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Dzanc Books is nonprofit press specializing in literary fiction and nonfiction. In addition to publishing activities, Dzanc Books also supports the Disquiet International Literary Program.

A Moral Tale and Other Moral Tales

Our Books

A Moral Tale and Other Moral Tales


A Moral Tale and Other Moral Tales


Publication Date: April 18 2017
Paperback: 184 pages
ISBN: 978-1-941088-80-7

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Provocative, funny, and precisely observed, this debut collection examines the way we view sex, the environment, friendship, aging, love and honesty 

A Moral Tale, and Other Moral Tales presents a twist on the classic morality play, where rewards and punishments betray the classic fairytale logic and the greatest redemption is "to thine own self be true." A deluded mathematician spends the night with a recent divorcee who realizes his story doesn’t add up. A cat-fearing woman leaves her husband and lands somewhere between home and the underworld. A cheating husband decides to kill his wife and falls disastrously in love with her instead. Colored by an unpredictable and entertaining cast, the stories in this collection explore everything from sublimated desire and apocalyptic despair to classical romance, thwarted idealism, and criminal passion.

Winner of the 2016 Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Contest, A Moral Tale, and Other Moral Tales is the debut short story collection by Josh Emmons, whose past novels have been praised by The New York Times, People Magazine, and Jonathan Franzen.

Praise for A Moral Tale and Other Tales

"Hilarious, strange and scarily smart, Josh Emmons' stories are filled with wisdom, precision and staggeringly beautiful sentences. Every one of these luminous tales startled and captivated me."
—Colorado Review

“Delightfully bizarre and drolly promiscuous…Emmons’s prose is uniformly eloquent, clean and precise.” 
—Numero Cinq

"The beauty of Emmons’s book is its intelligence...ingenious in its construction of dilemmas and the ways out of them. He is, as people say, a writer to watch."
—Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans

“I enjoyed and admired every page of A Moral Tale. Josh Emmons has written an exquisitely strange and deeply intelligent suite of stories about love and desire, how we pursue, deny, and are ultimately—whether we like it or not—defined by both."
—Vu Tran, author of Dragonfish

“One grasps for parallels to Josh Emmons’ dispatches from human experience at its most non-sequitur. His stories of psychically wayward painters, teen hookers and their haunted inheritances, junkie stunt men without any stunts left, and all the cluster-romances that play out to classical fugues, are as singular as they are irresistible, as resonant later as they are gripping now.”
—Steve Erickson, author of Zeroville

This is one of the best books I've read in ages—a whip-smart and painfully lucid collection of stories, full of haunting observations and astonishing sentences. Over and over again, these stories ask what it means to make a moral judgment, without ever making that judgment for us; they resist easy explanations and obvious resolutions, and leave us in a raw and reawakened state of human clarity.”
—Jess Row, author of Your Face in Mine

"With sentences of elegant and Jamesian precision, Josh Emmons creates in each of these stories entire worlds in which people try to redeem themselves, in melancholy and often hilarious fashion.”
—Susan Straight, author of Between Heaven and Here and Highwire Moon

A Moral Tale and Other Tales builds in power as it's being read, one vital and singular narrative after another. Emmons' stories are unsentimental but ethical, blackly humorous yet compassionate, and every page is marbled with insight. This collection is like nothing you'll read this year or next.”
—Ken Kalfus, author of A Disorder Peculiar to the Country