The Fat Artist and Other Stories

3.6 based on 54 ratings & 15 reviews on

Benjamin Hale's fiction abounds with a love of language and a wild joy for storytelling. In prose alternately stark, lush, and hallucinatory, occasionally nightmarish and often absurd, the seven stories in this collection are suffused with fear and desire, introducing us to a company of indelible characters reeling with love, jealousy, megalomania, and despair.

As in his acclaimed debut novel, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, the voices in these stories speak from the margins: a dominatrix whose longtime client, a U.S. congressman, drops dead during a tryst in a hotel room; an addict in precarious recovery who lands a job driving a truck full of live squid; a heartbroken performance artist who attempts to eat himself to death as a work of art. From underground radicals hiding in Morocco to an aging hippie in Colorado in the summer before 9/11 to a young drag queen in New York at the cusp of the AIDS crisis, these stories rove freely across time and place, carried by haunting, peculiar narratives, threads in the vast tapestry of American life.

Weaving a pleasure in the absurd with an exploration of the extraordinary variety of the human condition and the sway our most private selves and hidden pasts hold over us, the stories in The Fat Artist reside in the unnerving intersections between life and death, art and ridicule, consumption and creation.

Hale's well-hewn, often violent tales are saturated with sadness and full of strange, marginal folk, but the thoughts, desires, and failures of these oddball characters are acutely recognizable . . . the reader comes away grateful for the sincerity of their melancholy quests to find meaning, love, and the purposes of their ill-fated lives . . . This book is at once absurd, morbid, melancholy, ridiculous, and disturbing.
Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
[An] excellent new story collection . . . Hale's writing is measured and expansive at the same time; he constructs beautiful but never showy sentences. He has the capacity to shock, but he doesn't abuse it; even his oddest stories seem believable, and that's largely due to the care he puts into creating his imperfect, memorable characters . . . Some of them are about to die; some of them have to face up to the long, complicated lives ahead of them. Hale treats all of them with care, and like the flare of a satellite that will one day decay and crash back down to Earth, it's oddly beautiful and impossible to look away from.
Los Angeles Times

About Benjamin Hale

Benjamin Hale is a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, a winner of a Michener-Copernicus Award, the Bard Fiction Prize, and shortlistee for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared, among other places, in Harper's Magazine, the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Millions, and has been anthologized in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2013.

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