Publication Day of Lance Olsen’s HOW TO UNFEEL THE DEAD

Today marks the official release date of Lance Olsen‘s How to Unfeel the Dead: New and Selected Fictions.


Lance Olsen is one of our most innovative, versatile, and significant writers. A “master of an evocative, expressive prose” (Publisher’s Weekly), who’s written over twenty books of and about experimental fiction, Olsen is also a virtuoso of the short form. Now, for the first time, many of his short fictions—from My Dates with Franz (1993) to Hideous Beauties (2003) and beyond—is gathered in one volume: How to Unfeel the Dead. The career-spanning collection is an amalgam of styles, voices, forms, and approaches to being in the world that have previously appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading, Bomb, Conjunctions, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Iowa Review, and many other nationally renowned journals and anthologies.

Often haunting, these fictions unfold in the interstices between the real and the imaginary, Olsen adroitly depicting family, friends, and other complications, each uncertain character “living in the space between words.” Here you’ll find an android, dwarves, and angels; a poet’s almost-resurrected corpse; voluntary amputees; multiple considerations of the lobster; at least sixteen Jackie Kennedys; and a “string of disembodied voices”: Wittgenstein, Donald Barthelme, Hegel, Bataille, Czeslaw Milosz, Nietzsche, Gaugin, John Cage, Alexander Pope, Derrida, and a host of social media-nauts. In “Moving,” a couple’s “paying attention” results in perpetual dislocation. “Strategies in the Overexposure of Well-Lit Space” features the infamous Zodiac Killer and a cast of Pynchonesue grotesques. “Two Children Menaced by a Nightingale” reanimates Max Ernst’s famed collage, its odd imagery and “narrative deviations” cohering into another troubling phantasmagoria.

How to Unfeel the Dead is a network of short circuits, each narrative compelling you to follow unplanned or unexpected paths. It raises questions, about language, narrative, form, being and becoming, where further questions are the only answers: less a career summary than a literary juggernaut’s call to the infinite possibilities of literary art.


“Striking, shocking . . . In the world of contemporary fiction, Lance Olsen is a rockstar.”
Brooklyn Rail

“Lance Olsen reminds us that defying classification has lasting, imaginative value.”
Review of Contemporary Fiction

“Filled with humor, dazzle, and a reality that realism seldom achieves.”
Iowa Review

“Lance Olsen is a writer whose technical ingenuity is matched only by his fertility of invention and compassion for his characters.”

“Olsen is among the finest writers of social critique and speculative fiction today.”
American Book Review

“Perhaps no other American author writes as expansively and insightfully as Lance Olsen about what it means to be alive at this place, at this time.”
—Steve Tomasula


Lance Olsen is the author of eleven novels, one hypertext, four critical studies, four fiction collections, and two textbooks about writing innovative fiction. He is the recipient of Guggenheim and N.E.A. fellowships as well as the Berlin Prize and a Pushcart Prize. His short stories, essays, poems, and reviews have appeared in numerous of journals and anthologies. He teaches experimental narrative theory and practice at the University of Utah.

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