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Hall of Small Mammals by Thomas Pierce

Hall of Small Mammals

Hall of Small Mammals by Thomas Pierce
Paperback
Jan 12, 2016 | 304 Pages
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    Jan 12, 2016 | 304 Pages

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    Jan 08, 2015 | 304 Pages

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Praise

Praise for Hall of Small Mammals

Ridiculously good… These stories never drift vaguely off into the ether. They are beautifully built, and their author has an especially deft way of finding just the right final flourish…. [There’s a] feeling of being inside a bubble while reading Mr. Pierce, and it is a bubble you won’t want to leave. This is such a fine collection that there’s not a stinker in the bunch…. Mr. Pierce’s originality, inventiveness, questing spiritual intelligence and animal fixation aren’t easy to do justice to in the limited space here. But they’re irrefutably good reasons to discover him for yourself.” – Janet MaslinNew York Times

“It will be tempting, but hard, for readers to choose a favorite among the stories here… Rich and complicated… These stories have that merry, postmodern humor, but also a classical love of real human emotion.” – Rebecca LeeNew York Times Book Review

“A debut collection that reads like the work of a much older, established fiction master. The stories in Pierce’s book explore the ordinary in the otherworldly, the surreal in the mundane, and the results are stunning and unexpected…. Pierce is an endlessly incisive and engaging writer. It’s a book full of wisdom and emotion, with stories that explore what it means to live and die in a world filled with invisible things.” – NPR

“Pierce mines the mysterious rift between fantasy and reality with the intricate skill of an archaeologist and the sheer wonder of an imaginative child.” —Elle

“Pierce’s stories are beautifully written and suffused with mystery.” – Emily St. John MandelThe Millions

“[C]ompulsively addictive and delightfully strange…. Pierce’s menagerie of colorful characters equally inspires and amuses. The book is expertly paced (there isn’t a dud in this eclectic bunch) and many of the stories’ endings—some sinister, some melancholic, others heartfelt—prompt momentary reflection, though thankfully not always in ways that are expected.” 
Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

“It’s thrilling to find a writer with an imagination as wild and wonderful as Thomas Pierce. It’s even more impressive to see how Pierce builds upon the initial conceit of his stories, the way he follows the thread of that weirdness toward something utterly unique and altogether human. This is a fantastic, rewarding book of stories.”
Kevin Wilson, author of Tunneling to the Center of the Earth and The Family Fang

“We’re in the realm of the uncertain here, immersed in a view of life that teeters on the edge of parable as an organizing principle for this amazing collection of stories about the possible, the probable, the unknown, the ridiculous, the astonishing, the embarrassing, and also the just plain heartbreaking awkwardness of all kinds of hope and yearning, as we read about life lived in an echo chamber of the past that is now moving rocket-like into the future. It’s a brilliant group of stories fueled by its inherent metaphors. Thomas Pierce has a delicate, shaping presence in all these stories, which are sure to be talked about, admired, and paraphrased nervously, because they take us out of the comfort of our known world.”
Ann Beattie

“This is a book that feels adventurous in scope, but is classically and skillfully wrought, even as it throws us into a future of genetic experimentation, loss, and change.  Humorous, absurd, and smart, Pierce’s collection doesn’t just give us the delicate, dangerous future, but also explores what it means to be a flawed, feeling human living within it – as the keeper of a resurrected species, a physicist with an active dream life, a bone collector.  A book that rewards and earns deep and repeated reading.”
Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Almost Famous Women and Birds of a Lesser Paradise

“Thomas Pierce describes a world we may soon inhabit, where science advances but mystery endures. Extinct species are revived on TV, and near-extinct species are the local zoo’s sellout draw; a new infectious disease defies attempts to identify or contain it, and physicists everywhere quest to identify a theoretical entity called the daisy particle. In this world, fractured families and lost souls — Pierce’s deeper interests — are the norm. Wry, wrenching, and elegant.”
Brian Kimberling, author of Snapper

“This arresting debut collection of short fiction from a gifted new writergracefully renders the textures of the American South and the indefatigable people who live there…. Thomas Pierce’s debut collection, Hall of Small Mammals, taps the aquifer of Southern literature but blends in supernatural elements with a light, deft touch, echoes of García Márquez among the biscuits and magnolias…. Pierce knows his people well, connecting their conflicts to a deeper narrative about the human condition…. With its elegant prose and revelatory insights, Hall of Small Mammals announces a vivid and engaging new voice.” – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Hall of Small Mammals is a skilled collection of explorations on what it means to believe. Pierce teases faith and science out into myriad scenarios, and highlights our principal desire to put our belief into worldviews that make sense of what we see. Each story is a journey into a different kind of observation. Hall of Small Mammals shows us that it might be our need to explain which makes us most human.” – Bookslut

 “I was floored by Pierce’s balance between authoritative control over his craft while maintaining an authentically quirky sensibility…Pierce shows reverence for the Southern Gothic tradition on which he draws, while also bringing in a fresh dose of modern irreverence. He’s a huge talent — one to keep an eye on.” —Bustle

 “[Pierce] balances the incredible incident in each story with powerful — and emotionally involving — insights into his characters.” —Columbus Dispatch

 “Pierce clearly has talent to burn. A promising debut that studies hard-luck types from new and provocative perspectives.” —Kirkus Reviews

Author Essay

Dear Reader,

I’d like to tell you a little bit about my first book, Hall of Small Mammals. This is a book of stories about people trying to make sense of an unusual situation—that situation being life itself. They are about people looking for meaning—in religion, in science, in family, in geology and paleontology, in trips a thousand feet off the ground in a hot air balloon. I’ve been told that I write stories that are odd, strange, or weird, and I won’t quibble too much with those descriptions except to say how odd, strange, and weird life can be (when you forget to pretend you understand it).

For instance: Years ago, my grandmother was walking on the beach and found a massive almost-black shark’s tooth in the sand and gave it to me. It was possibly the best gift I’d ever received. (I was nine.) It might have come from a terrifying prehistoric shark called the Megalodon. The biggest shark that ever lived, some of them longer than an eighteen-wheeler, and now I had its tooth in my sock drawer. What a world! One day it could be our teeth in a sock drawer. (In case fossils appeal to you, there are quite a few in this book.)

In the collection’s first story, a newly retired woman ends up caring for a resurrected woolly mammoth named Shirley Temple. Sure, yes, that’s odd. But consider this: Pretty soon, tomorrow morning maybe, a team of scientists will stand in front of some news cameras and announce that they’ve successfully brought some pitiful creature back from extinction, a passenger pigeon or a dodo bird or a woolly mammoth. We haven’t seen a living mammoth for thousands of years, but we’re still finding their carcasses in the ice. Not just bones—but skin, hair, and organs too. Some Russian researchers found an especially juicy mammoth corpse last year in Siberia. They named her Buttercup. When they sliced her open, she oozed blood! A biotech company in South Korea hopes Buttercup will be the key to the world’s first cloned mammoth. Buttercup returneth.

Down in my home state, a little girl who enjoys looking for shark’s teeth on her school playground during recess wrote her state senator earlier this year asking why it was South Carolina didn’t have an official fossil. We have an official beverage (milk) and snack (boiled peanuts) and dance (shag) but somehow we’d neglected to name a fossil, like most other states. She nominated the Columbian woolly mammoth as an ideal candidate, as its teeth had been discovered in a Carolina swamp almost three hundred years ago. Some lawmakers got behind the idea, but the bill almost died in the senate when a few Bible-thumping members thought it ought to explicitly acknowledge the creator of those fossils too. Drawing from the Book of Genesis, they wanted to amend the bill thusly: “The Columbian Mammoth, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field, is designated as the official State Fossil.” Just before the senate voted, the majority leader suggested they name the mammoth Lazarus. “Because,” he said, “we’re bringing it back to life.” Weirdness, it abounds.

I do hope you enjoy this book—that its stories move you, that they allow you, if even for a moment, to forget to pretend you understand what it means to be alive in such a strange place as this.

All best,

Thomas
 

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