by Tara Ison

List Price: $15.95
Paperback | 6 x 8.9, 232 Pages | ISBN 9781593766221

Ball is the thrilling and emotionally provocative debut collection of short fiction by the acclaimed author of the novels Rockaway and A Child Out of Alcatraz, and the essay collection Reeling Through Life.

Ball explores the darker edges of love and sex and death, how they are intimately and often violently connected, with bright, vivid stories set mostly in contemporary Los Angeles. In “Cactus,” a young girl comes to fear the outside world following the freakish, accidental death of her adventure-seeking, naturalist boyfriend in the California desert; in “Wig,” a woman must help her best friend face life-threatening cancer while covering up an unseemly affair with her friend’s husband; in “Fish,” the narrator sits watch over a dying uncle, trying to pay for past sins while administering to his final needs, but distracted by the ravenous fish in the Koi pond near the hospital; and in the collection’s stunning title story, the bonds of friendship and pet ownership collide in the most startling and unexpected ways.

With a keen insight into the edges of human behavior and an assured literary hand, Ball is the new book by one of the West’s most provocative stylists.


Tara Ison’s stories locate the pleasure in pain, the victory in betrayal, the beauty in depravity — they walk the line between love and debasement. In the end, Ison’s characters are knots of selfish interest and desire, clinging to any warm body as death grows near, achingly human in her portrayal.

—Sarah Gerard, author of Binary Star

Tara Ison is the mistress of bad behavior. She divines the beauty in darkness. She twists the familiar — a friendship, an apology — till something fantastic cracks. And she will have you in thrall to her gorgeous language. The stories in Ball are exquisite and harrowing. Must read straight through. Must remember to breathe.

—Dylan Landis, author of Rainey Royal

The stories in Ball take place at the far limits of obsession and desire and lust, exploring the dangers of turning toward the kinds of love we have tried always to refuse. Tara Ison is a fearless writer, and her bravery before the dark urges of the heart thrills on every page.

—Matt Bell, author of In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods

Elegant, creepy short stories with a horror-film sensibility . . . That classic horror-movie elision, from friendly normalcy to nauseating terror, is made by most of these beautifully written, often first-person narratives . . . Freaky, nasty, highly original, and unforgettable, whether you like it or not.


Ison delves into the minds of these characters and others in this captivating and disturbing collection of stories: think Mary Gaitskill or Miranda July, but more demented . . . Ison’s straightforward style belies a deeper, parallel truth hidden in each story. These stories find a strange sweet spot between the mundane and the horrific. They may shock but they also provoke, with many leading to an unexpected, and not always happy, ending.

—Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Set mostly in Los Angeles, Ball is a collection of stories about desire. Twisted, dark, and wild, the stories in Ball focus on characters seeking love, adventure, and attention that is deeply intense and crushing. Ison, who has also written Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies and A Child Out of Alcatraz, is a talented writer who may have slipped under your radar. Be prepared to become obsessed.

—Hello Giggles

Ison’s stories blur the boundaries between the imagistic, the realistic, the symbolic, and the psychological.

—Slant Magazine

Each tale in Ison’s story collection, seemingly innocuous, delves into a dark examination of inappropriate behavior: affairs, self-mutilation, shocking deaths; no faux pas stone is left unturned. But with her expert writing and willingness to push boundaries the grotesqueness and horrors are bearable, even beautiful.

—Marie Claire

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