Synopses & Reviews
A stunning, Poe-esque collection of short fiction about outsiders, lost dogs, romance, and life's surprising mysteries.
Populated by strangers, ghosts, and other shadowy figures, the thirteen stories in The Unsettling attend to those startling moments when what we have understood as familiar is suddenly revealed as mysterious and foreign.
A lonely man saving library books from an outbreak of mold listens to a coworker's tale about a blind woman and imbues it with his own sense of romance; a woman drives a Gold Firebird through the desert with a television playing Rockford Files reruns on the passenger seat; and a girl returns to her childhood home to spy on its new inhabitants, not realizing they are aware of her surveillance.
Told through Rock's imaginative and wholly original voice, these are haunted tales about fascination, transformation, and the relationship between the two.
"Novelist Rock (The Ambidextrist) gathers 13 odd, haunting tales in a patchwork collection that borrows elements from genre fiction (the ghost; the stalker; the hitchhiker) while paying homage to literary lights (to Chekhov explicitly; to Poe; and, one suspects, Murukami). In Rock's bleak world, the isolated and maladjusted seek connections: in 'Blooms,' a young man hired to remove mold from damp library books learns how his elder coworker used to sit naked in his blind neighbor's bedroom and read to her; in 'The Silent Men,' a waitress receives late-night phone calls from a stranger who got her number from her 'Lost Dogs' poster; in 'The Sharpest Knife,' a middle-aged man sneaks into the bedroom of his eight-year-old neighbor to write cryptic messages in her school notebook. 'Lights' is a rather bloodless rewrite of the Chekhov story of the same name, in which a loquacious older man tells a bored youth and a stranger the story of his entanglement with a desperate woman; 'Thrill' tells of a young married couple's surprising response to a youthful, female peeping Tom. Mysterious, inventive, but often pallid and unrewarding, these stories are strange but perhaps not quite strange enough." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This first collection of short stories truly lives up to its title....In all the stories, there is an attempt to focus on that blurry line between a delicious mystery and one that is truly maddening. The collection, although complex, will be read quickly in stolen moments." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Mr. Rock has an eye for detail, with lucid, confident metaphors reminiscent of Annie Proulx." Wall Street Journal
"Curiously dry, unsympathetic short stories....A solid representation of this writer's mature work, notable for its detached intensity, but his stories' brevity and randomness will leave many dissatisfied." Kirkus Reviews
"A sense of mystery both macabre and marvelous keeps creeping into The Unsettling....The stories, for all their dedicated realism and easily recognizable characters and milieux...are dreamlike." San Francisco Chronicle
"Although these are not explicitly suspense or ghost stories, their 'what happens next?' effect is to haunt, chill, and sometimes harrow. Overall, the collection recalls Freud's definition of the uncanny as 'the class of frightening things that leads us back to what is known and familiar.' Recommended." Library Journal
"These gripping and vivid stories are full of strangers, ghosts, wanderers plagued by regret and memory lives lived on the periphery of the everyday....Rock is successful in most of his risk-taking, as are so many of his characters..." The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
"This book, which is maybe the best short story collection I've ever read, messed up my life. For days I wandered around thinking about the impossible stories and the everyday heartbreak that this collection brings, and everything I looked at seemed utterly and gorgeously rearranged by Peter Rock. Now it's your turn." Daniel Handler, author of the Lemony Snicket series
These 13 stories range across the cities and wildernesses of America. Realistic in setting and characterization, they attend to those startling moments when what people have understood as familiar is revealed as quite mysterious and foreign.
About the Author
Peter Rock grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is the author of the novels The Bewildered, The Ambidextrist, Carnival Wolves, and This Is the Place. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow and recipient of a 2000 NEA Fellowship, he now lives in Portland, Oregon, and teaches at Reed College.
Table of Contents
The Sharpest Knife 59
Gold Firebird 89
Signal Mirror 145
The Silent Men 159
Halo Effect 197
Disappeared Girls 213
Peregrine Falcon 229