"There aren’t many writers who take weirdness as seriously as DeNiro does, and fewer still who can extract so much grounded emotion, gut-dropping humor, and rousing adventure from it. A dizzying display of often brilliant, always strange, and definitely unique storytelling"
Booklist (starred review)
“A fast-paced, suspenseful dystopian picaresque, part Huck Finn and part bizarro-world Swiss Family Robinson.”
“Macy’s adventure is engaging and absorbing, but it doesn’t make much sense. For those conditioned to the logic of classic science fiction, “Total Oblivion’s” rule-breaking can be frustrating. But readers who are willing to let go will be swept away.”
Los Angeles Times
“DeNiro’s novel moves the reader along at a lively and crazy pace, engaging interest in Macy and her fate while making subtle references to the sad past and giving frightening glimpses of a scarier future.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Unsettling and never boring, ‘Total Oblivion’ should interest older teens who are hooked on vampires and other dark fantasies. They’ll cheer for Macy, whose courage increases as she does dangerous things she never dreamed of when she was in her safe high school in St. Paulbefore everything collapsed.”
St. Paul Pioneer Press
“Macy narrates this story in a delightful, lighthearted voice that stiffens only a little as she realizes that she will never have a senior year.”
“Chock-a-block with adventure, suspense, and surprise. Apocalyptic family values, too! Recommended to all.”
Karen Joy Fowler ( The Jane Austen Book Club )
"DeNiro’s excellent debut novel . . . is the very rare novel that satisfies on a multiple of levels.”
“Wow! This is a wonderfully weird, fun, touching, heartfelt and memorable novel. Imagine if Huck Finn had been living in post-apocalypse America, and Terry Pratchett had been promoted to God, with George Saunders as his avenging angel. The world of this book is a little like that. In this case, the role of Huck is played by a sixteen-year-old-girl named Macy, whose smart, mordant, utterly convincing voice grounds our journey through this crazy landscape. Macy reminds us that no matter how surreal things get, there is still resilience and hope in the human spirit. DeNiro has created a hilarious and terrifying dream world.”
Dan Chaon ( Await Your Reply )
“DeNiro lifts the modern family drama and sets it down in the middle of a wildly inventive post apocalyptic landscape. The insulated life of Middle America may be a thing of the past, but DeNiro finds a way to lead readers into a future full of humor, imagination, and hope.”
Hannah Tinti ( The Good Thief )
"Deeply weird, sometimes challenging, but always smart and affecting."
Locus (Notable Books)
"DeNiro's greatest gifts are those of a poet."
Jonathan Messinger, Time Out Chicago
"Maybe the future of sf. . . . The title story here, set in twenty-third-century Pennsylvania, is its nameless-till-the-last-sentence narrator's university-application essay, numbered footnotes and all, which explains why not to expect him on campus anytime soon; he is in love and considering getting gills. Maybe DeNiro is the future of alternate history: in "Our Byzantium," a college town is invaded by horse-and-chariot-led soldiers who demolish cars, wheelchairs, and other machines; reestablish Greek as the lingua franca; and otherwise conquer. . . . The long closer, "Home of the," about Erie, Pennsylvania, now and then, is as laconic and associative as its title is elliptic. Refreshing, imaginative, funny-scary stuff."
Ray Olson, Booklist
"A commitment to experimental structure and oddball elements provides this debut collection's consistency.... The collection argues for DeNiro as a writer to watch."
"Many of these stories unfold like dreams, startling in their detail but elusive in their meaning. Yet, the prosaic as well as the poetic features in these stories as characters attempt to create a detailed but incomplete record, like a dream book of their own histories. Objects such as a college entrance essay, maps, postcards, outdated computer disks, the provenance of a chess set, all become documents which convey the fragility of histories"
"I'm not ordinarily an editor, so finding stories for the first six issues of Fence magazine was a guilty pleasure, and the subsequent work by formerly unknown Fence writers like Kelly Link and Julia Slavin has made me look like a prognosticator, or maybe an annoying drunk guy on a streak. Now here's DeNiro, whose Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead was always my favorite. I'm thrilled to see him in bookstores at last."
Jonathan Lethem ( Fortress of Solitude )
"Reading DeNiro's new collection, Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead , made me feel like a dog that twists its head a bit to the side on hearing a whistle too high for humans to hear. The dog is perplexed and intrigued by the sound it knows where it's coming from but not really. Familiar enough, but maybe not. So too with these strong, out of kilter stories. DeNiro blows his own distinctly different sounding whistle and once you've heard it, you can't help but stop and take real notice."
Jonathan Carroll ( Glass Soup )
"The wholly original, carefully crafted tales that comprise Deniro's Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead are like colorful pinatas full of live scorpions playful, unexpected, and deadly serious."
Jeffrey Ford ( The Girl in the Glass )
Quirky, unconventional and outlandish short fiction, bordering on the surreal--and sometimes crossing the border. The first two stories in the collection--"Tyrannia" and "A Rendition"--form a creepy introduction to DeNiro's work. In the former, a political prisoner pays dearly for his "crimes" against the state, and his mutilated body becomes a nesting ground for birds and beetles. In the latter, a trio of inept kidnappers takes hostage a law professor whose political ideas counter their own (although Patrick, the "mastermind" behind the plot, isn't "afraid of getting caught. Instead, the plan for him [is] a form of self-discovery"). Predictably, things go dreadfully and disturbingly wrong. The bizarrely titled "(*_*?) ~~~~ (-_-): The Warp and the Woof" introduces us to a novelist named Roger who finds an old notebook in which, 20 years previously, he had written his first novel. Since then, Roger has had some success as a hack popular writer, but he sends this notebook to his less-than-enthusiastic agent, who sends the compressed files to consultant Amar's wristwatch. And from there, the action gets even more bizarre, from the agent's death to Amar's having sex with his wife. "The Philip Sidney Game," the final story in the collection, is actually a "meta-story," with a narrator named Alan DeNiro finding the manuscript of a story written 12 years before. He then receives a mysterious package with some old computer disks containing three different endings to his story. While DeNiro's approach to fiction can be clever, it more often comes across as simply mildly amusing and self-indulgent.