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Joanna Ruocco holds an MFA from Brown and a PhD from the University of Denver. She is the author of The Mothering Coven (Ellipses Press, 2009), Man’s Companions (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2010), A Compendium of Domestic Incidents (which won the 2009 Noemi Press Fiction Chapbook Contest; judged by Rikki Ducornet) and Another Governess / The Least Blacksmith: A Diptych (which won the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize; judged by Ben Marcus). She also works pseudonymously as Alessandra Shahbaz (Ghazal in the Moonlight, Midnight Flame) and Toni Jones (No Secrets in Spandex). With Brian Conn, Ruocco co-edits the fiction journal Birkensnake.

pages: 152

format: paperback

isbn: 978-0-9897607-2-0

publication date: October 2014


Joanna Ruocco

“Ruocco has given serious thought to how much she can do with language while still preserving a story’s integrity . . . Modernist-style experimentation ain’t dead yet. Giddy, intriguing stuff from a writer eager to let words misbehave.”
Kirkus Reviews

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Melba Zuzzo, erstwhile innocent of the male-heavy hamlet of Dan, a town located in the foothills of . . . somewhere? . . . finds herself in a rut. In fact she was probably born into this rut, but today, for some reason, she feels suddenly aware of it. Everything is changing, yet nothing is making sense. The people she might rely upon, the habits she should find comforting—everything is off. It’s as if life, which has gone by largely unnoticed up to now, has been silently conspiring against her the whole time.

In Dan, Joanna Ruocco has created a slapstick parable that brings together the restless undercurrents and unabashed campiness of Thomas Pynchon with the meandering imaginative audacity of Raymond Roussel. Either Dan is a state of mind, beyond the reach of any physical map, or else it sits on every map unnoticed, tucked beneath the big red dot that tells us you are here.


You can read excerpts from Dan at The Collagist and Tin House, and a fantastically informative and wondrous interview with Joanna Ruocco at BOMB.


“Joanna Ruocco’s Dan is a tiny novel that packs a massive punch.” bustle

“Ruocco’s work is cutting-edge, pushing the established tropes within contemporary fiction, calling her readers to interpret and examine the nuances of seemingly everyday life.” publishers weekly

“Ruocco’s sentences send off sparks.” kirkus

“Dan is a town. A town among mountains, a town with a formerly bustling hosiery district, a town where doctors don’t believe in horses and principals go missing while seeking answers in the school basement. But what is Dan really? That is the question at the heart of Joanna Roucco’s unsettling (and laugh-out-loud funny) novel, told through a dizzying series of interactions, which themselves conjure memories of other interactions, which themselves often conjure even deeper memories still.” Electric Lit

“The flow of storytelling is both mirthful and merciless, absurd yet mundane. Just as Melba cannot escape the hamlet of Dan, the reader cannot escape the relentlessly shifting prose. But then again, why would anyone want to?” Folly X.O.

“Melba is subject to a lot of mansplaining!” full stop

“Ruocco has an ear for sparkling absurdist dialogue and a sense of timing almost unmatched in contemporary American fiction . . . [Dan] is profoundly strange, but as readable and logical as the writing of Lewis Carroll.” The Literary Review

“Like a skeleton key Ruocco has found combinations to unlock more doors then we knew we had. If for nothing else, read Dan for the sentences, and the way the words rub up against each other, placed so perfectly that you know they could not have otherwise been arranged.” htmlgiant

“This outrageously hilarious book is also a warning against how others will happily use our hope, our empathy, and our imaginations against us . . . even while they are eating our hot pretzels.” drunken boat

“Joanna Ruocco is sort of like almost the best writer on planet earth.” queen mob’s tea house

Dan is a wonderful addition to Ruocco’s already accomplished body of work . . . compelling, artful, and entirely engaging.” tupelo quarterly

“Ruocco’s amazing sentences in Dan remind me a lot of Flann O’Brien, both in terms of their humor and Ruocco’s ability to write the hell out of any and everything.” forest gospel

“[Dan tells] the story of the hilarious and frightening town of Dan, a place where children are abducted, women disappear, and coydogs mate near the mountains. Maybe more than anything else, it is the story of sensemaking, the way memory, reality, and identity noodle out from between your fingers. All of this is rendered in Ruocco’s electric prose, which has been compared to Donald Barthelme, Lydia Davis, and Thomas Pynchon.” heavy feather review

“This is a book I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. It’s surreal and dream-like, vivid and compelling. Melba Zuzzo pedals her bicycle through the town of Dan, and we get lost in a strange world where we never know quite what will happen.” necessary fiction

“This novel is funny and smart but knows how to balance both deftly enough to create a genuine world out of the completely obtuse.” askmen

cover art:

lazy river by Christine Shan Shan Hou (6.75 x 10 inches, collage on paper, 2013)

Christine Shan Shan Hou is a poet and artist living in Brooklyn, NY. Publications include the chapbook Food Cuts Short Cuts (The New Megaphone, 2014), C O N C R E T E S O U N D (2011) a collaborative artists’ book with artist Audra Wolowiec, and Accumulations (Publication Studio, 2010). See more of her work at her website.