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.


Praise for Ecstatic Cahoots

"[Dybek's] two new collections establish him as not only our most relevant writer, but maybe our best. . . . Each season, the Powers That Be take a book, any book, possibly at random and proclaim it the Biggie, The Obligatory Best Seller. Could it be Ecstatic Cahoots . . . Here’s hoping." —Darin Strauss, New York Times Book Review "The excellent Stuart Dybek continues to challenge and dazzle. These modern-day palm-of-the-hand stories will do much to keep this exciting form alive." —Amy Hempel, author of The Dog of the Marriage

"Dybek’s classic story "Hot Ice" changed my life when I read it back in 1983. He somehow manages to conjure up beautiful, detailed imitations of real America, and then infuse them with so much surreal truth that they read like myths or fairy tales. Like the Chicago he often writes about, his work is full of genuine sentiment, and edge, and beauty. One of the most soulful writers in American, and a national treasure." —George Saunders, Oprah Magazine

"Ecstatic Cahoots and Paper Lantern confirm Dybek as a virtuoso of the short story—a nimble, compassionate writer who uses precise, lucid, original descriptions. He shows us all we need to know and nothing more." —Valerie Milner, The San Francisco Chronicle

"Masterful . . . Like Proust, Dybek has a deserved reputation as a superb cartographer of memory." —Trevor Quirk, The Los Angeles Review of Books

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt



“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

Read the full excerpt


  • 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