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Literature & Fiction - Literature

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Topless Widow of Herkimer Street

ISBN: 9780996195218
Binding: Paperback
Author: Jacob M. Appel
Pages: 184
Trim: 6 x 9 inches
Published: 11/01/2016

The eight stories in THE TOPLESS WIDOW OF HERKIMER STREET are smart, funny, and humane. In "Bioethics for Dunces," which takes its name from the title of a college course its main character Leonard teaches, Leonard suddenly finds that academic and abstract issues are all too real when his own daughter goes on life support. He and his wife disagree about what to do. A quote from this story speaks to the philosophical quandary that many of these stories explore: "The underlying problem was that Leonard's situation lacked a governing social convention." Many of Appel's stories feature characters grappling with moral, ethical, and philosophical situations that lack governing social conventions. His stories show how ethics--something that sounds like an academic abstraction--can be concrete, visceral, and immediate. With compassion, wit, humor, and intelligence, these stories explore the gray areas of our lives. Echoes of myth, fairy tale, and fable flavor them, underscoring the eternal nature of both the human condition and storytelling itself.


Jacob M. Appel is a doctor, lawyer, medical bioethicist, and a widely published fiction writer. In addition to THE TOPLESS WIDOW OF HERKIMER STREET (Howling Bird Press, 2016), he has written nine books, including, most recently, MIRACLES AND CONUNDRUMS OF THE SECONDARY PLANET (Black Lawrence Press, 2015). His first novel, The Man Who Wouldn't Stand Up, won the Dundee International Book Award in 2012. His short story collection SCOUTING FOR THE REAPER (Black Lawrence Press, 2014) won the 2012 Hudson Prize. He has won the Boston Review Short Fiction Competition, the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award for the Short Story, the Dana Award, and many other honors. He has published short fiction in more than two hundred literary journals, including Agni, Conjunctions, The Gettysburg Review, Prairie Schooner, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and West Branch. Appel holds graduate degrees from Brown University, where he also taught for many years, Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, Harvard Law School, New York University's MFA program in fiction, and Albany Medical College's Alden March Institute of Bioethics. A resident of New York, he currently teaches at the Gotham Writer's Workshop and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.


"Jacob Appel's wonderful stories crystallize the moments in life that make us doubt everything we thought was true about our loves, fears, and regrets."--Dallas Hudgens author of Wake Up, We're Here and Drive Like Hell.

"To read [Jacob Appel] is to be schooled in his unique and refreshing brand of literary mastery. Appel is at the top of his game in THE TOPLESS WIDOW OF HERKIMER STREET, his delightfully quirky, ever smart, funny, and moving new collection. In these eight keenly observed stories, Appel's endearing if flawed characters find themselves in the throes of tough choices where there are no easy answers. Circumstances may skew absurd...but Appel's humanity is real and unwavering, particularly in matters of the heart. Crackling with detail and bursting with irresistible tidbits ranging from medicine to bioethics to property law, Appel's stories seamlessly draw from his deep well of knowledge to deliver a result not only worthy of study, but that will make your belly ache with laughter."--Sara Lippmann, author of Doll Palace.

"Eight more superb stories from a talented pen."--Kirkus Review

"Appel is a master of the dilemma, and each of these stories hooks the reader with a stunner. But the seemingly absurd--a mail-order house delivered to the wrong address, an uncle promising to show his two nephews the true edge of the world--soon gives way to dark, harsh truths for Appel's characters. None of the answers are easy, and that makes these stories a rich, satisfying read."--Ben Stroud, author of Byzantium.

"There is no one in American letters quite like Jacob Appel. His wise tales remind me of some of John Cheever's short stories, but only if those stories had been reimagined through the dreamy vision of Mark Helprin and then improved with a 21st Century sensibility. The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street is by turns strange, familiar, funny, and philosophically engaged, and never for a moment disappointing."--Hugh Sheehy, author of The Invisibles.