Rabbit Punches

Riotously funny, beautifully written, and charged with emotional intelligence, this well-crafted debut investigates the world from the fringe through characters who stray so far from convention they seem to inhabit another universe. Whether it's Alston Goldstein ferrying drugs around Florida on his yellow moped, a young man fighting his entire neighborhood to find a suitable husband for his pregnant sister, or a man preparing to arm wrestle Jesus, these 13 stories hinge on the interplay between middle-class normality and capricious heroes, transporting readers to a tenderly evoked world where the real and the absurd at last make peace.

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Rabbit Punches Blurbs and Reviews

"Rabbit Punches marks the debut of an exciting new American talent. Ockert's voice is quirky, funny, and totally original—it conveys, in these dreamlike, virtuosic stories, a strange and vulnerable kindness you haven't read before."

George Saunders, author of Tenth of December and National Book Award finalist

"The writing is hip but not terminally hip, fun, at times very fun, and contains signs that the author is disturbed enough to be worth watching. He may tell us some new things."

Padgett Powell, author of You & Me and Edisto

"The characters in Rabbit Punches go through life a bit dazed but it doesn't slow them down any, as they deliver pharmaceuticals, sell Bibles, rescue elephants, rough up suitors, fall in unrequitable love, and make, in general, outrageous heroic gestures-all the more heroic from the hands of the ill-equipped. It certainly doesn't keep them from charming us. Ockert forges a comic dialectic of alienation and integration in this quirky southern universe."

Mary Caponegro, author of All Fall Down and The Star Cafe

"A literary zoo filled with landscapers and lexicographers, pirates and proselytizers, lovers, losers, and an exterminator-just American weirdos doing the thankless job of living. Crack scribbler Jason Ockert hits the ground running with this mordant knee-slapper."

J. Robert Lennon, author of Familiar and The Light of Falling Stars

"Ockert's debut features 13 stories, a host of quirky characters and strange plots grounded in a reality that is as disturbing as it is whimsical. In one story, a young boy feeds ticks into a sleeping child's ear while a man prepares to arm wrestle Jesus. Though Ockert's voice is still developing, his beautiful and unexpected imagery make him a writer to be watched."

Publishers Weekly

If you are interested only in conventional, time-proven storytelling, then Rabbit Punches is not for you. But if you like literary surprises, pleasantly weird characters, and plots that stand on their heads and even cartwheel, then check out this short story collection. One word to describe it? Kafkaesque. The 13 stories that comprise the collection are connected only by their absurdity and perhaps by the fact that many of them take place in south Florida. They vary in length but not in amusement. Two of them, "Shirtless Others" at one-and-a-half pages, and "Slight" at two-and-a-half pages, can be classified as the darlings of the literary genre called flash fiction.

The Bloomsbury Review

How about this tasty brief, this preview of what is awaiting the reader? A woman is launching balloons with index cards stating her address and her desire to have a baby. A delivery boy wants to play Zorro to an older woman dreaming of a naughty romance. A dictionary salesman engages in wordplay, making love to his boss' wife with "perfervidium ingenium," until she kicks him out of the tree house. "Some Storm" and "Mother May I" tell the same story from, respectively, brother's and sister's perspectives. The rabbit hands on the cover of the book are not Jason Ockert's hands, but the style is uniquely his. The language of the book is solid throughout, the characters are punchy, and imagination takes flight and is never grounded by either the weather or a sharp turn.

Reviewed by Mark Budman

Reading Jason Ockert's debut collection, Rabbit Punches (Low Fidelity), is like getting lost on a road trip: you start off fine, following your map, but still somehow wind up in a place you never saw coming. Populated with earnest characters in mainly small-town and southern settings (Ockert was born in Indiana and raised in Florida), the 13 stories are quirky and unsettling, full of unexpected turns. In "Infants and Men" a dictionary salesman promoted to lexicographer has an affair with his boss's wife. He gets amnesia after she kicks him out of a tree house but for decidedly base reasons remains in his boss's family's care; the dialogue of the vocabulary-loving characters is especially funny. In "Some Storm" a young man is trying to find a suitable husband for his pregnant sister. He figures whoever can knock him off a hill in a fight would do, though those who show up to try leave plenty to be desired: "some fathers already, a dog-catcher, a few haggard boys, alcoholics, Uncle Tim." Other stories involve a peanut salesman who becomes a Bible hawker after arm wrestling "a man who may have been Jesus," a golf course mower passing himself off as a toad photographer to land a National Geographic Society gig, and an awkward boy acting on his infatuation with a girl at an annual scarecrow contest. Ockert's characters seem to be longing for someone or something, and while you really pull for them to attain it, they all fall...just...short.

Chicago Reader (Critic's Choice) -Jerome Ludwig