Dennis Must

Dennis Must is the author of three novels: The World’s Smallest Bible (Red Hen Press, March 2014), Hush Now, Don’t Explain (Coffeetown Press, 2014), and Brother Carnival (Red Hen Press, 2018); plus three short story collections: Going Dark (Coffeetown Press, 2016), Oh, Don’t Ask Why (Red Hen Press, 2007) and Banjo Grease (Creative Arts Book Company, 2000; Red Hen Press, 2019). He won the 2014 Dactyl Foundation Literary Fiction Award for Hush Now, Don’t Explain, and The World’s Smallest Bible was a 2014 USA Best Book Award Finalist in the Literary Fiction category. His plays have been produced off-off-Broadway and he has been published in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He resides with his wife in Salem, Massachusetts.


All Books

Banjo Grease

Dennis Must

Publication Date: November 19, 2019

$16.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-035-3

Description:

There is an inexplicable gravity in a small town. It can be read and enjoyed like a favorite book for most of its inhabitants. Comforting are its streets and institutions, its wedding and obituary announcements. Banjo Grease is about life and death in a mill town where at each epiphany and rite of passage, the narrator yields a ration of innocence. Characters portray class as a marker as strong as race and gender, and distrust that they will ever escape in their lifetimes. Faulkner uses the term “eager fatalism.” These stories’ cumulative effect asks: When exchanging naivete for worldliness, what is lost in denying one’s past?

ADVANCE PRAISE

“Dennis Must’s first collection of short stories is no ordinary debut but the mature work of a fully accomplished literary artist. Moreover, his originality, his deep irreverence, and his compassion for working-class men and women . . . Strivers and seekers of dreams, signal him as an inspired author in a new American grain—a visionary, poet, and realist . . .”—Tom Jenks, editor (with Raymond Carver) of American Short Story Masterpieces

“Dennis Must’s stunning collection Banjo Grease is just what one hopes for: a series of intriguing, interlocking stories whose cumulative force goes beyond the sum of its parts.”—Geoffrey Clark, author of Jackdog SummerWhat the Moon SaidRabbit Fever

“These stories float through the reader like frozen images. Each one fits into the others unevenly as jagged glass. This is the essence of great fiction at the end of the century; Ray Carver and Thom Jones plowed into some stupendous force that whips along with a tilted wild energy.”—Kate Gale, author of Water MoccasinsWhere Crows and Men Collide, and Selling the Hammock

Brother Carnival

Dennis Must

Publication Date: December 6, 2018

$15.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-684-3

Description:

Ethan Mueller, the narrator of Brother Carnival, has suffered a crisis of faith and is on the brink of taking his own life when he is informed by his father that he has an estranged brother who is an author. Whereupon he is handed a collection of his sibling’s stories and novel excerpts and urged to seek him out. “These stories are his effort to find you, Ethan. He’s been where you are now. Seek him out but it won’t be easy.” In effect, “Christopher Daugherty’s” writings function as the protagonist’s brother in absentia, thus creating the “dialogue” and suspenseful interplay between them. By immersing himself in the pieces, Ethan Mueller’s pursuit of his brother is a quest to discover himself.

The World’s Smallest Bible

Dennis Must

Publication Date: March 15, 2014

$15.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-972-1

Description:

The World’s Smallest Bible chronicles the seriocomic boyhood of Ethan and Jeremiah Mueller in mill town Pennsylvania during the height of World War II. As they lose friends and neighbors to the front lines, the boys try to make sense of the mounting darkness with their imaginations except in their world, no one ever dies. In a private, laconic language, they invent stories that mirror the irrational world around them: a chaplain with bad news becomes the Angel of Death, skeletal Nazis lurk around the corner, and the ghost of a dead playmate taps at their bedroom window in the night. With startling lyricism and narrative grace, Dennis Must has fashioned an indelible vision of the Mueller boys blighted youth.

ADVANCE PRAISE

“Told in startling, poetic language, The Worlds Smallest Bible is an ode to the power of the imagination, as two boys in a Pennsylvania town during WWII sustain each other with stories and fabulist visions. Their struggle with the real world the war, teachers, their parents runs through The Worlds Smallest Bible like an obbligato. Dennis Must skillfully combines narrative momentum with lyricism resulting in a novel of extraordinary grace and originality.”—Thaisa Frank, author of Heidegger’s Glasses

“In this darkly comic Bildungsroman, Ethan Daugherty, initially plagued by several manifestations of moral evil both imagined and real comes to understand one indisputable existential truth: The restrictive confines of place in this case, Hebron, Pennsylvania, toxic in practically every respect can maim the soul, kill the human spirit. Reminiscent of Zola, The World’s Smallest Bible brilliantly demonstrates that for all one’s attempts, whether ignoble or noble, to escape one’s seemingly appointed lot, the only way out may be the grave.”—Jack Smith, author of Hog to Hog

Oh, Don’t Ask Why

Dennis Must

Publication Date: January 1, 2007

$15.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1597090582

Description:

In Oh, Don’t Ask Why, Dennis Must’s dark humor and use of jarringly raw language confront a number of anxieties and complexities with which his characters grapple. From overwhelming sorrow to suicidal reflection, this compilation of stories reaches deep into the internal and touches readers to the core.


“Dennis Must’s splendid new collection Oh, Don’t Ask Why is a worthy successor to Banjo Grease, his first book of stories, and it advances elements from that work: diminution of vitality, dissolution of family, fierce filial loyalties, a mingling of sexual ador, grief, loss, and spiritual and moral anxiety and ambiguity. These elements are not merely threads in the collection’s tapestry but are its very guts and sinew. The glass through which Must’s characters perceive life is definitely noir, and they are daunted by a variety of forces, among them multiple personalities and suicidal longings (hope and despair can exist in the same sentence in a Must story), and many have an aesthetic subtext. Often it seems the sacred can only be defined by and in the presence of the profane–think of Kafka, Flannery O’Connor, Nathaniel West, Hawthorne. This is a darkly funny book that provokes the sort of laughter that dies in your throat as you realize that, as Brecht put it, ‘He who laughs has not yet been told the terrible news.’


In Oh, Don’t Ask Why we can again admire Must’s trademark swift exposition and startling visual coups, and experience his affinity for the perfect detail.


This collection will haunt the reader for a long, long time; as a Fitzgerald notebook entry goes, ‘Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I’ll tell you a story.’—Geoffrey Clark, author of Wedding in October and Jackdog Summer

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