In fourteen witty, surreal, and wildly original interrelated stories, Iris Smyles joyfully interrogates the paradoxes of life and language and gives us a new view of our world.
Welcome to the world of Droll Tales, in which reality is a mutually agreed-upon illusion, and life is painful, enigmatic, beautiful, and brief. With an oddball cast of characters who reappear in various guises, Smyles gives us a tour of an enchanted, absurd, off-kilter world with its own workings and ways of expression—one that overlaps our own.
A young suburban woman runs away to Europe to become a living statue, Mallarmé is at long last translated into pig Latin, a house full of surrealists compete for love on a reality TV show, a list of fortune cookie messages reveals the inner world of the young man employed to write them, and a story of love and betrayal is told through the sentence diagrams on a fifth grader’s grammar test.
Romantic, dark, and ironic, Droll Tales is a book like none you have read. It is a philosophical vaudeville, a cabinet of curiosities, a puzzle in fourteen pieces, and a tragicomic riddle articulated in Smyles’s singular style, with the mystery of the human heart at its center.
PRAISE FOR DROLL TALES
"Erudite, original, and surprisingly poignant. . . . An entertainingly eclectic . . . journey through the odder corners of existence."
"Like Honoré de Balzac's "Contes Drolatiques" (or "Droll Stories"), Iris Smyles's DROLL TALES exhibits many elements of absurdist fiction: daft humor, illogical juxtapositions, the philosophizing of the banal, an obsession with meaninglessness. Its tone, however, is far from droll; what's remarkable about this book is its exuberance. In "Medusa's Garden," in which a former ballerina becomes a living statue, or "Shelves," about a poet who writes corporate manuals, Smyles revels in the antics of her prose."
—New York Times Book Review
“[Smyles is] a Dr. Johnson of artistic conception.... The pithy brilliance pours out like water from one of the sculptural fountains that are described.... ‘Medusa’s Garden,’ the first piece in this collection, is a seamless masterpiece.”
—The East Hampton Star
“It’s her intelligence and tone that make Smyles an enchanting writer—she’s ironic, funny, compassionate, critical (especially of intellectual and artistic pretense). She deliciously sends up self-serving lit crit and nervous pretention. . . . Iris Smyles is an original, planting herself squarely between parody and homage, ridicule and empathy. She’s an artist of the subversive and surreal, who would have and hold on to what’s left in our fractured world of the humane and the artistic.”
—The Southampton Press
"The connected stories in Iris Smyles’s Droll Tales are innovative—filled with surrealistic imagery, dark comedy, and people unmoored in their lives."
“Droll Tales is dark, surreal, and very funny, one of the best combinations a reader could ask for.”
—Roz Chast, author and illustrator of Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
“Reading Droll Tales, I flashed on Milan Kundera and David Sedaris, before concluding that Iris Smyles is that rarest of birds, a gifted nut, an eccentric fabulist.”
—John Patrick Shanley, writer of "Moonstruck" and "Doubt"
“This is the book God would read if God existed. I am in awe of what a great great great great writer Iris Smyles is.”
—Patricia Marx, author of You Can Only Yell at Me for One Thing at a Time: Rules for Couples
"A book full of wonders. Brilliant."
—Frederic Tuten, author of Tintin in the New World
"I was sitting here reading Droll Tales, trying to figure out why I was laughing. Contemporary books rarely make me laugh. It has happened four times, I think. Then it struck me. I'm laughing at her book because she's another tough customer who doesn't laugh at most supposedly funny books either, which is why she must write them herself. And thank goodness!"
—Walter Kirn, author of Up in the Air
"Droll Tales is a brilliant and refreshing blend of cleverness and irony that made me laugh out loud, as it revealed the true strangeness of things we consider normal."
—Simon Van Booy, author of Love Begins in Winter and Night Came with Many Stars
PRAISE FOR IRIS SMYLES
"Hilarious high jinks . . . instant favorite."
—O, the Oprah Magazine
"Smyles is sharp, melancholy, and wickedly funny. She is unafraid to reveal and revel in her character’s flaws because it is what makes them so achingly, relatably human."
"There are two kinds of people in this world, those without peanut allergies and those who cannot tolerate peanuts or any food produced or packaged in a facility that processes peanuts." Both will love this book."
—Andrea Martin, actress ("SCTV," "My Big Fat Greek Wedding") and author of Andrea Martin's Lady Parts
"Often hilarious, often tinged with sadness, but always authentic."