George Saunders: Critical Essays

(Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)

American Literature Readings in the 21st Century series

This timely volume explores the signal contribution George Saunders has made to the development of the short story form in books ranging from CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1996) to Tenth of December (2013). The book brings together a team of scholars from around the world to explore topics ranging from Saunders's treatment of work and religion to biopolitics and the limits of the short story form. It also includes an interview with Saunders specially conducted for the volume, and a preliminary bibliography of his published works and critical responses to an expanding and always exciting creative oeuvre. Coinciding with the release of Saunders's first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo (2017), George Saunders: Critical Essays is the first book-length consideration of this major contemporary author's work. It is essential reading for anyone interested in twenty-first century fiction.

Co-editing this collection with my PhD supervisor, Philip Coleman, was a professional delight and one I am grateful to have been invited to undertake. It grew out of a panel we presented in Vienna, Austria, at the International Conference on the Short Story in English in the summer of 2014 and led to some great friendships with fellow scholars. I also had the chance to interview and meet George Saunders, who kindly gave the project his blessing.

Post-Jungian Psychology and the Short Stories of Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut:

Golden Apples of the Monkey House

(Routledge, 2016)

Research in Analytical Psychology and Jungian Studies series

This book explores the short stories of Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut, written between 1943 and 1968, from a post-Jungian perspective. Drawing upon archetypal theories of myth from Joseph Campbell, James Hillman and C. G. Jung, the book demonstrates how short fiction follows archetypal patterns that can illuminate our understanding of the authors, their times, and their culture. Chapters carefully contextualise and historicize each story, including Bradbury and Vonnegut’s earliest and most imaginatively fantastic works. By exploring how the authors redressed old myths in new tropes, the book reveals a fresh method which can be applied to all short stories, increasing understanding and critical engagement.

All research in this volume was conducted for the thesis that earned my PhD at Trinity College, Dublin. The project was a great joy for me from beginning to end and led me to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies in Indianapolis and the Lily Library at Indiana University, Bloomington, which houses Kurt Vonnegut's papers. As far as major projects go, this one was a thrill and I think some of that ecstatic joy is infused in the finished book.

  • Dr. Miranda Corcoran's review for the Irish Association of American Studies

  • Interview about the book with Chuck Augello for The Daily Vonnegut
  • Tales From the Internet

    (Norbert Allen Books, 2015)

    Twelve stories delve into ways the Internet has affected the way people go about their lives, from enacting the hero archetype in MMORPGs to tweeting, trolling, and friending in the seemingly unlikeliest of online communities. I am continuously and persistently interested in all the ways the Internet and social media have augmented our lives since the 1990s. It’s a landscape that has so rarely been explored in fiction. Taking it first and foremost as setting, I set out to write stories about how this use of technology has altered reality at the individual level. In our time, there’s no better place for stories to play out.

    Kevin Storrar’s art adds weight to the collection I could never have achieved alone. He holds Master of Arts degrees in both Fine Art and Gallery Studies. Currently he works at The New Art Gallery Walsall, as well as continuing his own practice. This was his second major collaboration with me, Storrar making a distinct piece of art made for the title page of every story in the collection.

    Three of the contained stories were previously published: "http://youareforgiv.en" in The Flexible Persona, "The Martyr Dumb" in How to Hug Your Ex, and "The Pixelated Paladin" in Pantheon.

    Time's Laughingstocks

    (Norbert Allen Books, 2013)

    Richie is a kid from Des Moines, Iowa, in the year 1994. Dick is Richie all grown up, aged forty-two-and-some. He's also the American father of time travel. Virgil is an actor from 2039 set to play Dick in an award-winning and profoundly unflattering biopic. Time's Laughingstocks is what happens when Dick takes it upon himself to guide Richie and Virgil on a private tour through time...

    Kevin Storrar’s art complements the book. He holds Master of Arts degrees in both Fine Art and Gallery Studies. Currently he works at The New Art Gallery Walsall, as well as continuing his own practice. This was his first body of work produced specifically for a novel.

    This novel is both funny and playful with the trope of time travel, but it also jumps right into the problem of stagnation in one’s life, of sacrificing human connection for the sake of discovery and capital gains. How many adults would, in the way they’ve lived, disappoint their younger selves? How much control do people really have over how they are perceived by others? How careful should we be when it comes to the ongoing process of becoming ourselves? Time’s Laughingstocks explores these questions—with plenty of Neanderthals, broken hearts, dinosaurs, and humor along the way.

    Mole

    (forthcoming from Reaktion Books, 2019)

    Mole will be the latest volume in the Animal Series, a pioneering series from Reaktion Books. The first of its kind to explore the historical significance and impact on humans of a wide range of animals, each book in the series takes a different animal and examines its role in history around the world. The importance of mythology, religion and science are described as is the history of food, the trade in animals and their products, pets, exhibition, film and photography, and their roles in the artistic and literary imagination.

    I am very excited to see Mole published, as it led to the most astonishing discoveries I've ever made while researching. How else would I have ever spent a day shadowing Louise Chapman, Norfolk's Very Own Lady Molecatcher? Would I have ever learned any other way that Japanese haiku in the 1600s went through a whole movement of poems pitting moles against sea-slugs? Many of the details and images included in this book are bizarre and surpising in the very best ways. It will be great to see what readers make of this close scrutiny of the lives lived under our lawns.

    Exploring the Horror of Supernatural Fiction:

    Ray Bradbury's Elliott Family

    (forthcoming from Routledge, 2020)

    Detailing the adventures of a supernatural clan of vampires, witches, and assorted monstrosities, Ray Bradbury’s Elliott family stories are a unique component of his extensive literary output. Written between 1946 and 1994, Bradbury eventually quilted the stories together into a novel, From the Dust Returned (2001), making it a creative project that spanned his adult life. Not only do the stories focus on a single familial unit, engaging with overlapping twentieth-century themes of family, identity and belonging, they were also unique in their time, interrogating post-war American ideologies of domestic unity while reinventing and softening gothic horror for the Baby Boomer generation. Centred around diverse interpretations of the Elliott Family stories, this collection of critical essays recovers the Elliotts for academic purposes by exploring how they form a collective gothic mythos while ranging across distinct themes. Essays included discuss the diverse ways in which the Elliott stories pose questions about difference and Otherness in America; engage with issues of gender, sexuality, and adolescence; and interrogate complex discourses surrounding history, identity, community, and the fantasy of family.