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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.

Taste of Penny, by Jeff Parker

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Taste of Penny, by Jeff Parker


Taste of Penny, by Jeff Parker


Publication Date: June 1, 2010
Paperback: 167 pages
ISBN: 978-0-982520-44-4
Trim: 7.9 x 5.4

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Tight, wry, dark, and deeply funny, The Taste of Penny agitates the senses in stories modern and mischievous. This collection captures love, relationships, and finding one's way in the twenty-first century.


“Whether moose legs or tongue tips or sperm counts or pennies lodged into a throat, Parker disassembles us so compellingly that we no longer wish to be whole. His inventiveness revises the world as we know it with audacious wit.” —Mary Caponegro, author of All Fall Down and The Star Cafe 

“Here we have characters in Russia messing up in hilarious ways; taking care of a cheating girlfriend’s pet bird; failing miserably at roadside tests in front of cops; spraying indoor centipedes with cheap cologne. Has my life ever been this bad? Nope. And that’s good. Have I ever felt like such a foreigner in an already-strange land? Not even close. Do I wish that I’d written these stories? Absolutely. I’m jealous.The Taste of Penny’s the best ride at a spectacular carnival.”—George Singleton, author of The Half-Mammals of Dixie and These People Are Us 

“Jeff Parker’s stories are mysterious, heartfelt, and utterly captivating. In The Taste Of Penny, he casually flexes a Voltron-like combo of writerly gifts: Ron Carlson’s mastery of voice, Elmore Leonard’s uncanny ear for dialogue, and Raymond Carver’s spare wit. This collection contains some of the most absorbing and brightly imaginative stories I’ve come across in some time.” —Davy Rothbart,FOUND Magazine and This American Life

“Jeff Parker is a writer who understands that voice is the doorway to all true beauty in fiction. Tight, wry, dark, and deeply funny—he is a master of the hyper-compressed sentence that explodes with more meaning and nuance than should be possible.” —George Saunders, author of Pastoralia and In Persuasion Nation


“Ten dark, suspenseful, and tightly wound stories teeter on the edge of catastrophe and the surreal piecing-back-together of life afterwards. Parker (Ovenman) tosses his characters into some form of peril, whether physical—like the narrator of “Our Cause,” who loses the tip of his tongue—or emotional, like the jingoistic American in “The Boy and the Colgante,” who erects a giant illuminated American flag in front of his house in the heart of “French redneck” Quebec. Parker's characters are disfigured or pitiable—one weathers guilt and emotional torture while paralyzed in a wheelchair, one gnaws at his fingers and attempts to excrete a swallowed penny, one stands in line outside the house where his ex-girlfriend is interviewing potential new boyfriends. Parker's prose is concise and quirky, packed with unexpected turns (“It's like yak butter or meat jelly,” says one character. “You don't know exactly what it is but you know it's there”), and aside from the few moments when Parker gets too clever for his own good (as with the unnecessarily obscure “The Briefcase of the Pregnant Spylady”), these stories are haunting and constantly surprising.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Pathetic, perhaps, but the characters in Jeff Parker's riotous collection of short stories are always welcome to come to life in our book.” —Time Out New York

“Parker’s sense of humor shines through in these stories, thanks in large part to an idiosyncratic take on language, mixing colloquialism with precision.” —Jonathan Messinger, Time Out Chicago

“This collection is the perfect way to escape and live a life (or lives) a little more dangerous and adventurous for awhile." What to Wear During an Orange Alert?

"The errant liftgates and related stories make us all realize there are bigger mishaps and idiots out there beyond ourselves. Also make us realize that Jeff Parker is no idiot." —Impose Magazine, Favorite Books of 2010

"...not to be missed." Black Book, Top 10 Books of 2010

"Like Hannah and Barthelme, Parker mines that thin vein of heartbreak that only exists in the absurdly comic.  His gift is in combining and distilling these influences so that the collection feels like a trip through a traveling carnival, each story a ride whose flashing lights distract hypnotically from the danger and speed. The best stories in this collection work because of Parker's humor and because he creates landscapes that function by their own laws of physics. His characters are always adrift in worlds that don't make sense and where any action produces a reaction that is not equal, but always doubled and always against them...The world may indeed be cruel and incomprehensible, and Parker knows our best hope is in laughing at it." —John Stazinski, American Book Review

"The Taste of Penny succeeds brilliantly...exposing personal and political absurdities with a supple, serio-comic tone and wire taut dialogue." —Charles Dodd White, Rain Taxi

"The thirteen storiescomprising Jeff Parker's The Taste of Pennymanage to straddle the gulf between outlandishness and poignancy."--Brad Felver, Mid-American Review


Writer Jeff Parker