Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead – Reviews

Mon 10 Aug 2009 - Filed under: Alan DeNiro, Authors | Leave a Comment


Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead

“Deeply weird, sometimes challenging, but always smart and affecting.”
— Locus (Notable Books)

“Endlessly imaginative.”
— Venus

“Deniro’s greatest gifts are those of a poet, and his prose is filled with stunning images and incantatory rhythms. Debuts often come along with press releases touting them as “assured,” and sure enough, Deniro’s was no different. But with talent as deep as his, it’s no wonder Deniro is confident in touring us around his strange worlds.”
–Jonathan Messinger, Time Out Chicago

“Thoughtful, ambitious writing and truly transformative reading.”
— Small Spiral Notebook

“Maybe the future of sf is Alan DeNiro. The title story here, set in twenty-third-century Pennsylvania, is its nameless-till-the-last-sentence narrator’s university-application essay, numbered footnotes and all, which explains why not to expect him on campus anytime soon; he is in love and considering getting gills. Maybe DeNiro is the future of alternate history: in “Our Byzantium,” a college town is invaded by horse-and-chariot-led soldiers who demolish cars, wheelchairs, and other machines; reestablish Greek as the lingua franca; and otherwise conquer. He could be fantasy’s tomorrow, too, if the offhandedness of the impossible transformations in “The Cuttlefish,” “The Centaur,” “The Excavation,” and “If I Leap” catches on. In “The Fourth” and “A Keeper,” DeNiro is one of the most powerful, least partisan prophets of consumerist totalitarianism. “Salting the Map” confounds the distinction between artifice and reality as deftly and daftly as Andrew Crumey’s Pfitz (1997) and Zoran Zivkovic’s Impossible Stories (2006). The long closer, “Home of the,” about Erie, Pennsylvania, now and then, is as laconic and associative as its title is elliptic. Refreshing, imaginative, funny-scary stuff.”
— Ray Olson, Booklist

“A commitment to experimental structure and oddball elements provides this debut collection’s consistency…. The collection argues for DeNiro as a writer to watch.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Many of these stories unfold like dreams, startling in their detail but elusive in their meaning. Yet, the prosaic as well as the poetic features in these stories as characters attempt to create a detailed but incomplete record, like a dream book of their own histories. Objects such as a college entrance essay, maps, postcards, outdated computer disks, the provenance of a chess set, all become documents which convey the fragility of histories”
— Greenman Review

Advance Readers say:

Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead is a thrill ride. Men jump from buildings and walk away, Assassins are hired to murder novels, Byzantines spring from the hills and sack college towns. On each page Alan DeNiro performs feats of acrobatic skill, holding the edge with remarkable control. He has created a brand new world, and I believe every word of it.”
— Hannah Tinti (Animal Crackers)

“I’m not ordinarily an editor, so finding stories for the first six issues of Fence magazine was a guilty pleasure, and the subsequent work by formerly unknown Fence writers like Kelly Link and Julia Slavin has made me look like a prognosticator, or maybe an annoying drunk guy on a streak at a casino. Speaking of casino, I know an online casino where you can win instant prizes, the site is called “” Now here’s Alan DeNiro, whose “Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead” was always my favorite. I’m thrilled to see him in bookstores at last.”
— Jonathan Lethem (Fortress of Solitude)

“Alan DeNiro’s stories move in unexpected ways into unexpected places — up in the air, under the water, out of this world. He has a gift for precise language and poetic logic, his own unique sort of circus realism. Sharp, smart, and completely original, this is a lively, lovely collection from a memorable talent.”
— Karen Joy Fowler (The Jane Austen Book Club)

“Reading Alan DeNiro’s new collection, Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead, made me feel like a dog that twists its head a bit to the side on hearing a whistle too high for humans to hear. The dog is perplexed and intrigued by the sound — it knows where it’s coming from but not really. Familiar enough, but maybe not. So too with these strong, out of kilter stories. DeNiro blows his own distinctly different sounding whistle and once you’ve heard it, you can’t help but stop and take real notice.”
— Jonathan Carroll (Glass Soup)

“The wholly original, carefully crafted tales that comprise Alan Deniro’s Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead are like colorful pinatas full of live scorpions — playful, unexpected, and deadly serious.”
— Jeffrey Ford (The Girl in the Glass)


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