A playful, elegant debut collection, THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK explores the profound hold that music has on our lives.
"By turns hilarious and deeply unnerving, deadpan and visionary, disorienting yet disturbingly familiar, the stories in THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK ride a path between waking life and a fever dream. Sam Allingham is a true original, one of the bright lights of this new generation of short story writers." Dan Chaon
"Sam Allingham is sharp and tender, and these stories swoop and soar with theatrical dexterity." Emma Straub
"Music filters through this book like notes from a neighbor's window, and it makes everyone dance nostalgia and invention foxtrot, desire and disappointment waltz, love and loss lean into each other in the dark and sway. THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK has humanity tender, hopeful, faltering humanity singing and two-stepping beautifully across its pages." Ramona Ausubel
"THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK has over 100 wildly heartbreaking and unforgettable characters: bartenders and baristas, musicians and miniaturists, cult members and deer hunters and Broadway composers and ducks (yes, ducks ) all of them searching for a little light in the darkness. Luckily, they have the outrageously talented Sam Allingham to guide them through these wonderfully sharp pages, where the strange becomes familiar, and the familiar strange, in a way that feels both honest and true prying open the hinges on that old, rusted box of the human condition, and providing a map (and maybe even a song or two) as assassins and nut jobs and struggling teenagers smash their clarinets, let the birds out of their cages, shout into the night sky across desert canyons, and navigate the distance between loneliness and love." Hannah Tinti
"Sam Allingham's stories touch the deepest levels of the brain like a series of unexpected chord changes. Devastating, funny, insightful, and disarmingly intimate, THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK stands alongside the very best story collections being written right now." Paul Lisicky
"Surprising and sonorous." Kirkus"
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-10-17
- Reviewer: Staff
The title of this debut story collection makes reference to a fluid but generally agreed upon canon of songs that defines a particular, early 20th-century American sensibility. Allingham's aim is presumably the same: to build a mood, a perception of the world, with these disparate and inscrutable but well-executed stories. In the first and last tales, Allingham gives readers insider information, not all of it pleasant, on the beloved musical duo Rodgers and Hart ("Rodgers and Hart"), and with verve speaks in the exasperated voice of famous big-band clarinetist Artie Shaw ("The Great American Songbook"). That his flawed narrators are unreliable is indisputable, and no doubt deliberate. Several other stories in the middle section fill in with explorations of all the weird ways Americans are drawn to one another, how they define themselves in relation to those they love or loathe, and the proverbial ties that bind. All are strange and melancholy. "Bar Joke, Arizona" features all manner of talking creatures, as absurd as the infamous cantina scene in Star Wars. "There isn't really a good end to the story," a duck says, and one is hard pressed to disagree; perhaps instead of looking for a neat conclusion, it's best to simply celebrate the author's considerable way with words. (Nov.)