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A debut short story collection that explores the vulnerability, grit, and complex nature of our humanity from a new, vital queer voice.
A yacht races to outrun a tsunami. A young man jailed on a drug charge forms a relationship with his cellmate that is by turns tender and brutal. A family buys a rural slaughterhouse, and tensions with their religious neighbors quickly escalate. A teen raised by his eccentric gay father, a Turkish immigrant, finds his life fractured by violence. A fictionalized Coretta Scott King, surveilled and harassed by the FBI, considers the costs of her life with her husband.
Here Is What You Do is a bravura, far-ranging collection, its stories linked by sorrow and latent hope, each one drilling toward its characters’ darkest emotional centers. In muscularly robust prose, with an unfailing eye for human drives and frailties, Chris Dennis captures the raw need, desire, cruelty, and promise that animate our lives.
About the Author
Chris Dennis holds an MFA in Fiction from Washington University in St. Louis, where he also received a postgraduate fellowship. His work has appeared in Granta, West Branch, and New Stories from the Midwest.
Praise for Here Is What You Do
“Chris Dennis has talent to burn and this book is a roaring bonfire. Here is an audacious, chaotic, indelible world of schemers, dreamers, grievers, and survivors—all possessed by that feral clarity that comes when you’re about to take your last last chance. So here is what you do with Here Is What You Do: take it home and let it drive ‘a hot blade into the fat heart’ of your boredom, your bookshelf, your life.”
—Justin Taylor, author of The Gospel of Anarchy and Flings
“Here Is What You Do is more than just a tremendous debut; it’s a case study in ventriloquism. Staggering at the sentence level, Dennis’s dark and disparate voices—subversive, brutal, tender, and funny—are so vivid and perfectly rendered they seeped into my dreams.”
—Kimberly King Parsons, author of Black Light
“In weathered prose and rusted experience that echo, humbly, the final stories of Denis Johnson, Here Is What You Do offers its readers a painful gift: it’s always through love and the never-ending wish for it that we allow our bodies and selves to be policed, sometimes beyond repair. These stories will never leave you.”
—Patrick Nathan, author of Some Hell
“Raw, observant, distressing—to read Chris Dennis’s Here Is What You Do is to walk through a bizarre museum where each diorama features subjects stripped down to their nerve endings. An unforgettable debut.”
—Daniel Magariel, author of One of the Boys
“[Here Is What You Do] is dark, campy, and brilliant, with characters who feel like they’re desperately clawing themselves out of a metaphorical (and at one point, literal) hole in the ground.”
—Los Angeles Review of Books
“Brilliant . . . In feeling for the pulse of humanity through his complicated characters' missteps and imperfections, Dennis presents a parade of the drug-addicted, emotionally rattled, and misguided, all struggling to enact some semblance of self-improvement. He emerges with a sterling, dark and stark collection of tales that burn themselves into readers' minds.”
—The Bay Area Reporter
“Dennis pries into difficult moments that create pain but also new opportunities for the characters of his arresting, notable debut . . . Dennis’s resilient characters show fortitude in the midst of trauma and failure, and there’s a surprising strain of optimism that runs through these often stark stories.”—Publishers Weekly
“Dark, visceral, and wide-ranging, Dennis' debut collection delves into the humanity and pain of highly flawed characters . . . With a fearless voice and a diverse array of characters, Dennis' debut delivers strong prose.”