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Holding Pattern

Jeffery Renard Allen
Some fabled creature waited near the checkpoint to Gate 12. Human, beast and fowl. Feathery white mink hat and coat, red amphibian jumpsuit (leather? plastic?) and knee-length alligator boots. She was tall and wide like a man and carried a white suitcase in one hand, a black guitar case in the other.

Mamma swallowed. That’s Blunt, she said.

The world of Jeffery Allen’s stunning short-story collection is a place like no other. A recognizable city, certainly, but one in which a man might sprout wings or copper pennies might fall from the skies on to your head. Yet these are no fairy tales. The hostility, the hurt, is all too human.

The protagonists circle each other with steely determination: a grandson taunts his grandmother, determined to expose her secret past; for years, a sister tries to keep a menacing neighbor away from her brother; and in the local police station, an officer and prisoner try to break each other’s reserve.   In all the stories, Allen calibrates the mounting tension with exquisite timing, in his mesmerizing prose that has won him comparisons with Joyce and Faulkner. Holding Pattern is a captivating collection by a prodigiously talented writer.



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The first short story collection by an award-winning African-American novelist.

About the Author

Jeffery Renard Allen
Credit: Mark Hillringhouse
Jeffery Renard Allen is the author of the novels Song of the Shank and Rails Under My Back, the story collection Holding Pattern, and two collections of poetry.  He was born and raised in Chicago and now lives in New York City, where he teaches at Queens College and in the Writing Program at the New School.
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  • “Engaging, intriguing, and poetic.”—Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
  • “Imaginative, empathic, brave and beautifully told, these are astonishing and transcendent stories.”—Chicago Tribune
  • "[Allen's] considerable poetic gifts of observance help keep aloft stories that might crash and burn in lesser hands."—Paste Magazine
  • "Each tale is electric with the rising tension that proceeds stormy weather. . . . Allen's stories pull you down into the misery of the daily hustle and spit you out on the lonely crossroads between reality and myth, where the archetypes roam and trust is but a dream."—Booklist, starred review


This book is made possible, in part, through the Jerome Foundation, which supports new works by emerging artists in New York City and Minnesota, and by the generosity of Graywolf Press donors like you.
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