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Coulrophobia & Fata Morgana

Publication Date: September 2016


In these ten clear-eyed fictions, Appel explores the tensions between sisters and lovers, grandparents and grandchildren, butchers and vegetarians, idealists and pragmatists, the vocal and the silent, the living and the dead. His work suggests the wry humor of Grace Paley, the linguistic joy of Stanly Elkin, and the psychic violence of Flannery O’Connor. In short, Appel delivers the full experience, squeezing every possible nuance out of the form.
-Trudy Lewis, author of The Empire Rolls

What I love best about this collection is how deftly it sketches the intersections of love and power and insight and betrayal at the heart of the families that inhabit it. Jacob Appel’s sense of pace is as true as a metronome’s. These stories will earn their place in your life.

-Roy Kesey, author of Pacazo

My admiration for Jacob Appel increases with each page I read. He’s an ingenious storyteller. He’s also witty and large-hearted and graceful with a sentence. Coulrophobia & Fata Morgana brims with distinctive characters: Mimes and butchers, rabbis and diva, all of them seeking love and understanding with a zest all their own. This is the finest comic prose I’ve read in a very long time.

-Alyson Hagy, author of Boleto

A Jacob Appel story is like a beautiful room that contains a trap door. Each tale in Coulrophobia and Fata Morgana is somehow ruthlessly observant yet compassionately engaged-and in the end uncannily human. Open the cover and you’ll find yourself captivated by these unpredictable characters, the intimate and surprising glimpse of their lives.

-Erin Soros, winner of Canada’s Commonwealth Prize

There’s a great forward-leaning energy to the stories of Jacob Appel. And just like his characters, one finds oneself hooked into situations beyond oneself, each moment new and singular and compelling and strange.

-William Lychack, author of The Architect of Flowers

Jacob Appel’s narratives pull you in from the first entrance of their characters, whether it’s a woman picking up her errant grandson from the police station, or two U.S.-Canadian border guards with too much time to kill. The portraits are sharp and perceptive, with a vivid sense of scene. They can also be quietly devastating, as in the love story “Counting” or bitterly funny, as in “Saluting the Magpie” which is to say that Appel is a writer of versatility and verve. Coulrophobia and Fata Morgana is a collection that renews my faith in storytelling.

-David Galef, author of My Date with Neanderthal Woman

The writer Jacob Appel writes confidently about what he knows. He draws from his experience in medicine and the law to create arresting stories that combine the eerie and the corporeal. Then we have manslaughter, murder and envy. The characters are not people you meet every day. Plucked from the imagination of the writer, they attempt to force behavior with varying results. Coulrophobia and Fata Morgana, the multi-word title of Appel’s latest book features the superior mirage, and like a mirage, the stories within reflect a distorted and sometimes unrecognizable reality.
-Edith Pearlman, author of Honeydew

About the Author

Jacob M. Appel

Jacob M. Appel is a physician, attorney and bioethicist based in New York City.   He is the author of more than two hundred published short stories and is a past winner of the Boston Review Short Fiction Competition, the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award for the Short Story, the Dana Award, the Arts & Letters Prize for Fiction, the North American Review’s Kurt Vonnegut Prize, the Missouri Review’s Editor’s Prize, the Sycamore Review’s Wabash Prize, the Briar Cliff Review’s Short Fiction Prize, the H. E. Francis Prize, the New Millennium Writings Fiction Award in four different years, an Elizabeth George Fellowship and a Sherwood Anderson Foundation Writers Grant.   His stories have been short-listed for the O. Henry Award, Best American Short Stories, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best American Mystery Stories, and the Pushcart Prize anthology on numerous occasions.   His first novel, The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up, won the Dundee International Book Prize in 2012.  Jacob holds graduate degrees from Brown University, Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, Harvard Law School, New York University’s MFA program in fiction and Albany Medical College’s Alden March Institute of Bioethics.  He taught for many years at Brown University and currently teaches at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

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