Pulp and Paper
By Josh Rolnick
(University Of Iowa Press, Paperback, 9781609380526, 192pp.)
Publication Date: October 2011
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“I glanced out the window as my train pulled into the station and saw the girl who killed my son.” So begins Josh Rolnick’s powerful debut collection of eight stories, which utilizes a richly focused narrative style accenting the unavoidable tragedies of life while revealing the grace and dignity with which people learn to deal with them. The stories—four set in New Jersey and four in New York—span the wide geographic tapestry of the area and demonstrate the interconnectedness of both the neighboring states and the residents who inhabit them. In “Funnyboy,” a grief-stricken Levi Stern struggles to come to terms with the banality of his son’s accidental death at the hands of Missy Jones, high school cheerleader. In “Pulp and Paper,” two neighbors, Gail Denny and Avery Mayberry, attempt to escape a toxic spill resulting from a train derailment when a moment of compassion alters both their futures forever. “Innkeeping” features a teenager’s simmering resentment toward the burgeoning relationship between his widowed mother and a long-term hotel guest. “The Herald” introduces us to Dale, a devoted reporter on a small-town newspaper, desperately striving to break a big-time story to salvage his career and his ego. A teenager deals with the inconceivable results of his innocent act before an ice hockey game in “Big Lake.” And in “The Carousel,” a Coney Island carousel operator confronts the fading memories of a world that once overflowed with grandeur and promise. Throughout, Rolnick’s characters search for a firm footing while wrestling with life’s hardships, finding hope and redemption in the simple yet uncommon willingness to act. Pulp and Paper captures lightning in a bottle, excavating the smallest steps people take to move beyond grief, heartbreak, and failure—conjuring the subtle, fragile moments when people are not yet whole, but no longer quite as broken.
Josh Rolnick’s short stories have won the Arts & Letters Fiction Prize and the Florida Review Editor’s Choice Prize. They have also been published in Harvard Review, Western Humanities Review, Bellingham Review, and Gulf Coast, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best New American Voices. A reporter, editor, and journal publisher, he grew up in New Jersey, spent summers camping his way through Upstate New York, and has lived in Jerusalem, London, Philadelphia, Iowa City, Washington, D.C., and Menlo Park, California. He currently lives with his wife and three sons in Akron, Ohio.
“Josh Rolnick’s extraordinary stories suggest the author suffers from a strange anatomical condition: he clearly has a heart that’s even larger than his oversized, electrified brain.”—Nic Brown, author, Doubles and Floodmarkers
“Josh Rolnick is a wonderful observer and a beautiful storyteller. Each story in Pulp and Paper is a path to the hearts of Rolnick’s characters, who, like you and me, strive to be their true, honest selves despite follies and weaknesses. A truly compassionate collection.”—Yiyun Li