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, 256 pages
August 2017



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Winner of the Story Prize Spotlight Award of The Story Prize, Bronze Book Award Short Story Fiction of the Independent Publisher, Winner of the Short Fiction Award of the American Book Fest

Recipient of the 2018 Story Prize Spotlight Award

Lee Conell’s linguistically deft stories examine the permeability between the real and the imagined, the stories buried beneath the surface and the stories by which we live our lives.

In the title story of this collection, a young woman who wants to become a doctor is manipulated by an older man into playing a role in one of his medical studies. In "The Lock Factory," winner of the Chicago Tribune’s 2016 Nelson Algren Literary Award, three women who assemble school combination locks are trapped inside an escalating generational conflict of their own making. A boy who has lost his mother in "The Rent-Controlled Ghost" searches for the spirit of the mistreated tenant who formerly inhabited his apartment. "A Magic Trick for the Recently Unemployed" serves as a three-step how-to guide for reclaiming a sense of self and purpose. In "What the Blob Said to Me," an elderly woman dwells on her long-ago experience working at a government production site for the atomic bomb. And a mother-daughter Groupon for an upscale afternoon tea goes seriously awry in "Mutant at the Pierre Hotel."

With humor and verve, Subcortical’s dynamic stories delve into the mysteries of the human mind as these haunted characters struggle with economic disparity, educational divides, and the often-contested spaces in which they live.

Lee Conell has taught for Southern Word, SUNY New Paltz, and Vanderbilt University, where she earned her MFA. Her fiction has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Glimmer Train, Kenyon Review online, Guernica, American Short Fiction, and elsewhere. This is her first book.

"Conell brings the characters in her rich debut collection to life in weird, wise, and often poignant ways."

"Lee Conell’s stories are structurally masterful. With their knowledge of diverse work, regions, and backgrounds, these stories comprise a tremendous portrait of the way we live now. Conell’s theme is curiosity itself, and she goes to unexpected narrative places, lets differences collide, and keeps her readers on their toes. Did I neglect to say she is also very funny? Subcortical is a brilliant collection."

"Lee Conell's stories possess a warmth, depth, and humor much needed in our times. Subcortical is a terrific debut."

"Bright and appealing studies of mothers and daughters, alongside ventures of the young into the terra incognita of work and love. With a fresh, direct voice, Lee Conell tracks the lives of others with warmth and imagination."

"Lee Conell's Subcortical is one of the most incredible debut collections that I've ever read. I cannot overstate how mesmerized and cracked open I was by the precision of each story, how Conell links the exterior and interior worlds of her characters in such a way that every sentence feels life-affirming. These stories are overflowing with strange beauty, such weirdness and truth. Conell has made something perfect."

"Subcortical is a marvel. In these remarkable stories, Lee Conell pulls off the masks we wear to hide from ourselves and each other, and she explores—with nuance, insight, humor, and deep heart—what science rarely does: the magic and mystery of being human. This is a writer to read, to watch, to follow from one beautiful book to the next."

"Lee Conell's stories are equal parts whimsy, nerve, genius, heart, steely eyes and sharp teeth. One of my all-time favorites lives inside this wonderful book. I'm not going to tell you which onetake your time and choose one of your own. Trust me: It's in here."

"Subcortical urges the reader to take fantasy and fiction seriously, to consider how belief in the supernatural or the unlikely is not only an emotional touch point, but also a potential form of salvation... Throughout the collection, Conell never loses touch with the reader; the passion and sense of loss in these stories, their beat and pulse, is never distant. Whether transported to New York or Nashville, the 1940s or the present day, she does not lose sight of what lures and hooks our hearts... Dreams, hopes, the unreal-made-real and vice versa, weave and tighten these stories together, rewarding the reader with perspectives that captivate and confound, whirl you around and yet fasten you to the solid reality of the human body."

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