. ...more
Samantha Allen
Mar 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These stories are incredible. Each one had a strikingly original plot and the perfect mix of humor and sadness. If I could write like anyone in the world, it might be Eric Puchner.
John Luiz
My first exposure to Eric Puchner was through his wonderful novel - Model Home: A Novel -- about a father struggling to keep his family together after career setbacks and one shocking family tragedy. That book made me want to go back and read his short-story collection, which I knew received considerable critical accolades when it came out in 2005. Now I know why. I enjoyed every story in this piece. They all offer compelling storylines about characters he gets you to care deeply about from the ...more
Piyali Mukherjee
It's been a while since I've been so deeply engrossed in a work of literary fiction. I was drawn to this collection when I'd read "Essay #3: Leda and the Swan" elsewhere.

What Puchner does really well is render the atmosphere of the stories through the character's voice. Through the observant eyes of children, teens, pets and secondary others, Puchner underscores the emotional motivations of other characters in the story. For example, when the unnamed protagonist in "Neon Tetra" suspects that hi
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Solid collection of stories. Some lulls here and there, stories perhaps run a bit too long at times, but stellar at its best moments. Strong sense of narrative, driven by characters' wants and actions. Funny and poignant. Highlights: A man adrift takes a job caring for special-needs adults in "Children of God"; a girl recounts a love triangle in a high-school essay in "Essay #3: Leda and the Swan"; on Halloween boys seek their place in the social hierarchy in "Child's Play"; a boy and his father ...more
Robin  Small
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vivid and real

The images and characters in these stories are unforgettable. Worth reading twice or more. It’s hard to understand how anyone can see and transcribe the world this way, so faithful to the contradictions.
Kimberly Woods
Apr 10, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short stories that transport the reader to another place and time. You can pick up the book for an 5 minutes and live in another moment in time, with complicated characters and a mish moshed story line to get temporary lost in. Definitely a good read for short story lovers!
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-fiction
This an amazing, surprising collection.
Not a bookclub book. Borrowed from Claudia. Strange book - 9 short stories all together. Most very melancholy.
Gila Gila
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I did Eric Puchner backwards - don't quote me - reading his novel, Model Home, long before getting to his first publication, this very fine collection of short stories. He's a master of a particularly American brand of loneliness, narrators who expected something very different than what they're facing, struggling to figure out their own role in how things fell apart. In Music Through the Floor, the stories are equally comic and disturbing, sometimes jarring in their cruelty (Narcissist Mom in A ...more
Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I usually prefer not to read a single-author short story collection straight through, but to intersperse it with other reading. Even with very good authors, I find that reading too many short stories back-to-back emphasizes repeating themes and devices. I find it often blunts the impact of individual stories.

Puchner’s Music Through the Floor is a short story collection that really doesn’t require this approach — the breadth of these nine stories is impressive. There’s something dark, in some cas
Feb 27, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
Man, the first story in this collection is wrenching as hell. It's very great. Then the second is hilarious, and but also touching. You're thinking oh man, this is going to be good. A Fresh New Voice for American Fiction. Then though, for like four stories in a row, things get kind of dull and flat. The writing is good, or else it's certainly not too shabby, but it's just flat. It doesn't grab you by the neck or the balls or anything, which, why not. Good writing should. Then he comes back towar ...more
Jul 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Eric Puchner's nine stories featuring contemporary American urbanites makes for a fine debut. Everyday people portrayed through comic and tragic situations that so many readers can relate to, either personally or through someone they know. Animals Below Here gives a great perspective of a broken family through the child's eye. I felt Music showed great diversity with tales such as Diablo, featuring Ofelio the culturally displaced day laborer. At times, many of the characters will bring the reade ...more
Sep 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous writing. The color, texture, beauty and flow of Puchner's prose sticks with you. He masterfully delves into the human condition, often focusing on dysfunction and dark aspects that compel his stories in a way I have not read before. Excerpts from the book jacket are spot on:

"No blurb can do justice to this book. It is riotously funny and smart and beautiful, as nuanced and unpredictable as real life."


"Music Through the Floor. . .is delivered with singular wit, energy, and ecstasy
Joe Krudys
Aug 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
5 stars all the way.

I read Model Home a while ago, and loved that book. I can't believe it took me this long to read his collection of short stories, but I'm glad I finally did.

I saw a New York Times blurb that described Puchner as "technically gifted and emotionally insightful", and I think that about sums it up. His writing is almost perfection, and he can come from any angle without missing a beat. Humorous, humane, creepy, suspenseful, depressing, hopeful. He masters all of it and more.

I rea
Feb 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Probably my favorite thing that I read in 2007.

There isn't anything too flashy going on here, just excellent short stories populated with genuine, multifaceted characters caught at moments that offer a deep understanding of them (often deeper than the understanding the characters have of themselves). Puncher does an amazing job of capturing the everyday complexities of people and their lives and giving everything just enough space to reveal itself in all its wonder, pain and humor. This is the
Apr 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
These are the kinds of short stories I love--about "ordinary" people, somehow made interesting by the writer. Many of these stories seem to involve people who have some sort of outsider status--a man who takes care of two mentally disabled men; a boy who turns on a friend to impress a group; a man who teaches English as a second language, and cannot always understand the complexities of the multi-cultural group he teaches. Puchner is excellent at using different and real voices to tell his stori ...more
May 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Loved it. As others have said, these stories are very well written, they are witty and ha-ha funny but also a little dark. There's a mood of sadness and loss--even grieving--underneath the light words of those sly, funny narrators. A really moving collection. If you don't know how I feel about Essay #3: Leda and the Swan yet, I say it again here: it's one of the best short stories ever! I read it the first time 2 years ago in an anthology and it stuck with me this whole time (usually I forget, I ...more
Jul 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
LOVED this collection of short stories. Puchner does a great job of manipulating your emotions. I was even impressed with the order of the stories. Although each was VERY different you could feel the roller coaster he built for you and although I normally hate coasters, I was loving every twist and turn. He writes very well in both gender voices which was great to hear.

I will admit, this is not for the faint of heart. There is sex, drugs, violence, and heart break throughout the stories.

For the
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories, own
The stories that most enchanted in me this collection were "Neon Tetra," "Animals Here Below," and best of all "Essay #3: Leda and the Swan." Puchner's stories all glimmer and shine, but these three were the best. None of them left me feeling indifferent or bored, which is gratifying. I would say that even my least favorite tales ("Diablo" and "Missions") are passable. I give it a 5 because the whole thing is great, and I might have even given it a 5 for "Essay #3" alone. Seriously. So good.

Nov 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eric Punchner debut book Music Through the Floor,is a amazing book. This book tells nine different stories, and somehow they all relate to each other in some kind of way. This is the the second book I read from him, after reading Model home. It is so much different,but I love Punchner writing style. There were some stories that I did not understand, but for the most part it was a neat and intriguing read.
Jan 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short stories by Eric Puchner are as good as his novels, even better because they make a more powerful impact just in a few pages. They can be funny, sad or tragic, depicting characters from all walks of life, but having something in common - desire to belong, to be understood and accepted. My favorite stories from this collection were "Child's Play", "A fear of invisible tribes", "Mission" and "Animals here below". ...more
Aug 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, what an amazing writer. I enjoyed some of the stories, others were disturbing. But his writing is stunning. I recently started writing short stories again after a hiatus of several years, and it's amazing how that changes how I read fiction. I kept reading a sentence and thinking, "how did he do that? I would have never thought to do that!". Original voice, very witty. ...more
Sep 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
There are some exceptional stories in this collection and there are some average stories, but each and every one is worth the read. I think the strongest are "Children of God, "Body Language," and "Mission." Overall, there is a darkness and a focus on the oddness of human behaviors that draws me to all of Puchner's stories. ...more
Nov 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
There were some definite gems in this collection, and the characters are endearing in their honesty. I enjoyed the wide range of perspectives displayed here and the unique plots of each story. The inner dialogue of the characters leave them raw and exposed to the reader. Although an enjoyable read, not particularly memorable.
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Eric Puchner is the author of the novel Model Home (Scribner, 2010), which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and won a California Book Award and a Barnes & Noble Discover Award (2nd place). It was also longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His debut short story collection, Music Through the Floor (Scribner, 2005), was a finalist for the NY Public Library's Young Lio ...more

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“My heart was an onion making me cry.” 3 likes
“Afterward, she'd do yoga on the front lawn in the mizzling rain, lying on her back and then lifting herself slowly into an arch, like a demolition shown in reverse. The pose had mysterious names: Downward Dog, Sun Salute. Once I found her lying on the grass in a random-looking sprawl, the palms of her hands turned up to the drizzle.
"The Corpse," she explained later. "Feels wonderful.”
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