Synopses & Reviews
Hypnotic and profoundly disquieting, The Listeners
explores a far-out world where a patchwork of memory, sensation, and imagination maps the flickering presence of ghosts.
This is the story of a woman whose life is shaped by tragedy. Quinn is thirtysomething, a survivor of a fractured and eccentric childhood marred by the death of her younger sister. Twenty years later, she is in the midst of a decade-long slide down the other side of punk-rock stardom after her successful music career was abruptly halted. Sassy and smart, tough but broken, Quinn is at loose ends. She develops unique strategies for coping, but no matter what twisted tactic Quinn conjures to keep her psyche intact, she cannot keep the past away. The Listeners is about what lurks in the shadows and what happens when what's lurking insists on being seen.
Leni Zumas portrays a world twisted on its axis by loss, in all its grotesque beauty. From the first line the prose is glorious: pricklingly honest and hallucinatory, a lucid dream world realized. The Listeners marks the debut of a major American writer.
"Zumas's debut novel comes at the reader in over a hundred self-contained, lucid pieces: a visit to a doctor in which Quinn, the teenage narrator, is ominously evasive about her weight loss; siblings bantering around the dinner table in a free fall of time; a dream of octopi, creatures that become a motif, much like John Irving's bear. Even happy memories have a melancholy undertone because Quinn is grieving the death of her sister, who is also revealed in fragments ('She became a woman three months before she died'). Of siblings Fod, Mert, and Riley, Riley is the most three-dimensional and the closest to Quinn. Zumas's tone is crisply naturalistic, slightly off center, and downright surreal, sometimes all at once, though often starting as one and drifting into another. The novel's tantalizing form approximates Quinn's mental and emotional state; she isn't in the traditional fog of grief, she's hyper-observant and arch: 'The pong of cheap meat and fry oil hung on the air,' and 'From the subway I climbed to a street ateem with suited normals and walking-homers....' For all this, plot threads are mostly explicable, creating a compelling build-it-yourself tapestry of cherished memories and open wounds." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Zumas has already proven herself a remarkable maker of short stories. Now she has sustained and heightened the exhilaration of her writing in this striking novel." Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask
"Leni Zumas is a wonder, an alchemist, a witch. She brews a wild elixir in these stories, which take you where you never thought to go. Here are mothers infatuated with astronauts and dragons; here is a girl suckling elvers and owlets. Here is the body unspooling and nibbled at, the body undone and made fast again with the strength of the wish to be loved. Somethings timely in these stories and hip, and yet they let us fall out of time. Fall into sorrow and be lifted again. What a blessing — to succumb to Zumas's power, to these gorgeous, beguiling songs." Noy Holland, author of What Begins with Bird
"Leni Zumas's visceral debut novel is a darkly funny and disturbing rager. Weaving a dreamlike coming-of-age story with the melancholic tales of a rock band self-destructing and a family's loss, Zumas's deft language careens through the lives of her characters with killer sentence after killer sentence. It's a crushing, dazzling performance." Kevin Sampsell, author of A Common Pornography
"Almost no one does the right thing — or, at least, the expected thing — in these stories. You may find them funny (there's just enough humor to keep them upbeat of Carson McCullers), but there's also a very good chance they will unzip you, unsettle you....Synapses snap, crackle and pop while you're reading this strange collection." Los Angeles Times
"I have never read stories like Leni Zumas's before and I can't get them out of my head. Her language is real sorcery — it dismantles the world you think you know and takes you to strange, fecund territories of the imagination. Sentence by sentence, Leni creates worlds so vivid and fever-bright that you forget you're reading words on a page and begin to see real plums, scars, black stars lashed to the bottom of canoes. Her characters are girls and boys in bad trouble, who feel as close to you and as far from you as the black sheep in your own family." Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!
The Listeners from Luca Dipierro on Vimeo.
About the Author
Leni Zumas's story collection, Farewell Navigator, was published by Open City in 2008. Her fiction has appeared in numerous journals, including Quarterly West, Open City, Salt Hill, New Orleans Review, Keyhole, and New York Tyrant.