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Open Reading Period Selection

$19.95

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ISBN: 978-1-62557-830-3
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The Ways We Get By

Publication Date: January 2021

About

Excerpt from “The Reluctant Son of a Fake Hero”

At noon I climb out of the mouth of the Hollywood/Highland metro station just in time to see the 212 bus thunder past, and Frank’s cape billow in its wake. He’s striking the classic pose–chest out, hands fisted on his hips–and as much as I hate to admit it, he looks pretty good. Considering. He’s kept up his physique. He’s got actual muscles beneath his suit, unlike most of the losers out here in their Halloween costumes with the drawn-on pecs and the injection-molded abs.

There are few tourists on the boulevard at this time of day, but soon a family of three stops to admire Frank. A series of photos are taken. In one, Frank wraps an arm around the wife while flexing the other so his bicep bulges against the blue fabric of his suit. In another, Frank picks up their daughter, a chubby blonde in pink overalls. He places the girl on his shoulder, squares his jaw, and points a fist to the sky. Then the husband hands Frank some money.

I walk up as they leave.

“A dollar?” Frank says. “I pick up their little piglet and the best they can do is a dollar. Jesus. I gotta start charging by the pound.”

Then Frank balls up the money and sticks it in the fanny pack he keeps hidden beneath his cape.

This is my father.

Praise

This bizarre, charming, darkly comic irreality of paid cuddlers and mean-spirited parents, where intimacy is commodified and heroes nonexistent might at first resemble something far off and fanciful. But take another look. This is the desperate, inscrutable world we’ve come to inhabit. And those outsiders and losers our own bewildered selves. Dornich is a master of the present moment.
-Adam Prince

A wild, dazzling collection that reaches whole new altitudes of comic absurdity. You’d be hard-pressed to find a phrase that fails to crackle with hilarious electricity. You never quite know where a Joe Dornich story will take you, but once you’ve reached your destination, prepare to have your heart cracked in half.
-Patrick Michael Finn

The world of The Ways We Get By is askew, and while that makes for sly social critique, the book’s real capacity to surprise is nestled in the missteps and errors committed by its main characters. They become more endearing as a result, reminding us that we’re all more mess than messiah, helping us reconnect to our humanity.
-Craig Bernier

With equal measures of hilarity and heartache, Joe Dornich collects the stories of America’s middle-class cast-offs: the under-employed, the under-appreciated, and most devastatingly, the under-loved. Whether it is the plight of a professional snuggler—offering comfort to strangers, but unable to express his feelings to a co-worker—or a son whose summer spent working alongside his father serves only to deepen their disconnection, truths are laid bare through these darkly humorous pieces. Searching not only for connection with others, but for value in their lives, Dornich’s characters find themselves employed in positions that demand more than can be offset by a wage. Though young, they are soul-weary. In a world full of expectations built and then toppled, Dornich’s collection asks: How does it feel to have your whole life ahead of you?
-Jenny Irish

About the Author

Joe Dornich

Joe Dornich is a graduate of Texas Tech's creative writing program where he was the managing editor of Iron Horse Literary Review. His stories have won contests and fellowships from The Master's Review, Carve Magazine, South Central MLA, Key West Literary Seminars, and the South Carolina Academy of Authors. Joe lives in Knoxville and teaches at the University of Tennessee.

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