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ISBN: 978-1-62557-975-1
Reviews & Media Review in NEW LETTERS
Categories Fiction, Short Stories

The Liars’ Asylum

Publication Date: October 2017


“Sharp, insightful, and poignant, Jacob Appel’s The Liars’ Asylum explores the intersection of love and despair, hope and failure. From a teenage girl experiencing the illicit thrill of attraction to the burden of suicide on those who remain to the crippling effect of desire denied, Appel’s eight-story collection expertly plumbs the depths of emotion to remind us of what it means to be human-what it means to alive.”

-Douglas Light, author of East Fifth Bliss and Girls in Trouble

The eight stories in Jacob’s Appel’s marvelous new collection, The Liars’ Asylum, brim with wit, whimsy, truth, and tenderness. Here are lives following unpredictable, often surprising paths, to end in moments of insight which offer a new take on the human condition. Whether it’s a teenage girl coming to grips with her own duplicity, a man thwarting his partner’s attempt to euthanize a severely disabled surgeon, or a woman confronting a role she may have played in her teacher’s long-ago suicide, these fictional characters come alive in wholly unexpected and powerful ways.”

-Anne Leigh Parrish, author of What Is Found, What Is Lost

Jacob Appel’s acrobatic imagination is always a thrill to watch in action. These stories fly through the air and grip your heart. Appel’s naturalness as a storyteller makes The Liars’ Asylum a total pleasure, a collection in a league of its own. Each story-there are no duds here-engages and entertains. Each is beautifully measured and composed, populated by characters I worried for, crushed on, and hoped with.”

-Kelly Luce, author of Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail

In this excellent collection of stories, Jacob Appel mines everything for what it is and what it might be: the ordinary, the bizarre, the poignant. The voice, regardless of the narrator, is always crisp and exuberant, in ways subtle and fresh. I could say he is a writer to watch, but actually he is publishing well and frequently. He’s a writer to read.”

-Fred Leebron, author of Six Figures

Told with wit and humor, the stories in The Liars’ Asylum feature vivid characters, inventive settings, and writing that sparks with specificity. Appel’s storytelling spans the unusual, the psychologically complex, the subtle, and the bold-all of which make The Liars’ Asylum an entertaining, often startling read.”

-Laura Maylene Walter, author of Living Arrangements

While the plants and ponds might be aggressively artificial in Jacob Appel’s newest collection of stories, there’s not a single false note when it comes to Appel’s characters and their intertwined lives. Romance blooms despite vast differences in ages and circumstance, and near connections plunge into a unique melancholy optimism that will propel readers from one story to the next.”

–Suzanne Greenberg, author of Speed-Walk and Other Stories

In The Liars’ Asylum, Jacob Appel has given us a terrific collection of short stories. Appel is a polymath with a great heart. He seems to know everything. And everything he knows, no matter how arcane the knowledge might, at first glance, seem, proves somehow-this is the magic-central to our sense about what it means to be human. You need to read this book.”

-Steven Polansky, author of Dating Miss Universe

The eight stories in Jacob Appel’s latest collection, The Liars’ Asylum, offer the fortunate reader contemporary conflicts and moral exigencies marked by exuberant, irrepressible prose and real wit. Mix-ups, misperceptions, multiple motives, misplaced desires and ethical absurdities ricochet through Appel’s diverse characters’ lives and loves, their hopes and anxieties. Appel brilliantly dissects without wounding, fathoms without judgement and heals with humor and an openness to infinite possibility. The Liars’ Asylum is magical, irresistible, incredibly smart.”

-Melissa Pritchard, author of Palmerino

The titles of these eight stories are poems in themselves: Prisoners of the Multiverse, The Summer of Interrogatory Subversion, When Love was an Angel’s Kidney. But this fine ear is just one of Jacob Appel’s many gifts: he has an eye for quirky detail (“a floral print skirt that could have passed for upholstery”) and the empathy to bring each character to life, from the student haunted by the death of her physics teacher, to the old “frying Finn” who endures his lonely life with sisu. Appel’s voices are real, and we are compelled by each one’s struggle, each one’s longing for love.”

-Molly McNett, author of One Dog Happy

I’m in absolute awe of Jacob Appel’s The Liars’ Asylum. The stories here are magnetic and knowing, funny and inventive. Appel is a master of the form — deftly able to conjure up pitch perfect characters whose lips spill out both truth and wit.”

-John Jodzio, author of Knockout

Jacob M. Appel’s brilliant new story collection manages to pull off the rarest of literary feats-delivering eight fantastic stories, each as entertaining as it is philosophically rich. A book of laugh-out-loud wit braided with intellectual fearlessness, The Liars’ Asylum offers delights for the mind on every page. Best of all, these irreverent, lovingly subversive stories upend dusty assumptions about what it means to be alive and allow the reader to experience her own existence with a fresh eye. A stunning book that will remain with you long after the last page is turned.”

-Alethea Black, author of I Knew You’d Be Lovely

Reading Jacob M. Appel’s stories means experiencing that delicious tension of wanting to know what will happen next and yet also wanting to slow down and savor the vibrant language and twists and turns of each sentence. These stories drop us into richly textured landscapes, whether the suburbs of Virginia or a camp for kidney patients in the Berkshires, where people do what they always do: desire dangerously and suffer unspeakable loss. In the hands of this storyteller, the consequences surprise and satisfy in the way the best literature does, by awakening our delight in that great mystery of being human.”

-Justine Dymond, author of Motherhood Memoirs

Appel’s The Liars’ Asylum showcases the stylistic and psychological dexterity of this gifted storyteller. The stories propel you into unlikely or extreme situations with the author’s characteristic wittily straightforward narration, and they don’t let you go. Always engaging, imaginative and unpredictable, the best of these stories surprise you as well with their poignancy, a window cracked open onto a kind of illumination. Out of humor and absurdity comes a genuine sweetness.”

-Sharon Solwitz, author of Bloody Mary

The stories in The Liars’ Asylum are complete universes in miniature, each immersing the reader in a complex human soul. Jacob Appel is a master at creating unforgettable characters – here, they include a teenager enlisted in helping her guardian aunt snag a husband, a Finnish grandfather reflecting on lost love, and a man flummoxed by his girlfriend’s plans to euthanize an elderly man – with intelligence, wit, poignancy, and deep psychological insight. This book is a true find.”

-Jessica Treadway, author of Please Come Back to Me

Across eight compelling stories, Jacob Appel offers us glimpses into the lives of people keeping secrets, broaching taboos, and testing the limits of their relationships. From a former teacher’s suicide to an epidemic of storms that forces those caught in them to tell the truth, The Liars’ Asylum beautifully and artfully exposes the mysteries and longings of the human heart.”

-Anne Valente, author of Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down

Jacob M. Appel new collection, The Liars’ Asylum, confirms his status as one of our most skillful, and appealing, practitioners of short fiction. Indeed, Appel is one of those blessed and nimble writers who, like Chekhov, can find a story anywhere. On ample display are his trademark first-person narrators (often young women), his deliciously light touch, his mastery of the “reversal of fortune” moment. His new cast of characters includes a girl tasked with ensuring her aunt a “beau” an immigrant Finn who teaches us the meaning of endurance, and a ER psychiatrist dealing with a mass hysteria of truth-telling. Appel’s fiction is a brilliant and reassuring example of Horace’s maxim: The role of the artist is to inform and delight.”

-Catherine Browder, author of Now We Can All Go Home: 3 Novellas in Homage to Chekhov

In his beautiful, hilarious, and serious selection of eight stories, The Liars’ Asylum, Jacob M. Appel is able to find exquisite moments of disjuncture and connection through focusing on flawed and ferociously alive characters. He does the work without a lot of showiness, and a genuine sense of substance supporting style and vice versa. I kept thinking of Katherine Anne Porter and her concrete manner of merging conflict with grace and finesse. Appel continues and enhances that trajectory.”

-Keith Banner, author of Next to Nothing

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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