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Night Soul and Other Stories

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  164 ratings  ·  33 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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Average rating 3.77  · 
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 ·  164 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Shelves: po-mo, short-story, 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, musical theory, family dynam‘Water
Jun 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: usa, short-stories
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
Stephen P
Oct 01, 2012 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
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 other ...more
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
Paul Gleason
Oct 31, 2012 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 e
Mar 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mcelroy
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
Literary Review The
Feb 06, 2013 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 th
Маx Nestelieiev
Jul 16, 2015 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 strang
Feb 04, 2011 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.
Feb 05, 2011 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.
Mar 11, 2011 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.
Jeff Bursey
Feb 22, 2011 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 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.
Aiden Heavilin
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautiful stories by McElroy. The atmosphere of the entire book, especially the marvelous final story, is so perfectly tranquil that I have to say these stories could probably be used as a therapeutic aid. Water, architecture, time... It's a far cry from William Gaddis's characters and their incessant bickering.

McElroy's style is bizarre; he seems strangely uninfluenced, as if he were abandoned as a child without anything to read and developed a way of writing entirely his own. He mashes together thoughts i
Troy S
Aug 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nyc, fiction, dalkey
Very simple stories, written anything but simply.

This was my first McElroy, and I was impressed by his writing. His sentences grow out like vines, flowering at many different points. I'd even say one would be able to take fragments of short stories and turn them into self-sufficient poems. The stories themselves however were strangely muted, not at all reflected in their oblique cadence. One gets the impression that the same stories would have a similar if not congruent effect if tol
Jan 22, 2016 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
Oct 01, 2014 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.
Nov 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Really difficult book to get your head around, but for all its fragmented sentences and garbled syntax, I couldn't help but be intrigued at the whole thing. And despite my reservations I had while reading it, I also find myself admiring its style. You're thrust into it without regard and left thirsting some sort of structure, but I soon got over it which I feel may be a small part of it its point.

Of the stories in here, I particularly enjoyed 'The Last Disarmament But One' and 'Particle of Difference'. I'm most'Particle'The
Sep 14, 2019 marked it as to-read
Shelves: short-stories
Out there past the brass plaques and dark wood surfaces and the warm glass and the conversation, the city doesn’t happen to answer. Not a student descending from a bus; not a woman hurrying by with two shopping bags like buckets; not a man in the street I’ve seen in many quarters carrying under his arm a very long loaf of bread and once or twice wearing a motorbike helmet.

...I must open my eyes and look again at the newspaper column (that was all it was) and the photo
m csmnt
Some of my favourite McElroy. Some of my least favourite McElroy (which is still miles better than most). This might change on a reread.
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
Aug 12, 2015 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 t
John Pappas
Jul 27, 2011 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 thing
May 09, 2015 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
Brent Hayward
Dec 18, 2016 rated it liked it
McElroy's dreamlike, hyper-intelligent scenes work better when they are set within the expansive and fathomless oceans of his novels rather than in the smaller contexts of these dozen stories-- though the tales in Night Soul are stories in as much as the novels are any form of novel. Nobody writes like this guy. Without fully understanding what I'm trying to process, language and crazy rhythms wash over me, some parts vivid and humane and others obscured and beyond ken.
Geoff Wehmeyer
Jun 04, 2011 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.
Feb 05, 2011 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.
I rated and reviewed this book, just not for Goodreads/Amazon. See
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Women and Men: Night Soul and Other Stories -- 2011 4 45 Dec 09, 2017 06:51AM  

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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 En
“Above his olive-skinned neck a Low Dark Fade they call it at the barber's school where I go for a $4.99 haircut and an experience.” 2 likes
“I did not need to die in my own country; and then I did not die at all.” 0 likes
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