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Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi is the winner of a 2015 Whiting Writers’ Award, a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Honoree, and the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship in Fiction to Catalonia, Spain. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in BOMB, Paris Review Daily, Guernica, The Believer, Words without Borders, and elsewhere. She has lived in Italy, Spain, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, and the U.S. She currently teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Notre Dame and splits her time between South Bend, Indiana and Florence, Italy.

pages: 128

format: paperback

isbn: 978-0-9844693-4-5

publication date: October 2012

Fra Keeler

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi

* Whiting Award Winner * National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Honoree *

“It’s a stunning psychological thriller, a total identification with madness that creates drama without either belittling or romanticizing the insane.” Jenny Hendrix, The Los Angeles Times

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In Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi’s debut novel Fra Keeler, a man purchases a house, the house of Fra Keeler, moves in, and begins investigating the circumstances of the latter’s death. Yet the investigation quickly turns inward, and the reality it seeks to unravel seems only to grow more strange, as the narrator pursues not leads but lines of thought, most often to hideous conclusions.


Read reviews of Fra Keeler in the LA Times, The MillionsMusic & Literature, DIAGRAM, and Bookslut. Read an excerpt in The Collagist. Read an interview with Azareen at Monkeybicycle.


“Oloomi enters so fully and sympathetically into the mad logic of her narrator that scenic detail, chronology, cause and effect, and even such mundane props as cactus, mailman, and ringing phone are bent, doubled, or subsumed by the paranoid geometries of meaning he draws. . . . Subtly menacing, but not without humor, the novel derives momentum and tension from the space between its clear, intelligent language and the absolute unreliability of its narrator.slate

“A rare gem of a book that begs to be read again.” publishers weekly

“Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi writes sentences that are crisp and formal, but the madness they depict is anything but. Her ambition, to take you inside a completely unreliable narrator, still manages to create a rare and strong narrative drive. Controlled yet bizarre, it pulls you in.” Whiting Award Judges

“The risks this novel takes are numerous, and so are the rewards.” Dinaw Mengetsu 

“Obsessive/delightful, Fra Keeler subtly elaborates on life’s details, its ordinary lunacies. Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi’s observations are droll and often hilarious. Her novel’s incidents pile up and on, tilting and shifting under the weight of language’s bizarre disturbances. Fra Keeler is wonderfully imaginative, the work of a terrific young writer.” Lynne Tillman

“You ask: What sort of fiction are we reading here? Anticipating just this question, on her ‘Acknowledgments’ page, Oloomi provides a checklist of books and films that she says made this work ‘possible’: works by César Aira, Thomas Bernhard, Luis Bunuel, Nikolai Gogol, Alfred Hitchcock, and Clarice Lispector, to name only a handful from her inventory of what one could call the ‘literature of madness,’ if ‘madness’ were not so reductive a term for the complexities to which Fra Keeler pays tribute.” gerald bruns, american book review

“Ultimately, Fra Keeler’s preoccupation with thought and a mind’s unraveling reminds us that we’re each ensconced within our own mind, we’re stationed behind the window of our own perceptions, perhaps never truly knowing anything beyond ourselves. There’s something magical and mad in this.” Anne Yoder, Music and Literature

“Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi is the descendent of writers as brilliant and disparate as Max Frisch, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Per Petterson. Fra Keeler is a compelling and humorously associative meditation on how ‘one lives against one’s dying,’ and how that living will be in contra-distinction to all that explains that death on paper after its fact. Would that more book groups read books of this complexity and intelligence; discussion would reach on into the wee hours!” Michelle Latiolais

“In Fra Keeler a mind churns on itself, while reality—if it is reality—comes rushing at it with a strange stutter, everything a bit lost, a bit off, and ready to be ground up further by the uncertain perception of the narrator. This is a book by turns funny and strange, but always entertaining.” Brian Evenson

“Obsessive. Surreal. Darkly comic. Chilling.” Robert Coover


cover art:

dead tree by Elijah Burgher, 2012

Elijah Burgher is an artist and occasional writer, currently living in Chicago. He received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2004 and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College in 2000. He has recently exhibited in solo exhibitions at Western Exhibitions (Chicago, IL) and 2nd Floor Projects (San Francisco, CA) and in group shows at the Witte de With (Rotterdam, the Netherlands), the Fales Library and Special Collections, NYU (New York, NY), and Julius Caesar (Chicago, IL). See more of his work at Ghost Vomit.