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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.

In a Bear's Eye, by Yannick Murphy

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In a Bear's Eye, by Yannick Murphy


In a Bear's Eye, by Yannick Murphy


Publication Date: February 19, 2008
Paperback: 147 pages
ISBN: 978-0-979312-31-1
Trim: 8.4 x 5.5

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After twenty years, In a Bear's Eye marks Yannick Murphy's return, in collection form, to the short story. The title story of this, her second story collection, was recently included in the 2007 O. Henry Prize Stories anthology.


"Yannick Murphy can do in three pages what takes most writers ten or twenty. Her sentences, many of them pure poetry, pull you in with their effortless beauty, making you laugh one minute, then crushing your heart in the next. You can't stop reading. You can't wait to find out who you'll meet next. You will not forget this poignant, richly textured, and stunning collection. And you have never seen anything like it." —Rebecca Barry

"Yannick Murphy is a true original. Her gorgeous, poetic sentences are entirely her own. The marvelous stories in In a Bear's Eye catch you by surprise, with a consistent and steady pace that pack a wallop at the same time." —Elizabeth Crane

"Stories like beautiful black diamonds. Someone has cut you while you were dreaming, slipped them into your muscles, your mind. You may never know just how you've been changed." —Brad Watson


"In 24 brief, impressionistic tales, Murphy (Signed, Mata Hari) delivers an emotional wallop. The title story concerns a widow and her young son attempting to carry on after the suicide of the husband and father—and finding a watchful bear's presence near their house more protective than menacing. “Pan, pan, pan,” one of the longer stories, is named for the urgency call emitted by a plane that crashes near a lake where a family of three along with the brother-in-law is vacationing. The narrator is the nervous wife, whose small son is enthralled both by the overbearing brother-in-law and by details of the plane crash. Some of the stories capture a vernacular quirkiness, such as “Lester,” a stream-of-consciousness narrative by an angry urban dweller who's bitter that he'll never get to see the palm trees of Barbados, or the sky's constellations (the “Big Zipper,” he calls one of them), for that matter. Similarly, in “The Beauty in Bulls,” two men carry on a perpendicular conversation, one about bullfighting, the other about the rapturous body of a woman, that eventually dovetails into a testosterone-charged assertion of power and might. Murphy's tight, sharp sense of composition and tone renders these short takes more than mere formal exercises." —Publishers Weekly

"As the story goes, a young female student once approached the notorious Gordon Lish in the halls outside his classroom at NYU after being told she’d have to wait a year to study with him. She said, “I’m Yannick Murphy, and I’m not supposed to be here.” Lish replied, “You’re in.” It is for just this sort of boldness that Murphy’s fiction sings. In a Bear’s Eye, the follow-up to last year’s magnificent Here They Come, offers twenty-four pristinely chiseled stories, each between two and nine pages long. The scenarios in these pieces bulge with death: in “Legacies” a sick woman’s children dicker for what they will take when she’s gone; in “The Only Light to See By” a mother’s young daughter obsesses over the crime scene of a family murdered just down the street. But while many pieces of fiction can be encapsulated by their premise, what makes these stories so kinetic is not what they are but how they’re told—the strange meat stuffed to their bones—and the way any probability or expectation is swiped out from under the reader’s feet." —The Believer

"Murphy’s boundary-pushing, mind-expanding fiction has the concentration, interiority, and emotional charge of poetry, yet she is a mesmerizing storyteller. In just a few lines, characters flower from the page replete with feelings, memories, dreams, and jerry-rigged wisdom. The author of an earlier short story collection and three intense novels, including the hauntingly beautiful Signed, Mata Hari (2007), Murphy, in her new stories, deepens her inquiry into the mysteries of childhood and the vagaries of mothers whose love for their children can’t quite balance the damage done by brutal husbands or, as in the glinting title story, an O. Henry Prize winner, a beloved husband’s death. Taboo lust seethes; children care for and cajole alcoholic, nearly catatonic mothers; people suffer wounds and weird maladies; a young girl obsessed with the deaths of a family assumes the positions in which the bodies were found; a professor brings a group to South America to search for a lost dog breed; a family vacation is shadowed by a plane wreck. Murphy’s fictional universe is shard-bright, blood-salted, and complexly affecting." —Booklist