Ecstatic Cahoots Fifty Short Stories

Stuart Dybek

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

208 Pages


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In this remarkable collection of bite-size stories, Stuart Dybek, one of our most prodigious writers, explores the human appetite for rapture and for trust. With fervent intensity and sly wit, he gives each tale his signature mix of characters—some almost ghostly, others vividly real—who live in worlds tinged with surreal potential. There are crazed nuns hijacking streetcars, eerie adventures across frozen ponds, and a boy who is visited by a miniature bride and groom every night in his uncle’s doomsday compound. Whether they are about a simple transaction, a brave inquiry, a difficult negotiation, or shared bliss, the stories in Ecstatic Cahoots target the friction between our need for ecstatic self-transcendence and our passionate longing for trust between lovers, friends, family, and even strangers.

Call it micro-fiction or mini-fiction, flash fiction or short shorts. Whatever the label, the marvelous encounters here are marked by puzzlement, anguish, and conspiratorial high spirits. In this thrilling collection, Stuart Dybek has once again re-envisioned the possibilities of fiction, creating myriad human situations that fold endlessly upon each other, his crackling prose drawing out the strange, the intimate, and the mysterious elements in each.


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“You’re going to leave your watch on?”

“You’re leaving on your cross?”

The Start of Something

Subway grates, steaming tamale carts, charcoal braziers roasting chestnuts, the breaths of the pedestrians outpacing stalled traffic, the chimneys Gil can’t see from the window of the airline bus—all plume in the frigid air. It’s cold enough for Gil to wear, for the first and only time, the salt-and-pepper woolen trousers he bought at an estate sale last summer. He’d stopped on a whim when he

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  • Stuart Dybek

  • Stuart Dybek is the author of four other books of fiction, including Paper Lantern, published simultaneously with this volume, as well as two collections of poetry. The recipient of many prizes and awards—including the PEN/Malamud Award, an Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and four O. Henry Awards—he is the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Northwestern University. He divides his time between Evanston, Illinois, Kalamazoo, Michigan, and the Florida Keys.
  • Stuart Dybek © Jon Randolph