Susan Steinberg
"In pithy, rhythmic sentences that sound like biting poetry, Steinberg's all-female narrators tell stories of loss, abandonment, failure to love, and failure to 'perform' in the ways the people in their lives expect them to."Page-Turner, the blog of The New Yorker
"With prose as potent as a shot of Everlclear, Susan Steinberg's third collection, Spectacle (Graywolf), surveys busted love, good girls gone bad, and disappeared friends. Unconventional and drily funny, these narcotic stories hypnotize."O Magazine

About the Book

A bold and vital new collection from the award-winning author of Hydroplane and The End of Free Love

In this inventive collection of linked stories, women confront loss and grief as they sift through the wreckage of their lives. A woman struggles with the death of her friend in a plane crash. A daughter decides whether to take her father off life support in the Pushcart Prize-winning “Cowboys.” And when a man hits his girlfriend, she calls it an accident. Spectacle bears witness to alarming and strange incidents: carnival rides and plane crashes, affairs spied through keyholes and amateur porn, vandalism and petty theft. Steinberg challenges conventional gender roles and subverts assumptions about narrative with a fierce, lyric intensity, as these wounded women stand at the edge of disaster and risk it all to speak their sharpest secrets. A vital and turbulent book from a distinctive voice, Spectacle will break your heart, and then, before the last page is turned, will bind it up anew.

Additional Reviews

Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
"Narrated entirely by women whose voices merge, divide, recur, and dissipate into one another, [Spectacle feels] novelistic in scope and ambition. Steinberg is a maestro of sylistic innovation, conducting orbits of narrative and motif, coaxing meaning and music from each line. . . . With its literary inventions and sharp storytelling, this is a masterpiece of contemporary short fiction."Publishers Weekly, starred review
"With her latest collection, Spectacle, Susan Steinberg shows herself capable of the best kind of experimental fiction. She consistently displays inventiveness, risk-taking, and surprising turns in voice, syntax, structure, and punctuation. . . . Spectacle has a cumulative power that affects you as you read along."—Dallas Morning News
"[Steinberg] takes bold risks, exploring the boundaries of narrative and the possibilities of language and syntax. . . . Steinberg's prose is rhythmic, hypnotic—teasing out confessions and revelations in stream-of-consciousness language. . . . 'Spectacle' is a marvel."San Francisco Chronicle
"Both [Steinberg's] characters and [her] narratives store meaning in the spaces between the conventions, where the silence of a line break or an unspoken thought speaks volumes. At once vibrant and violent, Spectacle takes on unexpected territory and reveals it is all too familiar."—Shelf Awareness for Readers
“Readers of Lydia Davis and Anne Carson will welcome Steinberg’s spare, innovative prose imbued with the cadence of verse. Rendered with formal originality, these hard-to-put-down stories explore the wounds that turn desire for love into performance art. This is a vulnerable book, gorgeously attending to grief, to lust, courageously bearing witness to all of life’s deprave and human spectacles.”Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
"[A] linked-story extravaganza. . . . [A] devastating cluster of uncompromising, funny, and eye-opening stories about women trapped in a male-centered world."Village Voice
“As you get drunker and drunker on Steinberg’s quiet, rhythmic prose, you have to negotiate these messy, gendered, and punishing rules she—and we—use to define ourselves and how we interact with the world. . . . And yet, ensconced in the world of Spectacle are gorgeous moments of peace amidst the confusion, which reveals potential for one to be, as one narrator calls it, ‘fluent in one’s insides.’”Bookslut
"Grimly comic. . . . Unsentimental, unhinged, and sometimes hilariously drunk, Spectacle's characters arrive in jagged bursts of language. . . . But Spectacle's real power lies in its mysteries—in the enigmas that arrive when something real is exposed to be false."The Literary Review
"The sparse way Steinberg tells her stories; the less says more approach to tell the turbulent tales of people who seem to have little to no hope left, it made me pause after every sentence to compose myself. . . . It's not only grabbing, and calls to mind to sparseness of an Amy Hempel story, or the punch of something Ben Marcus would write, but it also is the perfect example of the catch-22 that the characters in Spectacle are all faced with. . . . Steinberg writes so clearly at such a frenetic pace that you are drawn into reading all of the stories in one sitting."—Vol. 1 Brooklyn  
"Arresting. . . . Spectacle is a penetrating collection, and although the narrator is sometimes powerless, the author never is. Steinberg masterfully controls language to convey her stark insights."High Country News
"Daring and surprising and electric."Chicago Tribune
“The women Steinberg portrays are dealing with grave situations like domestic violence, a parent on life support (and the decision whether to take him off), and the death of a close friend. Her lyrical writing style effectively underscores their suffering.”—MORE Magazine
"Steinberg takes bold risks, exploring the boundaries of narrative and the possibilities of language and syntax."—San Francisco Chronicle, "100 Recommended Books of 2013"

“The linked stories in Spectacle feel like they’re breaking new ground even as they zero in on universal emotions.”Vulture
"Electrifying . . . Steinberg's remarkable voice is just as seductive and dangerous as her narrator."Aritzia
"Steinberg's short stories read like a combination of fiction and poetry I've not encountered anywhere else—they're haunting and gorgeous and painful and so, so spare—and I found a new reason to be in awe of her on every page."—Rebecca Joines Schinsky, Book Riot
"In a voice that is both edgy and sardonic, and with a style that is spare and often unconventional, Steinberg links the experiences of young women contending with age-old problems of love, abandonment, grief, and destruction. . . . Steinberg's heroines are a fiercely introspective and reflexively bold lot, and their personal dilemmas are vibrantly communicated."Booklist
"Here there are no doors; there are no windows. What we see is not what is happening outside while trapped in here life goes on, but rather what has replaced the outside. An almost total interiority that somehow is not formless—a cavalcade of language that makes Spectacle as unsettling as it is compelling. Its speaker's voice is as memorable for all that it says (and says and says again) as it is for what it withholds. Which might be everything. Which probably is."DIAGRAM
Spectacle’s narrators are both confessors and accusers, and their voices are so consistent that there’s an unconfirmed implication that we may be listening to one voice. . . . Steinberg constantly challenges gender stereotypes, but her approach is investigative rather than prescriptive, opening up wounds to see how the pain affects us. . . . It’s well-trod territory, but in her refusal to offer easy answers or indictments the author demonstrates a rare grasp of the issue’s complexity. . . . Spectacle remains impressive and engaging thanks to its constant innovation.”—Monkeybicycle
"This is, to be sure, unconventional storytelling—at times it veers into poetry, or even chant—but is imbued with such rhythmic verve and narrative momentum that its effect veers between the hypnotic and the narcotic. . . . You should read it, and you should tell your friends to read it, too."—PopMatters
"Steinberg is one of the best fiction writers in America today. . . . She has developed a style that's so full of swagger, neurosis and hurt that you almost don't realize how accomplished she is at leading you through her fictional universe, or how complete that universe is. . . . She's like [Grace] Paley's nihilistic, abandoned granddaughter, left to fend for herself in the bombed-out ruins of a culture in which women have been told they can be, and do, anything they want but don't feel like this is necessarily true."The Jewish Daily Forward
"[Spectacle speaks] to the vulnerability of being female and the roles women are expected to play in a male-dominant world. Steinberg does not cast a rosy hue over her portrayal of society. She writes her truth—her female narrators' truth—and makes no attempt to censor it. . . . Steinberg's biting collection cuts deep."—ZYZZYVA
"Susan Steinberg's newly released book of short stories is an edgy, experimental ride through the psyche of her meandering, tragic, hilarious, off-kilter female characters. Truly of her own class, Steinberg's stories (and characters) are raw, bold, and colorful."—Hazel & Wren
"Susan Steinberg's writing is all genius."San Francisco Weekly
"A great place to start with Steinberg's work, this collection of linked stories is painful, intense, and full of insights into the reasons why our lives are such disasters."HTMLGiant
“Written with a sparse and grim tone, Steinberg’s stories all have individual rhythms, and call to mind Lydia Davis trimming down Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son.”Flavorwire, “The 10 Best Short Story Collections of 2013”
"The twelve stories in Susan Steinberg's stunning third book, Spectacle, limn the desperate, neon-lit reality we're forced to confront when we wake up from the American dream."—Andrew Ervin, Hobart
"Steinberg's style rests on this ability to control and interpret the facts, yet even the retelling of facts in both life and fiction comes refracted from an individual's psyche. . . . Spectacle harnesses this ambiguity, deftly reflecting the complicated inarticulate ways individuals process their existence in a Beckettian world."—Drunken Boat
"Susan Steinberg's Spectacle reads like a lucid dream, chronicling holy and mundane and alarming moments in girlhood. . . . Spectacle is an elegant trip of invention and investigation that dares us to join a conversation about ourselves; our learned behavior, our psychologically-charged bodies, and our flexing-jelly, patriarchy-tinted minds."The Female Gaze
"[In Spectacle] women face moments of shame, betrayal, uncertainty, and loss: a failed pregnancy, empty drunken couplings, painful memories of neglect and abuse, and even the removal of a father from life support. And while the narratives themselves are forceful, and an undercurrent of emotion runs beneath them like a sharp hum, what makes Spectacle so striking is its achievement in form. . . . No matter what form Steinberg employs, her stories carry weight, urgency, and a sharpness that forces us to look unflinchingly at the characters' truths. The fact that we care about the characters at the same times is a mark of the collection's success."Colorado Review
“Steinberg uses the shape of her stories to enact this play of story—of telling and retelling and un-telling—to address the question of what is truth and what is authentic and whether that matters at all. . . . Steinberg’s language is sparse and sharp, but as the story swirls about itself . . . there is a spark, a charged electric space created by what is said and what is left unsaid.”American Book Review 
"In a year of great story collections, [Spectacle] is the one that stands apart for me. Smart and funny and brutally moving, it's the most aggressive short story collection I've read in a long time, one that forces emotional participation and moral complicity on its readers."—Matt Bell, The Millions, "A Year in Reading"
"Beautifully cadenced, Spectacle explores the damage that accrues as we try to live—damage we both give and receive—and the way it silts around us to provide a shape for our lives. A difficult, painful and yet wonderfully human book, and a very good read."—Brian Evenson
"A plane crashes (or doesn't), a daughter kills her father (or doesn't), a guy hits a girl in the face with a book (or doesn't), but the narratives are beside the point. In these stories, Susan Steinberg ragefully and lovingly shows us that a guy is a performance. A girl is a performance. Also a husband, a wife, a mother, a father, a daughter, a son. A girl playing the role of Girl may as well be playing the role of Guy. Yet these artificial selves are the most genuine selves we have, and contain our only hope for understanding each other. More than one narrator announces that she distrusts adjectives, especially 'beautiful,' but these illuminating stories are precisely that.”—Sarah Manguso, author of The Guardians
"Who has the stunning innovative wit and ferocious style of Susan Steinberg? No one else comes close. These heartful stories carry the energy of light."—Deb Olin Unferth, author of Revolution
"For friends who love books and want to be floored: the words inventive, daring, heartbreaking and poised do not even begin to describe Susan Steinberg's Spectacle. It's a must-read for writers and humans everywhere."American Short Fiction, Holiday Gift Guide
“What makes Susan Steinberg's story collection so refreshing is how concentrated the prose feels. Every sentence feels loaded, almost like a line of poetry.”Complex, “The Best Books of 2013”