A playful, elegant debut story collection, The Great American Songbook explores the profound hold that music has on our lives.
Publication Date: May 8, 2018
For the characters in these stories, love and music are almost indistinguishable. A famous songwriting duo is destroyed by their creative differences, a jazz musician is consumed by his inability to speak or play, a man takes a pop song literally and charts his love onto buildings. These stories cover songs and riff on melodies. They unearth chords that bridge the gap between past and present. A playful, elegant debut collection, The Great American Songbook explores the profound hold that music has on our lives.
“By turns hilarious and deeply unnerving, deadpan and visionary, disorienting yet disturbingly familiar, the stories in The Great American Songbook ride a path between waking life and a fever dream. Sam Allingham is a true original, one of the bright lights of this new generation of short story writers.” —Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply and Stay Awake
“Sam Allingham is sharp and tender, and these stories swoop and soar with theatrical dexterity.” —Emma Straub, author of Modern Lovers
“Music filters through this book like notes from a neighbor’s window, and it makes everyone dance—nostalgia and invention foxtrot, desire and disappointment waltz, love and loss lean into each other in the dark and sway. The Great American Songbook has humanity—tender, hopeful, faltering humanity—singing and two-stepping beautifully across its pages.” —Ramona Ausubel, author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty and A Guide to Being Born
“Sam Allingham’s stories touch the deepest levels of the brain like a series of unexpected chord changes. Devastating, funny, insightful, and disarmingly intimate, The Great American Songbook stands alongside the very best story collections being written right now.” —Paul Lisicky, author of The Narrow Door
“Surprising and sonorous.” —Kirkus Reviews
“The Great American Songbook has over 100 wildly heartbreaking and unforgettable characters: bartenders and baristas, musicians and miniaturists, cult members and deer hunters and Broadway composers and ducks (yes, ducks!)—all of them searching for a little light in the darkness. Luckily, they have the outrageously talented Sam Allingham to guide them through these wonderfully sharp pages, where the strange becomes familiar, and the familiar strange, in a way that feels both honest and true—prying open the hinges on that old, rusted box of the human condition, and providing a map (and maybe even a song or two) as assassins and nut jobs and struggling teenagers smash their clarinets, let the birds out of their cages, shout into the night sky across desert canyons, and navigate the distance between loneliness and love.” —Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief
Sam Allingham grew up in rural New Jersey and Philadelphia. After graduating from Oberlin College, he worked for many years as a music teacher for adults and small(ish) children, before receiving an MFA from Temple University in 2013. His work has appeared in One Story, American Short Fiction, Epoch, n+1, The Millions, and Full Stop, among other publications. He currently lives in West Philadelphia and teaches at Temple University.