Praise for Nine Island
Named one of the best fiction books of the year by Publishers Weekly
" Nine Island is a crackling incantation, brittle and brilliant and hot and sad and full of sideways humor that devastates and illuminates all at once."
Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies
"This deceptively slim narrative, as witty and mercurial as any tale from Ovid, circles deftly around love and desire, pain and death, joy and solitude and the relentless nature of change. I fell into it as into water, transformed by the magic of Alison's prose."
Andrea Barrett, winner of the 2015 Rea Award, and author of The Air We Breathe and Archangel
"Alison's evocation of J's interior life feels honest, and it dramatizes the social invisibility of women who live alone past a certain age. . . . [Her] novel treats with humor . . . existential questions about solitude and the inevitability of transformation. As our circumstances and bodies change, as we inflict and cause pain, as our lives expand and contract, what of the self endures? Nine Island testifies to the fragility of a life that can vanish from sight, and to the sturdiness of one that maintains the capacity for change."
Alix Ohlin, The New York Times Book Review
"Wonderful. . . . With echoes of Molly Bloom's soliloquy and Iris Murdoch's The Sea, the Sea , Alison has forged a haunting and emotionally precise portrait, a beautiful reminder that solitude does not equal loneliness."
Publishers Weekly (starred and boxed review)
"The more or less constant delights of Jane Alison's latest novel bubble up out of a story that is, incongruously, bleak. It is quite an achievement, a comic novel about a woman of a certain age as she contemplates embracing a not-altogether-unwelcome spinsterhood. . . . There is a wonderful observation . . . on every page."
Chauncey Mabe, Miami Herald
"The free form of Alison's prose will keep you on your toes, and her meditations on the absence and presence of love will touch your heart."
Estelle Tang, Elle , 1 of the 11 Best Books for September 2016
"Candid, contemplative, hilarious, and affecting. . . . It's also quite a bit stranger than one might expect, in the best possible sense: allusive and elusive, it conflates its narrator's restless mind and its louche, peculiar setting to produce an effect that's vibrant, slippery, erotically charged, and slightly menacing."
Martin Seay, author of The Mirror Thief , in Electric Literature
"Earlier this year, we listed 99 books everyone should read. If you've somehow chewed through this list already, we recommend Nine Island by Jane Alison."
"I can't stop thinking about this weird, wonderful book that follows a woman known only as 'J.' as she considers life on the cusp of sexual viability while living in a Miami Beach high rise. J. is (like her creator, who is also Director of Creative Writing at The University of Virginia) a serious scholar of Ovid, and The Metamorphoses plays an important, but far from stuffy, role in the plot. Should be required reading for all women over age 18."
Bethanne Patrick, Literary Hub , 1 of 5 Great Books to Read Amid the September Onslaught
"Alison's book is poetic, no, it IS a poem, written in a dreamlike way at times, a poem about life's regrets and the possibility . . . of hope."
Jo Manning, Miami Art Zine
"The stuff of fiction is what allows Nine Island to attain a sort of elasticity, including leaps in time, intentionally abrupt transitions, and metaphorically rich language that brushes against the fantastical."
Tobias Carroll, Read It Forward , Reimagining the Nonfiction Novel
"Beautifully cerebral. . . . Alison's novel re-establishes female desire (or the lack thereof) as an enormous, transformative, literature-worthy topic."
Emily Temple, Literary Hub , One of the Best Books of 2016
"Outstanding. . . . A very smart, funny, offbeat novel that muses on the male gaze, the female gaze, love, lust, loneliness, self-sufficiency. . . . It's also gorgeously descriptive. . . . Definitely one of my very favorites of the year."
Lisa Peet, Library Journal
"I never expected an experimental novel that makes extensive allusions to classical Roman poetry to feel so vital and immediate, but Nine Island proved me wrong again and again."
Maris Kreizman, Longreads , One of the Best of 2016
"My favorite recent entry into this genre is Alison's cerebral Nine Island , in which a middle-aged woman, post-divorce, living and translating Ovid in a strange, bleached Miami apartment complex, tries to decide whether or not she should give up on love."
Emily Temple, Literary Hub , 1 of 10 Great Novels of Middle Age
Praise for Jane Alison
The Love-Artist (2001)
"Jane Alison has constructed a wonderfully seductive first novel, a novel that shimmers with the musical artifice of Ovid's poetry while evoking the darker tragedies of his life. . . . She has created a dense, poetic narrative, filled with images and leitmotifs that mirror and refract Ovid's own verses, while at the same time spinning his life into a new myth of her own creation. In doing so she has found a voice, at once modern and archaic, lyrical and potent, that mesmerizes the reader, drawing us ineluctably into Ovid's world of marble and monuments and primal passions. She has written a small, twinkling jewel of a novel."
Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Part thriller, part fantasy. . . . Richly imagined. . . . The disastrous love affair that Alison invents between Ovid and Xenia, an almost feral witch whom he first spies rising like Galatea from the waves, has the power of poetic truth."
The New Yorker
"A swirling parable that touches on the opposed sorceries of art and magic, on tyranny and rebellion, and on the struggle of male and female."
Richard Eder, The New York Times Book Review
The Marriage of the Sea (2003)
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
"An intricate, elegant novel that ponders the connections among love, illusion, and fidelity in the permutations of eight central characters."
Margot Livesey, The New York Times Book Review
"As intriguing as the densely interwoven lives of [her] fascinating cast is Alison's literary use of the water that surrounds them. . . . The Marriage of the Sea is soap opera en aqua, where the watery surrounds become a metaphor for the fluidity of human life. . . . Flows with stylistic brilliance."
The Baltimore Sun
"Ambitious, complex, challengingly intellectual-and yet Alison manages it all with a clarity, learnedness, and rigor that bring into being a creation of real beauty. . . . A real achievement."
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Wrenching and beautifully written. . . . A dreamlike, gorgeously watery novel."
San Francisco Chronicle
Natives and Exotics (2005)
"A family's diaspora becomes an intriguing tale told backward. . . . Exquisitely observed, wonderfully off the beaten track. . . . Sentence by sentence, Alison's eclectic sensibility, tuned ear, and camera eye sharpen the concretized aftereffects of, one guesses, her own prodigious travels."
The Philadelphia Inquirer
"These stories quickly flow into a single narrative powerful enough to show how closely related our familial, political and natural worlds really are."
The Washington Post Book World
"Vivid and poignant. . . . What gives pleasure is how precisely [Alison] sees the fierce beauty of the natural world, as it moves, grows, evolves, both despite and because of the blind interference of humankind."
The Seattle Times
The Sisters Antipodes (2009)
"This is a brave and haunting piece of work, crafted so well that one is haunted as much by what is left out as what is included; a book you will think about long after you put it down."
Elizabeth Strout, author of Olive Kitteridge
"Astonishing. . . . Told with exceptional poise."
"Affecting and profound. . . . With remarkable grace and insight, [Alison] examines early upheavals and unfortunate tensions in her most unusual upbringing."
San Francisco Chronicle
"A wrenching, luminous memoir."
"Sensual currents of language that sparkle with Alison's talent for tethering the abstract to physical description. An incomparable personal story exquisitely, stunningly told."
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"In this enormously compelling memoir, novelist Alison recounts the strangely definitive reconfiguration of her family when her parents broke up and switched partners and children with another couple. . . . A truly unusual, harrowing journey of identity."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Praise for Meander, Spiral, Explode
A Chicago Review of Books Best New Book of the Month
A Publishers Weekly Most Anticipated Book of the Season
A Big Other Most Anticipated Small Press Book of the Year
"Alison's close readings can be exhilarating. One of her more seductive ideas is the notion of possible 'correlations between kinds of stories and certain patterns,' as when reflective first-person novels adopt the spiral . . . Alison's prose is potent and lush, her enthusiasm infectious . . . The fecundity of Alison's writing is of a piece with her larger mission: to turn narrative theory into a supersaturated mindfuck of hedonistic extravaganza. It is a special kind of literary criticism." - Katy Waldman, The New Yorker
"[A] boundlessly inventive look at narrative form . . . It would do a disservice to this work to pigeonhole it as 'literary criticism'; the study is filled with clarity and wit, underlain with formidable erudition." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"You don't have to be a professional writer to enjoy novelist Jane Alison's brilliant new craft guide Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative , published by Catapult Press. Anyone who reads stands to appreciate her argument that the primary way most of us are taught that fiction ought to be structured-Freytag's famous triangle-is neither the best nor the only method." - Kathleen Rooney, Chicago Tribune , What to Read This Summer
"What if everything you know, everything you've been taught, about writing is wrong? Or, if not wrong, precisely, at least restrictive, oriented in only one direction, without much room to get creative and go outside the bounds of what had been done before? This is what Jane Alison explores in her fascinating new book, which looks at the ways in which prescriptive writing has led to sameness and predictability. Alison encourages an exploration of techniques and styles, offering examples of experimental writing from masters like W.G. Sebald, Clarice Lispector, and Jamaica Kinkaid, as proof of the many ways that writing can shine when not on a typical linear path, when it is allowed instead to spiral and spring forward and back, fold in on itself or unravel in infinite directions, all of which feel new and exciting." - Kristin Iversen, NYLON , 1 of 15 Great Books to Read This Month
"Alison's book is like a cold shower to ward off the standard narrative arc and rewire our mental circuitry to see the patterns of nature in the structure of novels . . . This is a playful and exciting book that opens up all sorts of new possibilities for narrative arcs." - Sarah Boon, Chicago Review of Books
"A modern writing manifesto that encourages creatives to leave outdated modes of storytelling behind and embrace the dramatic arcs we see in life and nature." - Kerri Jarema, Bustle , 1 of 29 New Memoirs Out in Spring
"How lovely to discover a book on the craft of writing that is also fun to read. Australian author Jane Alison has written a great one in which she urges us to abandon-or at least improve upon-the traditional story arc that has dominated fiction since the age of Aristotle. Alison asserts that the best stories follow patterns in nature, and by defining these new styles she offers writers the freedom to explore but with enough guidance to thrive." - Maris Kreizman, Vulture , A Best New Paperback Book of the Month
"Jane Alison's book on craft calls into question the dramatic arc many writers have been taught to follow in their work . . . Alison presents a 'museum of specimens' including writing by Anne Carson, Raymond Carver, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jamaica Kincaid, Clarice Lispector, and Mary Robison, to illustrate some of the possibilities for nonlinear storytelling-and she invites her readers to follow these examples to 'keep making our novels novel.'" - Poets & Writers , One of the Best Book for Writers
" Meander, Spiral, Explode is the best craft book I've read in years; it questions the primacy of the arc-shaped narrative and presents a series of alternative ones, using for examples-and this is no accident-some of the best books in modern literature . . . It'll blow your mind." - Emily Temple, Literary Hub
"The best work of literary criticism I've read so far this year . . . Explores patterning and design in narrative, questioning the supposed prominence of the 'narrative arc.' What about other shapes, Alison asks, leading us through the work of the writers who use them-Sebald, Baker, Carson, Duras, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Kincaid, Lispector, Minot, Mitchell, etc. etc. etc. I think they would all be pleased by this book." - Emily Temple, Literary Hub
"In Meander, Spiral, Explode , Jane Alison casts aside the traditional structure of the story and considers the shape of other arcs . . . I'm excited to see how she explores beloved texts." - Katie Yee, Literary Hub , 1 of 19 Books to Read This Month
"Who knew literary criticism could be so much fun? That's the impression that lingers after finishing novelist, memoirist and University of Virginia creative writing professor Jane Alison's Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative. . . Alison's gift for close reading brings to mind fellow novelist and critic Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer , and her enthusiasm for this literary archeology project is infectious . . . It's a book that will have open-minded readers viewing the next work of serious fiction they encounter with a more discerning eye, ear and mind." - Harvey Freedenberg, Shelf Awareness
"Novelist Alison's stylistic primer promises to stand apart, among the many writing guides publishing next year, in its tightly focused attention to the nuts and bolts of technique." - Publishers Weekly , 1 of the Top 10 Books for Spring, Essays & Literary Criticism
"Venturing into the world of narrative theory, [Alison] takes a personal and idiosyncratic approach . . . For readers interested in literary theory, Alison does a great job making it palatable." - Kirkus Reviews
"In this wholly original analysis of style, [Jane Alison] explores the forms and shapes that narrative can take, pushing the bounds of storytelling beyond the infamous pyramid of climax . . . Her observations of the sensory aspects of literature are indulgent and delectable, and sure to elevate the experience of readers and writers alike." - Booklist
"Alison's exuberance with the subject matter is contagious, her approach both personal and deeply researched . . . Meander, Spiral, Explode leaves us as writers and readers in an exciting place, alert for patterns in nature we might see replicated in the fiction we read, or that might serve to support the next story we draft." - Katelyn Keating, CRAFT
"Doctors don't imitate Galen. Why should writers follow Aristotle? Jane Alison in her fresh, original book about narrative is our new Aristotle." - Edmund White, author of The Unpunished Vice: A Life of Reading