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Before You She Was a Pit Bull

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Before You She Was a Pit Bull Cover

ISBN13: 9781892061300
ISBN10: 1892061309
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Elizabeth Ellen is one of the most thrilling writers to come out of the literary Internet scene. She writes boldly about her wayward characters — reckless women, cold-shouldered men, and unsupervised children. In her debut collection, Before You She Was a Pit Bull, Ellen unleashes six stories that will crush your heart and leave you begging for more.

Review:

"Elizabeth Ellen's stories are ferocious and tender, filled with dark, relentless momentum punctuated by exquisite moments of sweetness and stillness." Davy Rothbart, creator of Found magazine and author of The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas

Review:

"Elizabeth Ellen's eye never fails to capture the most revealing details in these humane, off-kilter fictions. Like Denis Johnson, her stories take place in the passenger seats and rec rooms of an uneasy Americana and are warmed by a generous sensitivity to human frailty." Ryan Boudinot, author of The Littlest Hitler

Review:

"Thanks to her lack of pretension, her focus on detail, and her willingness to explore the ugly stuff without judgment, Elizabeth Ellen's stories take nothing characters, nowhere towns, and turn them into something extraordinary. She elevates the unremarkable, and makes it shine like the goddamn sun." Whitney Pastorek, executive editor, Pindeldyboz

About the Author

Elizabeth Ellen lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her writing has appeared widely on the internet and in journals and anthologies.

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Matthew Bell, January 24, 2007 (view all comments by Matthew Bell)
When I first started reading literary magazines, I had one small problem: I didn't know any of the names on the back or in the table of contents, so I didn't know where to start reading or who I was interested in. As I continued to read different magazines and to put my own work out for publication, I started to run across certain names over and over. One of those names was Elizabeth Ellen, editor of Hobart's Short Flight / Long Drive Books division and now the author of the newly released Before You She Was A Pit Bull, a chapbook from Future Tense Books.

The six stories in this debut collection each detail relationships characterized by longing, by obsession, by wanting what you can't have while refusing to risk what you've already got. Lines are drawn in the sand and then crossed forcefully, as the female protagonists of Ellen's stories hurtle themselves at the men they've chosen as their objects of desire, at the kind of relationships they believe they need. In one story, the blonde narrator in "Trucker" aptly describes the experience of chasing the "brunettes only" Trucker like this:

"This is the sort of bullshit you find yourself succumbed to when you fall face-first in love with yet another shit-for-brains motherfucker and this time said motherfucker's already married, when he's got a regular mail-order bride with an unpronounceable name waiting back home for him between her ten dollar space heater and foreign language speaking dog, eating sour cream and yogurt out of little plastic containers and watching Portuguese soap operas on satellite T.V.: you find yourself snowshoeing in the middle of a goddamn blizzard at two o'clock in the morning; in lieu of having sex, I mean; in lieu of normal, human interaction."

As a snowstorm forces the two closer together, the narrator revels in needing Trucker for warmth, in his needing her for the same. It is not a relationship exactly, but it is better than what she had when the story began. Similar motives and revelations lie behind the taste for erotic asphyxiation discovered in "Breathing Lessons," or the deep co-dependency detailed between a widow with a dead child and her teenage lover in "Avoidance." These women are all studies in contrasts, strong and fiercely aggressive at times while needy and blocked off at others, their insecure desires fueling the dangerous trajectories they carve through these stories.

Two of the stories concern young girls instead of adults. The first story, "What I've Been Told With Regard to the Pianist," is also my favorite in the collection. The pianist is named Samuel, who the young narrator informs us is six-foot-three, married to a nurse, and plays piano at a bar where he meets the narrator's mother before moving into their house. He is also a recovering heroin addict and male prostitute, according to the mother:

""After seven years he moved back here," she tells me as we climb into the truck for a second time this morning, the remains of our breakfast tossed onto the dash in a rolled up sack with pink and brown lettering. "He told me that's how long it takes to lose your taste for the stuff. He said that if you can manage to stay alive that long, you walk away a free man.""

The narrator goes on to become friends with Samuel, who intrigues her with his abilities as a pianist, his taste in movies, and his general kindness towards her. Eventually, he's destined to disappear from her life as all of her mother's boyfriends have, but not before he takes her out to eat and to a movie, leading to a tender moment as they leave the theater, one that makes the anger of the next few scenes even harder to stomach:

"Outside, the parking lot looks like the inside of a snow globe and every car looks like same. The pavement is slick and I stumble and have to hold out my arms like a tightrope walker to steady myself. Sam walks up next to me and takes my hand and we walk the rest of the way together and I don't fall or stumble again."

When the narrator wonders later what it would be like to be like Samuel, to be "a different person in seven years," and if she'll like it or not. Judging by her mother, and by the kind of adults Ellen's characters grow up to be, it's easy to see that yes, the narrator will be different, although it seems unlikely that she'll be perfectly happy when that time comes. There seems to be a progression between the women in these stories, perhaps even separated by the pianist's seven long years: The child of "The Loyalists" becomes the teenager of "What I've Been Told With Regard to the Pianist," then the twenty-something narrators of "Trucker" and "Breathing Lessons," before becoming the older women in stories such as "Avoidance" and "The Trouble With Miriam." These women are not necessarily getting better or worse, only different. They do not find epiphanies, although they do seek rapture. They do not find solace, although they want to be comforted. They do not become whole, although they all find some way to make up for whatever it is missing.

Elizabeth Ellen has given us only six short stories here, six out of a repertoire that already contains dozens of other stories that are easily as strong as the ones here; Surely, there are more to come. Unpretentious, unflinching, and unafraid, her prose is as beautifully vivid as it is haunting, and Before You She Was A Pit Bull is just the first showing of this fantastic writer is capable of. I cannot recommend Ellen's work highly enough, and this books is a great place to start a habit of reading everything she writes.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781892061300
Publisher:
FUTURE TENSE PRESS
Copyright:
Pages:
52

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Small Press » Fiction and Prose
Fiction and Poetry » Small Press » Zines

Before You She Was a Pit Bull
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 52 pages FUTURE TENSE PRESS - English 9781892061300 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Elizabeth Ellen's stories are ferocious and tender, filled with dark, relentless momentum punctuated by exquisite moments of sweetness and stillness."
"Review" by , "Elizabeth Ellen's eye never fails to capture the most revealing details in these humane, off-kilter fictions. Like Denis Johnson, her stories take place in the passenger seats and rec rooms of an uneasy Americana and are warmed by a generous sensitivity to human frailty."
"Review" by , "Thanks to her lack of pretension, her focus on detail, and her willingness to explore the ugly stuff without judgment, Elizabeth Ellen's stories take nothing characters, nowhere towns, and turn them into something extraordinary. She elevates the unremarkable, and makes it shine like the goddamn sun."
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