OVERRIDE

A Better Angel

Stories

Chris Adrian

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The stories in A Better Angel describe the terrain of human suffering—illness, regret, mourning, sympathy—in the most unusual of ways. In “Stab,” a bereaved twin starts a friendship with a homicidal fifth grader in the hope that she can somehow lead him back to his dead brother. In “Why Antichrist?” a boy tries to contact the spirit of his dead father and finds himself talking to the Devil instead. In the remarkable title story, a ne’er do well pediatrician returns home to take care of his dying father, all the while under the scrutiny of an easily-disappointed heavenly agent.

With Gob’s Grief and The Children’s Hospital, Chris Adrian announced himself as a writer of rare talent and originality. The stories in A Better Angel, some of which have appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, and McSweeney’s, demonstrate more of his endless inventiveness and wit, and they confirm his growing reputation as a most exciting and unusual literary voice—of heartbreaking, magical, and darkly comic tales.

 


BOOK EXCERPTS

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HIGH SPEEDS That November I’m nine and stealing: candy from the super­market; toys from the dime store; books from the bookstore. And not Curious George and the Bad Touch or Tales of a Fourth Grade Fuck-Up, though I am in fourth grade, and fucked-up. I’m too smart for those books, too smart for the fourth grade, but Mama won’t let them skip me. I’m too smart for Miami Springs, and too smart for my own good.
In November of 1979 I’m four feet ten inches tall, and Papa has been dead for nine months. My little brother is crazy, and I want sometimes to take over
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REVIEWS

Praise for A Better Angel

“The title story, which combines dark comedy and deep pathos, is not only the standout of this volume but also one of the best stories published in recent memory. Adrian has been known as a writer's writer, but with this book, readers would do well to stake their claim.”—Radhika Jones,  Time

“[A Better Angel]...is held forward in the pared beauty of Adrian’s unshowy, lambent prose and gives the collection almost a bottomless depth.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Mr. Adrian is a gifted, courageous writer — as demonstrated in his well-received novels, “Gob’s Grief” and “The Children’s Hospital” — and with this collection he continues to take far-reaching risks. Unspeakable grief and the innate will to survive create opposing forces in these stories, producing a universe bursting with humor and life.”—S. Kirk Walsh, The New York Times

“His best work yet . . . Not one of the stories teeters out of control. They are strange, beautiful, and unforgettable. Like Kafka, Poe, and Salman Rushdie, Adrian knows the best way to bring the miraculous to life is to write it realistically.”—John Freeman, The Boston Globe

“To read Chris Adrian is to take part in the exciting process of watching a talented and original writer gain mastery of his powerful gifts."   —Myla Goldberg, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Adrian is interested in illness’s altered states, but this doesn’t mean he thinks pain is ennobling. On the contrary, throughout his bleak and brilliant work he has been sensitive to the ways grief ravages those it strikes.”—Sylvia Brownrigg, New York Times Book Review

“Adrian, himself a pediatrician and seminary student, is a lucid, brilliant fortune-teller. He unveils our demons, who, in the wake of their visitations upon these children, reveal something you can only call the face of God.”—Tom Chiarella, Esquire

“Spirits and demons and a persistent faith populate Chris Adrian's crystalline stories in A BETTER ANGEL (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)…In Adrian's lyrical kingdom…most attempts at intimacy, friendship, and love become something more dark, complex and spiritually wrenching.”—Vince Passaro, O, The Oprah Magazine

“Adrian is clearly no MFA mill product…He’s a pediatrician and a divinity student, and he throws these two fields of human endeavor at the walls with a good bit of fearlessness…[He] dares to use (and re-use) heavily symbolic incidents and character facets, tell the tales in a modest voice, and then challenge himself to make the right combinations of twists in plot and story structure…There’s a high percentage of powerful (and often harrowing) stories here.”—T.E. Lyons, Louisville Electric Observer

“Adrian, a divinity student and a doctor, has a beautiful instinct for finding the deepest chords within his characters.”—John Freeman, Star Tribune

“Focused otherwise, the haunting energy and supernal visions found in A Better Angel, Chris Adrian’s new story collection, could have inspired an occult religion…He sublimely melds the beautiful and the terrible, which makes for a fondness of grotesques reminiscent of the great Southern gothic wirters.”—Cheston Knapp, Richmond Times

“Adrian is interested in illness’s altered states, but this doesn’t mean he thinks pain is ennobling. On the contrary, throughout his bleak and brilliant work he has been sensitive to the ways grief ravages those it strikes.”—Sylvia Brownrigg, New York Times Book Review

“Adrian, himself a pediatrician and seminary student, is a lucid, brilliant fortune-teller. He unveils our demons, who, in the wake of their visitations upon these children, reveal something you can only call the face of God.”—Tom Chiarella, Esquire

“Spirits and demons and a persistent faith populate Chris Adrian's crystalline stories in A BETTER ANGEL (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)…In Adrian's lyrical kingdom…most attempts at intimacy, friendship, and love become something more dark, complex and spiritually wrenching.”—Vince Passaro, O, The Oprah Magazine

“Abrasive, accusatory, despairing and, more than often enough, quite unforgettable fiction.”—Kirkus Reviews

“He has a strong following among the literary magazine set, and with his latest book he has a chance to win a mainstream audience. ‘A Better Angel’ stands to outperform its predecessors, as many of its stories have appeared in places like the New Yorker and the Paris Review, and at a little over 200 pages, it's eminently accessible.”- Lauren Mechling, Wall Street Journal

“Edgy and otherworldly, this is a book of dark dreams.”—Arizona Republic

“[A Better Angel is] written in language so beautiful and compelling that we go willingly where Adrian takes us…That he can make his dark materials so illuminationg and powerful is a testament to his immense talent.”—Carole Goldberg, Sun-Sentinel (Florida)

“These stories are funny and bizarre without giving over to cutesiness or kitsch . . . The darkness in Adrian’s writing is balanced with compassion, wit, and the haunting, eerie scenarios he constructs are only eclipsed by the characters—the children, spirits, and Civil War reenactors—with which he fills them.”—Portland Mercury

“Chris Adrian’s stories in ‘A Better Angel’ are as perverse and holy as a parable, as comforting and obsessive as a rosary, and as linguistically virtuosic as the finest of poems.  In this hilarious, beautiful, unsettling story collection, Adrian shows us how to love without idealizing, and how to see wings even on the backs of children who are difficult, delusional, odd, and dying.  He makes the unnoticed thrum of the real world become audible again.”—David Daley, The Courier-Journal (Louisville)

“Adrian explores his subjects with caution, respect, and most of all, imagination . . . His prose is heady enough to support Big Statements—he has the rare ability to talk about souls and be sincere . . . There are stories so thoroughly imagines and expertly written that alone they warrant the price of the entire collection.”—The Rake

“[A] soul stirring collection.”—Seattle Times

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Chris Adrian

  • Chris Adrian is the author Gob’s Grief and The Children’s Hospital. He lives in Boston, where he is a pediatrician and divinity student.
  • Chris Adrian © Gus Elliott
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Available Formats and Book Details

A Better Angel

Stories

Chris Adrian

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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