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Belly Up

Belly Up

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By Rita Bullwinkel

Throughout these grotesque and tender stories, characters question the bodies they've been given and what their bodies require to be sustained.

Publication Date: November 15, 2016

Paperback: 9780998518435
eBook: 9780998518442


Belly Up is a story collection that contains ghosts, mediums, a lover obsessed with the sound of harps tuning, teenage girls who believe they are actually plants, gulag prisoners who outsmart a terrible warden, and carnivorous churches. Throughout these grotesque and tender stories, characters question the bodies they’ve been given and what their bodies require to be sustained.



Biographical Note

Rita Bullwinkel's writing has been published in Tin House, Conjunctions, BOMB, Vice, NOON, and Guernica. She is a recipient of grants and fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Brown University, Vanderbilt University, Hawthornden Castle, and The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. Both her fiction and translation have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes. She is an Editor at large for McSweeney's. She lives in San Francisco and teaches at the California College of the Arts.




Belly Up has been named a Best Of book pick by Nylon, PopSugar, Bustle, The Millions, Hello Giggles, and more!
Staff Pick at The Paris Review
Featured in The Masters Review
Featured in Buzzfeed
Listed in Big Other's “Most Anticipated Small Press Books of 2018”

"Bewildered imagination finds a home in the stories of Rita Bullwinkel. Her writing is beautiful and poetic, funny, strange, heartbreaking and wise." —NPR 

"Bullwinkel…shows impressive range and deep emotional intelligence…her stories approach brilliance.” Kirkus Reviews

"In Belly Up, a profound talent has manifested, one that is experimental in the best sense.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“Bullwinkel’s collection hums with sharp sentences and observations, introducing a startling, off-kilter voice in fiction." —Publishers Weekly

“Hilariously deadpan.” —Michael Berry, The San Francisco Chronicle

“This short story collection is like a house with many stupendous rooms built from spare sentences and subtle obsessions that spiral into the best kinds of existential questions.” —Ingrid Rojas Contreras, KQED

“[This] book is full of squirmy pleasures.” —Kristen Roupenian, The New York Times 

“[Belly Up] shows us that those ‘unknown forces’ do not have to remake the entire world in order to be weird. Our littles lives are strange enough.” —Josephine Livingston, The New Republic

“These surreal stories, suffused with humor and a casual tenderness, feature the kind of writing that gets stuck inside your head, right behind your eyes, so that, after you read it, everything about the way you view the world seems colored and warped by this new lens.” —Kristin Iversen, Nylon Magazine

“This collection, which absolutely heralds an exciting new talent, takes place at a four-way crossroads between the mind and the body, the reality we can know and the reality adjacent to our own, which we can only glimpse through fiction.” —Lauren Kane, The Paris Review

“Bullwinkel’s stories are fantastic and fabulist feats that (often) address our messy, cumbersome bodies in thrilling and imaginative ways. For example: in lieu of a bra, a man is hired to support a daughter’s breasts; a woman whose plastic surgeon, when fixing her eyes, leaves her with a turkey neck (not literally but); twin brothers Gleb and Oleg, surgeon and sculptor, live in a prison infirmary and perform a thumb transplant. A compelling new voice.” —Anne Yoder, The Millions

“This searing and surreal debut short story collection (from one of my favorite small presses) is an unusual and eerie story collection that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt that their existence was informed by the physical and the surreal.” —Melissa Ragsdale, Bustle

“These stunning stories take place in the spaces between ordinary objects and events. They are mysterious, strange, and fearlessly funny in their expression of human isolation, and they contain the existential surprises of great literature. Belly Up is a powerful debut by an unusually gifted writer.” —Lorrie Moore

“At the intersection of the surreal and the real, Rita Bullwinkel has carved out a unique space in which the mundane and the strange cohabitate and sometimes frolic. The sharp, precise writing and careful observations of the human condition in her excellent first collection Belly Up signal the debut of a major new talent.” —Jeff VanderMeer

“Bullwinkel’s delightful, passionate stories of disturbance and worried words have the best kind of frenetic energy.” —Deb Olin Unferth

“The intelligence and precision of Bullwinkel’s prose allows her to mine the deeply strange and deeply intimate with abandon and exactitude.” —Jenessa Abrams, The Millions 

“Belly Up is a haunting carnival, a celebration in defiance of extinction, and an embrace of the weirdness of life, and what might come after.” —Tobias Carroll, Tor 

“The expertly crafted stories in Belly Up veer between surrealism and realism, present day and the past, short and long, but they always leave the reader with a new way to look at the world.” —Lincoln Michel, BOMB 

"Bullwinkel’s writing is characterized by an exquisite sensitivity to language, one that allows her to explore the borders between her characters’ inner and outer lives.” —Georgia Rowe, The San Jose Mercury News 

"Utterly compelling." The Evening Standard 

“Readers will enjoy contemplating Bullwinkel’s launching points, but the strength of her writing and the nuanced views will stay with them long after.” —Emily Dziuban, Booklist