The Pier Falls (Hardcover)
And Other Stories
Doubleday, 9780385540759, 320pp.
Publication Date: May 10, 2016
Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (5/9/2016)
The tales in Mark Haddon’s lyrical and uncompromising new collection take many forms—Victorian adventure story, science fiction, morality tale, contemporary realism—but they all showcase his virtuoso gifts as a stylist and the deep well of empathy that made his three bestselling novels so compelling.
The characters here are often isolated physically or estranged from their families, yet they yearn for connection. In aggregate the stories become a meditation on the essential aloneness of the human condition but also on the connections, however tenuous and imperfect, that link people to one another. In the title story, an unnamed narrator describes with cool precision a catastrophe that strikes a seaside town, both tearing lives apart and bringing them together.
In the prizewinning story “The Gun,” a boy’s life is marked by the afternoon he encounters a semiautomatic pistol belonging to his friend’s older brother; in “The Island,” a Greek princess is abandoned on an island by her abductor; in “The Boys Who Left Home to Learn Fear,” a group of adventurers travel deep into the Amazonian jungle but discover the gravest danger lurking among their own number; and in “The Woodpecker and the Wolf,” a woman wonders whether she has chosen to travel to Mars only to escape the entanglement of human relationships back here on Earth.
Drawing inventively from history, myth, folktales, and modern life, The Pier Falls showcases Haddon’s immense gifts of invention and penetrating insight.
About the Author
Praise For The Pier Falls: And Other Stories…
—John Williams, The New York Times
“[A] tour de force of memory. . . . Haddon’s capacity for literary variation in this collection is admirable.”
—The Buffalo News
“[D]evastating. . .eerily precise and dangerously suffusing. . . . It's one thing to know and write brilliantly about how the world works. It's an entirely different thing to write with deep assurance about what happens when conventions are broken, relationships are scrubbed of ordinary decencies, and the mind shatters. Reality, in Haddon's stories, is endlessly decaying. . . . Mark Haddon. . .is a virtuoso stylist and a fabricator of many forms. . . . One doesn't read Haddon to wonder how he'll write himself out of devastating circumstances. One reads in a state of surrender."
“The nine stories in Mark Haddon’s debut collection are exuberant, lusty exercises in juxtaposition: intimacy and estrangement, exoticism and domesticity, innocuousness and malevolence, the cataloguing of minute detail and the expansiveness of the zoomed-out lens. . . . [T]he collection’s centerpiece, ‘Wodwo’. . .is one of the best new stories I’ve read for years.”
"[M]esmerizing. . . . [P]rovocative. . . . The Pier Falls succeeds in many of the same ways as The Curious Incident, showcasing powerfully sparse language, a keen interest in placing human nature under a microscope and the imaginative construction that’s become Haddon’s trademark. But this collection is an even greater achievement, unveiling a versatility to match the lasting emotional impact of Haddon’s writing. Impressive in its scope and revelatory in its survey of man’s faults and strengths, The Pier Falls is a certain contender for the best short story collection of 2016."
“The Pier Falls” is a wide-ranging and wonderfully diverse collection. . . . [A] virtuoso performance from Haddon, whose constantly-shifting stylistic choices make every story a capable piece of standalone art. Any one of them, viewed on its own, would be an exquisite reading experience. . . . Each one is a gracefully-constructed reminder that Mark Haddon is a rare and incredible talent. From top to bottom, first word to last, “The Pier Falls” is exceptional."
—The Main Edge
—Lit Hub’s 16 Books You Should Read This May
‘Exquisite… His prose is limpid, blackly funny and shiny with particularity… He writes with the craft of Julian Barnes or, even, Truman Capote.’
—Andrew Billen, The Times (London)
‘A descriptive tour de force… Haddon treats [his] central message with virtuoso subtlety, counterpointing his characters’ fates with their dreams and ominous intimations… The real redemption in these superbly gripping stories comes from their canny human detail, and the vivid, unsettling clarity they bring to our lives.’
—Phil Baker, Sunday Times (UK)
—Imogen Lycett Green, Daily Mail (UK)
‘Every line makes you believe what he writes, his eye misses nothing… The stories are willed experiments, imaginations darkest what-ifs… their execution is outstanding.’
—Kate Kellaway, Observer (London)
‘This collection could easily be the book that he is eventually remembered for.’
—Alex O’Connell, The Times (London)
‘A masterful collection… Haddon is a consummate storyteller and The Pier Falls reveals a writer at the peak of his imagination. Some of these stories have already been shortlisted for awards and one suspects the whole collection will justifiably follow suit.’
—Hannah Beckerman, Sunday Express (London)
‘A showcase for Haddon’s talent.’
—Anthony Cummins, Daily Telegraph (London)
‘A sustained set of powerfully told stories... It's as if Ian McEwan had never turned nice.’
—David Sexton, Evening Standard (UK)
‘Mark Haddon is a master of haunting detail. This title story is a tour de force and the other eight are diverting reminders of just how transporting a perfectly constructed short story can be.’
—Olivia Cole, GQ (UK)
‘This compilation of startling short stories hints that the best is yet to come from Mr Haddon. He can pull you into the heart of a new world with just two or three sentences, and deploys this talent with apparent ease.’
“[Y]our jaw...will drop when you pick up this exemplary collection.... In pristinely detailed prose, Haddon shocks us with the strong sense of our humanity. The meticulously described collapse of a pier in a faded coastal town, one woman’s moral choice while trapped at a seemingly abandoned space station on Mars, an adventurer’s final letter as he lies dying in the jungle—all show how, as much as we’d like to sink into the predictable, we face jolts and forking roads that bring out our best or worst, often revealing, as one narrator says, ‘those disabilities which become skills in the right context.’”
—Library Journal (starred review)
"With the same sense of compassion and artistic dexterity that earned him a following with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003) and The Red House (2012), Haddon presents nine widely varying tales.... The collection is best characterized by its opener, an unnerving narrative about a seaside pier’s collapse, which bonds victims through horror and hope.... As funny as they are dire, Haddon’s entertaining stories are reminders that tragedy is inevitable, but that we thrive in spite of it."
"[A] sustained set of powerfully told stories about how utterly alone we are, how closely death tracks us, how all life is chance.... It's as if Ian McEwan had never turned nice."
—Evening Standard (London)