Barrett Bowlin’s stories are dance songs made from nightmares and lightning—intensely, vividly alive, deeply strange and yet full of human feeling, and written in a voice that feels truly fresh and utterly surprising. Ghosts Caught on Film is a thrilling first collection that marks a beginning for a major talent.
—Dan Chaon, author of Sleepwalk
For my money, Barrett Bowlin is among the most exciting voices working in American fiction today. His haunted landscapes and tortured characters make this gripping, highly anticipated debut a book well worth reading.
—David James Poissant, author of The Heaven of Animals and Lake Life
Inventive, entrancing, funny, and often wonderfully bizarre, Ghosts Caught on Film is a fantastic story collection. With an abundance of heart and humor, Barrett Bowlin sets the table for characters who are all daring to dream while facing their own impending apocalypse. Each of these stories resonates with existential questions, echoes and afterimages, flickers of love and longing—and taken altogether, this is a stunning debut.
—Jason Allen, author of The East End
Ghosts Caught on Film is written with urgent propulsion, but perhaps the subject matter necessitates such ferocity. We’re dealing with the subject of failure here: how we’ve failed each other, the environment, ourselves. And yet, Bowlin doesn’t expose our limitations without providing lighthouses to navigate safe passage home. Each story a vast, encompassing ocean; each page a life raft; each sentence an oar to move us forward. A collection of singular narrative clarity and insight, born of an ambitious and adventurous spirit. This is a debut to hold and cherish.
—Keith Lesmeister, author of We Could’ve Been Happy Here
Whether waxing poetic over x-rayed body parts or a marbled “wen” on a steak, these fourteen masterful stories crackle with originality, vitality, and possibility. From the yearnings of college boys to a tale of a scientist who animates—then eats—her Gummy Bear “son” while her sister grieves the abnormalities in her fetus, Bowlin’s appetite for the strange, his humor in the exotic, and compassion for our crazed human condition reveals a fierce new talent unafraid to plumb the depths of the sacred and the profane.
—Jaimee Wriston Colbert, author of How Not to Drown and Wild Things
In prose that is both precise and lyrical, Barrett Bowlin writes with compassion, humor, and intelligence about people in various states of emergency—medical, moral, familial, professional, planetary. An ill man tells a joke to his high-school aged son that might provide a structure for dealing with his death; a group of college friends pays to watch a pornographic livestream of a fellow student, “the deaf girl,” who is saving up for a cochlear implant; a scientist whose sister is pregnant works nights in her lab to create a dancing gummi bear baby; an X-ray technician befriends a patient, and must decode the “ghost caught on film” that is the possible recurrence of her breast cancer; and in a story about an old married couple at the center of a nuclear disaster site, “Everyone is tuned in, but no one is watching when they should be.” These absorbing, strange, and surprising stories plumb what we can know about the world and ourselves, and how our knowledge can—and sometimes, alas, cannot—help us navigate the path ahead. A richly imagined and necessary collection that strikes the perfect note for these weird and difficult times.
—Susan Jackson Rodgers, author of The Trouble with You Is and Ex-Boyfriend on Aisle 6