Praise for Melissa Pritchard:
"Melissa Pritchard is one of our finest writers."Annie Dillard
"Pritchard's quicksilver ability to blend biting social/political commentary with a rueful analysis of relationships makes [her work a] delight."Publishers Weekly
"I have admired Melissa Pritchard's writing for several years now for its wisdom, its humble elegance, and its earthy comedy."Rick Moody
In each of these eight genre-bending tales, Melissa Pritchard overturns the conventions of mysteries, westerns, gothic horror, and historical fiction to capture surprising and often shocking aspects of her characters' lives.
In one story, Pritchard creates a pastiche of historical facts, songs, and tall tales, contrasting the famed figures of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, including Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull, with the real, genocidal history of the American West. Other stories are inspired by the mysterious life of Kaspar Hauser, a haunted Victorian hospital where the wounded of D-Day are taken during World War II, and the story of Robert LeRoy Ripley of "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" and his beguiling "odditoriums," told from the perspective of his lifelong fact checker.
Melissa Pritchard is a Flannery O'Connor, Janet Heidinger Kafka, and Carl Sandburg Awardwinning author. She has also been an embedded journalist in Afghanistan, where she befriended Ashton Goodman, a young soldier she memorialized for O, The Oprah Magazine, and authored a biography of Virginia Galvin Piper that US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor called "a delight to read." Founder of the Ashton Goodman Grant and the Afghan Women's Writing Project, she teaches at Arizona State University.
New Mexico-Arizona Book Award Finalist O, The Oprah Magazine "Title to Pick Up Now" & Oprah.com Book of the Week San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year Library Journal Best Stories Collection of the Year IMAGE: Art, Faith Mystery Top Ten of the Year Largehearted Boy Favorite Short Story Collection of the Year "Emotionally rich." --New York Times "Weird and wonder-filled." --Albuquerque Journal "Display[s] the whimsy and intelligence of a writer at the height of her powers." --Oprah.com "Pritchard polishes the strange and makes it shine... These are stories full of holy living creatures." --San Francisco Chronicle "Melissa Pritchard's aptly titled The Odditorium considers the inner lives of the strange, the damaged and the forgotten ... with its zest for the macabre and its time-spanning imaginative appetite ... the singularity of her narrators remains indelible [and] shows that fiction still has the ability to shock and surprise." --Washington Post "[Pritchard] takes risks, different risks in different stories. Can she write a segment in the form of a comedic Shakespearean dialogue? She can. Does a story evolve into epistolary form? It does. Will she be able to build a story around the format of an old newspaper feature? She will. Can she do it all with poetic, vivid prose? With one hand tied behind her back. Is Melissa Pritchard someone whose short fiction should be well known? Do you even have to ask?" --Los Angeles Times "Pritchard's exuberant prose is perfectly suited to carry the antic freight of these often bizarre, always cerebral stories... This is a fulsome compendium of ripping good yarns." --Minneapolis Star Tribune "Any great writer does many things at once, of course, but most lead with a particular strength. And then there is Pritchard, who simply turns all the dials up to eleven. In [The Odditorium], more than in previous works, history gives her the best playing field for her considerable energies and produces some of her most moving and satisfying stories to date." --IMAGE: Art, Faith, Mystery "The Odditorium is a stunning read, dense and intricately woven, masterfully assembled and sensitively rendered. Pritchard's text somehow comes across as at once delicate and forceful. Her interest in history--literary and cultural--in this collection adds a depth of focus and an attention to nuance that is truly arresting." --California Literary Review "A master of the form ... [Pritchard's] fiction, like the best Gothic classics, makes us feel like we are traveling on a pleasant, meandering river--until we round the last bend and find ourselves on the edge of a waterfall, looking down into the darkest depths of the human soul." --Washington Independent Review of Books "The rewards for a careful expedition into The Odditorium are unforgettable moments of timeless, resonant truth ... Pritchard's descriptive talents illuminate not just the emotional depths of her characters but humanity's physical innards as well." --Bookslut "The Odditorium contains eight ambitious and fantastic stories that transcend genre while fascinating with their language and historical figures brought to life." --Largehearted Boy "Mesh[es] the surreal and metafictional with a deeply-felt humanism." --Vol. 1 Brooklyn "Award-winning author Pritchard crosses genres to create energized, fiercely atmospheric tales about holy fools, haunted hospitals, Annie Oakley, and more." --Library Journal Best Stories Collections of the Year citation "Reading Melissa Pritchard's short-story collection The Odditorium is a bit like peering into a Wunderkammer, one of those magical cabinets where the rich and adventurous used to display their treasures. The beautiful, the grotesque. The odd, the charming... Pritchard uses fiction to bring new life to these figures--some famous and mythologized, and others not--blending the historical and the fantastical to create a collection of great charisma." --Kirkus Reviews "Eight off-beat short stories ... "Captain Brown and the Royal Victoria Hospital," the volume's standout ... is atmospheric, enigmatic, and moving." --Publishers Weekly "Very clever ... all the stories carry undertones of darkness that will creep into your soul and plant their desperate seeds deep within." --Historical Novels Review "Humor of life, solemness of its loss, and the heroes who make it happen, The Odditorium is a fine assortment of short fiction, very much recommended." --Midwest Book Review "Melissa Pritchard's The Odditorium is as strange, wonderful, and (most important) as much fun as anything good old Robert LeRoy Ripley could ever have envisioned. Passionate, bold imaginings that illuminate the darkest, most precious reaches of our lives. Believe it: these stories are a gift." --PINCKNEY BENEDICT, author of Miracle Boy "Melissa Pritchard has her GPS set to find the how it is--out there and in the heart--and she makes her way forward with her language on high alert. The prose is rhythmically astute, finely pitched, serving both imagination and witness." --SVEN BIRKERTS, Editor of AGNI, author of The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age "In this thrillingly protean collection of stories, Melissa Pritchard has done something profound. By imagining her way into historical moments and illuminating their shadows, she amplifies the music of history so we hear beautifully strange, wondrous notes we never knew were there. These stories resound with a fierce yet playful intelligence and a rare, magnificent generosity." --MAUD CASEY, author of Genealogy "The Odditorium is a dazzling wonderment, its cast drawn from the far-flung corners of history and imagination, its language crystalline and high-voltage, its stories fearless and even visionary. Here is an irresistible curiosity cabinet of the famous, the infamous, the mysterious, the half-forgotten--conjured with prodigious empathy, wit, and energy by one of our finest writers. Melissa Pritchard is a treasure and this book is her glorious trove." --BRADFORD MORROW, author of The Diviner's Tale and The Uninnocent "Fueled by roofless imagination and fearless curiosity The Odditorium is a case study in how one writer's wisdom and empathy transforms known facts of existence into something more than magic. Pritchard draws from the cold, deep well of myth, legend, and history to redefine what narrative can do. Each story is a lesson in compassion. Each story is nothing short of genius. Each story was written for you." --GINA OCHSNER, author of The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight "No one is quite so brilliant at voicing the all-but-impossible-to-track interior lives of the most complex human beings as is Melissa Pritchard ... there is so much energy and inventiveness! Her linguistic flexibility is stunning, comic and gravely substantial. At its heart is always the troubled, often confused but courageous and tenacious human heart." --BRAD WATSON, author of Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives and The Heaven of Mercury
TABLE OF CONTENTSI. ECORCHE: FLAYED MANII. PELAGIA,HOLY FOOL III. THE HAUSER VARIATIONSVI. WATANYA CICILIA V. CAPTAIN BROWN AND THE ROYAL VICTORIAN MILITARY HOSPITAL VI. THE ODDITORIUM VII. PATRICIDE VIII. THE NINE-GATED CITY AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY