Here Beneath Low-Flying Planes

Iowa Short Fiction Award Winner

Amazon • Barnes & NobleUniversity of Iowa Press

“Rueful, bittersweet, funny, written with tenderness and bite, Merrill Feitell’s stories, like so many classic short stories, are made from the plain and painful stuff of this world, and haunted by the possibility, and the impossibility, of a better one.”— Michael Chabon

“This award-winning display is a saucy, vibrant collection, both timely and timeless. These stories never disappoint—they are funny, unpredictable, skillfully honed, and very moving. Merrill Feitell loves her characters even if they don’t love themselves, and that makes for a rich, impressive debut.”—Antonya Nelson, author of Female Trouble

“Merrill Feitell’s stories are keenly observant: they show us the almost invisible gestures people engage in at those moments when their emotions are about to seize up. She writes beautifully and unsentimentally about the kindness strangers can sometimes, and unexpectedly, show each other. This is a fine and wonderful collection.”— Charles Baxter

“Merrill Feitell’s charming stories nicely balance the longings of the single life with its triumphs. Her characters are a delight, and the pages resonate with humor, generosity, love, loss, and that elusive sense of the world truly spinning beneath our feet.Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and Servants of the Map

The stories in Merrill Feitell’s award-winning collection, Here Beneath Low-Flying Planes, examine the fleeting and unexpected moments of human connection, reminding us of the indelible impact we have on one another no matter how insignificant or anonymous we might feel under our huge, collective sky.

Funny, big-hearted, and deft, Here Beneath Low-Flying Planes navigates the reader through the life that happens when you’re planning other things. It is a collection of experiences, roads not taken, and the intense and unforeseen sparks of connection we hope for.


New York Times Review • MORE REVIEW LINKS TK 4/12/07

Publisher’s Weekly Feitell chronicles impulsive life decisions, crucial moments of self-reflection, lost loves and intimate connections in her skillful debut, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction award. In “Bike New York!” an uncertain groom-to-be half-mistakenly flakes on his friends’ planned bike-a-thon/pub crawl/bachelor party, only to find himself peddling along with a teenage girl whose hopeful youth sparks a “shift in lighting, a re-alignment of compositions as he slipped from the point of focus in his own life.” In the poignant “The Marrying Kind,” a woman on the eve of her 33rd birthday endures the nuptials of her college love who also happens to be the father of her unborn child. The gem here is the delightful “Our Little Lone Star,” in which a slightly neurotic 62-year-old woman’s encounter with “some kind of cowboy” inspires her to stop living a life of regret. There are some slight missteps: the familiar Thanksgiving meet-the-parents theme and a few heavy-handed metaphors weaken “It Couldn’t Be More Beautiful,” while “Such a Big Mr. England” relies too heavily on its frame of Princess Diana’s death at the cost of developing more fully the character of a memorabilia collector watching his son slip away to a cold daughter-in-law. But the collection as a whole boasts confident, astute prose as Feitell explores life’s surprising moments with generosity and truth. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews Eight stories in a first collection, lightened by buoyant wit. In “Such a Big Mr. England,” a new grandfather regrets that his son and daughter-in-law have chosen the day of Princess Diana’s funeral to bring his new granddaughter from California to visit: He’s getting phone calls from friends, who consider him an authority on the royal family, and this brings him greater satisfaction than being grandpa of “an ugly baby.” His daughter-in-law displays her own resentments in a not-so-subtle manner. The swiftly moving “Bike New York!” finds Derek, 30, the weekend before his wedding, failing to meet buddies for a 42-mile trek through New York City. Instead, he rides with a high-school junior named Serena, who leads him off-track to her parents’ bakery, shows him catalogues of wedding cakes and her own portfolio of photographs, and leaves him with a shimmering memory “as he slipped from the point of focus in his own life.” “The Marrying Kind” brings an awkward situation-a woman who has had a last fling with a former boyfriend arrives at his wedding knowing she’s pregnant with his child-to a not entirely satisfying end, and “Our Little Lone Star,” about a woman of 62 driving west during tornado warnings, has too-pat a wrap-up. The title piece presents an ensemble of voices-Janie, just home with her first baby; her husband, Jeff; best friend Hazel, and her baby brother, T.J., who’s also Hazel’s lover-all reflecting on love and marriage. This time, Feitell accomplishes a splashy close that pulls everything together: “Above the beach the small plane chugs and tilts, the underbelly catching a ray of sun and zapping it toward Manhattan, toward Jersey, Ohio, California. . . . [There] is a moment ofweightless stall. Think of it! That one moment! Where is the time for indecision? Here on earth, beneath low-flying planes, there are birthdays, and bike rides, feet slipping into shoes.” Altogether, a talented newcomer, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award.

New York Times Book Review • Short Story Collections Round-Up • 2/20/05

Merrill Feitell’s first book, Here Beneath Low-Flying Planes, won the Iowa Award for Short Fiction.

Her recent fiction, nonfiction, and text-image essays have appeared in American Short Fiction, Electric Literature, and McSweeney’s Quarterly.

She has been a fellow at MacDowell, Yaddo, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference,  Taos Writers’ Conference, and Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and she has taught creative writing for over a decade in both graduate and undergraduate programs.

Born and raised in New York City, Merrill lives, writes, and teaches in Los Angeles. (A more complete bio lives here.)

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