This collection offers a pyrotechnic array of adventurous language and dashing variations in structure combined with absolute lucidity. The fireworks serve to illuminate rather than obscuring these finely tuned stories. These are human tales of vigorously individual characters living with intensity. Discombobulation plays a roll, but never ennui. The author’s ear for revealing dialogue and double-edged humor ground these stories in a reality worth enduring. The characters connect despite suspicion and betrayal, beyond blood, circumstance or embarrassment at their own ridiculous humanity. Each piece is powered by a deep, slow boiling jubilation in the moment-to-moment, line-by-line fact of taking breath.
If Jane Austin had written short stories, they would have read much like the restlessly domestic, marvelously mannered ones found in Jessica Hollander’s debut collection, In These Times the Home Is a Tired Place. Hollander’s fictions are hyper-real, saturated with telling timely detail, delivered by attuned and tenaciously scaled and sculpted language. One is up to one’s Empire neck in sense and sensibility and pride and prejudice and and and and and so much more.
Jessica Hollander's debut collection makes heartbreaking comedy out of the vagaries of life in contemporary America. Her deft and inventive storytelling re-imagines relationships between romantic partners, parents and children, teachers and students, and, perhaps most heartbreaking of all, what makes us happy and what will destroy us. From a high school teacher who finds herself oddly drawn to a female student, to a grandmother who sends frequent postcards warning her family of her imminent death, Hollander orchestrates magnificent collisions between conventional notions of normality and the irreducible strangeness of life as it's actually lived in the 21st century.
Like the description of one of her characters, Jessica Hollander’s senses are “heightened to danger.” These incredible stories are razor-sharp with the possibility of disaster, and Hollander is doing something special in transforming domestic spaces into something anxious and unsettling. Simply put, Hollander understands the weirdness of family, of relationships, and she has the language to make it exciting and new.
In These Times the Home is a Tired Place is a communiqué to all zygotes with ambitions to please think about what they’re about to do. Be careful, these stories warn, the world is going to expect you to wear shoes and know about fish forks. And understand that if you say yes to being born, if you agree to being a member of a family, you will one day be plagued by these questions: What is my fault? For which tragedies am I responsible? If you ask Jessica Hollander, she’ll tell you straight: all of it. Life is one unwitting infraction after another. These stories, about, among other things, the endearing apocalypse of childbearing and -rearing, are as funny and fierce and charming and startling in their wisdom as life is tragic, which is to say at least you’ll have a good manual for living once you get here. So, zygote, are you up to it?
Jessica Hollander's collection of stories is an unbroken chain of startlingly revelatory moments. She writes of the secrets of the psyche, and of the domestic drama of our times, with subtlety and grace and with a precision which makes the many moments of shocking clarity that much more powerful. This is work that gets to the very heart of the human condition, and does so in musical prose at a wildly thrilling pace. This is an unforgettable collection by an important new writer.
Hollander’s debut collection effectively fuses the common (childhood adventures, unhappy adults) with the bizarre (a grandmother obsessed with buttons, a gym full of people refusing to wear clothes) to create an intriguing volume...A potent work from a strong new literary voice. Read the Full Review Here.
In These Times the Home Is a Tired Place has the potential to bring broader attention to a small market press… Hollander’s evocative imagery does a marvelous job of capturing the sort of existential ennui that many young millennials have faced since the start of The Great Recession… Hollander’s characters wander into the paralysis and anguish of an entire generation.
Hollander’s willingness to push the form and even inject humor while retaining a sometimes tragic, often tender undertone, give In These Times the Home is a Tired Place a necessary depth that allows the stories to resonate beyond the page.
Most female characters in these stories falter at a perceived crossroad, a moment in their lives when they can choose the path of social expectation or swerve their own way. These conflicts arise in biting, humorous prose--sharp, clipped sentences interrupted by sentences of surprising beauty and length. . . . In these stories, language is Hollander's strength. With it, she excavates the hidden implications and repercussions of social norms with a humor that enlivens and illuminates. Her scenes shine vividly and tensely.
Hollander shows us that it’s possible to break free of constraints. Readers will be returning many times to these stories, which certainly can bear the weight of repeated readings.
In These Times the Home Is a Tired Place is a sneak-attack on the conventions of domestic dramas. As Hollander’s stories unfold, the rapids undermining peaceful domestic life become apparent, and sweep readers along in their current for a read that has a much wider scope than just suburban homes.
Powered by elliptical dialogue and slightly surreal scenarios, the stories manage to convey high states of anxiety within relatively few pages…Striking reading for short story aficionados.
a fresh and original voice… the stories are far from bleak, seamed as they are with a deadpan black humor, and enlivened by sharp, brisk telling.
A delightful, hyperrealistic take on today's suburban landscape. . . . In These Times the Home Is a Tired Place showcases Hollander's incredible eye for finding overlooked moments and inflating them with her astute language. Her work contains a heartfelt intensity not to be missed.
Every story in Jessica Hollander’s début collection In These Times the Home Is a Tired Place feels thoroughly real, deeply authentic, and if we already know the contours of these plots—perhaps having lived some of them ourselves—Hollander makes us experience them anew with her bristling, strange sentences.
Hollander obviously pays as much attention to how the stories sound as she does to what happens. On top of that, each story offers something new, yet also works as part of a cohesive unit. This is a fabulous collection.
The stories in In These Times the Home is a Tired Place brim with tension and little moments of surprise, and I found them exciting to read. The author doesn't shy away from gritty subjects or dark emotions - yet her stories also offer unexpected and touching moments of hope…Recommended for fans of literary short fiction of the more daring sort - Hollander's stories would be nicely at home on the bookshelf alongside collections by Caitlin Horrocks, Holly Goddard Jones, Danielle Evans, Megan Mayhew Bergman, Bonnie Jo Campbell and others.
If I were to define the literary tradition I think I’m writing in, it would be hyperrealism. Someone like Gerhard Richter creates photorealistic works of art, something that seems like a photo, but then when you get closer, you realize it’s too bright, too vivid, and you notice that this is actually a painting. That’s how, stylistically, I think about my own writing: it’s turned up a notch. Dialogue is heightened, and things that happen are just a little bit more extreme than they would be in normal life.
It’s probably part my family and part the Midwest culture I grew up in to believe that suffering makes you stronger. This is something people in Michigan tell themselves when it’s freezing outside and they have to motivate themselves to dig their car tires out from three feet of snow and ice, and again when it’s April and the temp hasn’t cracked 45, and when the weather turns in September and they know there’s pretty much no end to the gray cold.
I took risks in structure and language in this collection, and winning the award has encouraged me to continue to do so.
Sometimes I will have a specific image or scenario that I know I want to write about, but often when I sit down to a blank page, I start with style. Maybe I want to try out a modular story or write about characters who have titles instead of names, or I will try a particular point of view I haven’t written from in a while, or I will write a sentence and see if I’m interested in the voice.
I often write toward my fears – past fears and fears of the future. For all the reasons I’ve mentioned, I wrote a lot of dark pieces while I was pregnant – about the process of becoming pregnant and the impending life changes and all the scary things that can happen to babies.
Hollander’s debut is a smart, confident book bursting with tales of pregnant couples, lost souls, and finding a place in the world.
Both Hollander and Wells displayed precise, creative prose, and their readings were applauded warmly by the students and faculty in attendance.
Alex and Tory discuss The Journal, the editorial process, the slush pile, the anxiety of social networking, online publishing, and what kind of work we love. Also, listen to Alex read a section of Jessica Hollander’s story What Became of What She Had Made and Tory read Brittany Cavallaro’s poem Eliza-Crossing-the-Ice and Ed Haworth Hoeppner’s poem On Top of Central High School in the Middle of the Night.
Hollander captures the difficulties in communications some couples have, as well as the varying ways of talking about important aspects of their married lives - kids, for instance.