Reviews, etc.


For Byzantium:

Byzantium a Best Book of the Year at the Kansas City Star, a Summer Reading pick at the Chicago Tribune and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a Best Book of July at Amazon, and a Best Summer 2013 Book and a Pick of the Week at Publishers Weekly.


“Talk about a debut, the title story in Ben Stroud’s “Byzantium,” is not only the best in the book, it’s the best story by a new writer I’ve read in years.”  Alan Cheuse, on NPR’s All Things Considered (listen to the full review here)


“Stroud’s stylistic prowess and panoramic range can be jaw-dropping. We encounter emperors and viceroys, conquistadors and false prophets; witness the horrors of castration, cannibalism and falling out of love. “Where does history exist, except in our imagination?” we are asked. Stroud’s fecund imagination and his ability to tell tales smack of tremendous writerly promise.” –Malcolm Forbes, Minneapolis Star-Tribune (full review here)


“Stroud seems less interested in history per se than in telling stories of intrigue and adventure. . . . What follows is a thoroughly enjoyable journey.” —Andrew Palmer, San Francisco Chronicle  (full review here)


“[Byzantium] is a delight. . . . Among his inspirations, Stroud names the short story writer Jim Shepard, but it’s not hard to find traces of Poe, Dostoevski and Calvino as well. . . . Here’s looking forward to whatever [Stroud] does next.” –Tricia Springstubb, Cleveland Plain Dealer (full review here)


“[Stroud] sticks close to the sensory details that are crucial to bringing fiction to life in a readers’s mind. . . . Byzantium, however, offers both flavor and sustenance, and will leave readers eager to learn where Stroud’s vivid historical imagination will carry him next.” –Jenny Shank, Dallas Morning News (full review here)


“A debut collection of stories that spans countries and eras with delightful ease. . . .  Without a doubt, Byzantium signals the arrival of an incredible talent.”–Jessica Ferri, The Daily Beast (full review here)


“Stroud brings those forgotten corners of history to life with exuberance and wit. . . . In each of his historical tales, Stroud’s concern is man’s descent into barbarianism, the thin promise of civilization. He is able to dig through the well-worn tropes of 19th-century Americana to bring us stories as new and surprising as our own world.”–Kansas City Star


” ‘Byzantium’ is stunning in many ways — imaginative scope, authoritative details, moral seriousness and perfectly strung plots — yet there is also something distinctively obsessive about it.The protagonists, almost all male, fall from idealism to mania and land on fatalism. Their backgrounds, circumstances and ways of talking change, but they could be part of a series in which a not totally unredeemable cad gets caught in various traps.”–Rob Neufeld, Black Mountain News (review here)


“…Stroud can, indeed, do anything. This is an exciting and essential collection, unlike anything in recent memory, and a decidedly impressive debut.”  –Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)


“Stroud can switch hit with ease, going deep with detailed and understated Steven Millhauser pastiches–or just hitting away and moving us with tales of youth, love and the everyday.”–Tom Lavoie, Shelf Awareness (starred review)


Expansive is the word to use when describing Ben Stroud’s first story collection, Byzantium. . . . Stroud has creative ideas to spare, and his matter-of-fact style of writing is ideal for executing them, delivering detailed sequences of travel, historical artifacts, and redemptive characters in kind.”–Justin Stephani, The Coffin Factory (full review)


“[W]hat a pleasure this book is.  Each of Stroud’s stories and each of his characters—a horny teenaged roofer looking for a date in tornado-ravaged Texas; a jealous, cuckolded devotee to a new religion—inform their historical moments not with pedantic summary but with the well-placed detail: a teacher, whose wife catches him cheating, sits in one of his students’ chairs and begs forgiveness; at dinner, an in-over-his-head spy is fed ‘turtles cooked in their own shells.'”–Electric Literature’s The Outlet (full review)


“Stroud follows in the footsteps of the Jim Shepards of the writing world—dexterous magicians who parkour from one time, setting, style, place, or tone to another, boldly ignoring the “link it!” command given to almost every writer of short stories hoping to build a collection.”  —Mike Harvkey, Publishers Weekly Best Summer Book write-up (full review and other PW Best Summer Book reviews here)


“Hugely refreshing. . . . [Byzantium] is a terrific book from start to finish.” –David Maine, Pop Matters (full review)


“Stroud’s command over both contemporary and historical narratives is reminiscent of Jim Shepard’s, though his sure and robust voice proves him to be a deeply compelling and original new storyteller.” –Jonathan Fullmer, Booklist


” ‘Byzantium’ is impressive, particularly considering it is the author’s first book….  Part of the book’s appeal is that no two stories in this volume are comparable in their main character, plot, setting or tone. The author’s imagination is a real strength.”–Jim Douglas, Real Change News (review here)


“Combine … profound moral issues with the one-hundred-percent absolute joy of reading these stories, and you have a fantastic debut collection of stories from a deeply feeling and purposeful writer.” –Michael Goroff, Heavy Feather Review  (full review here)


“Noir, literary, historical: Stroud’s work can be called all of these things, yet he is the rare short story writer for whom labels feel imprecise. The swervy narrative moves in Byzantium don’t adhere to genres so much as they dissolve them.”–Patrick McGinty, Propeller Magazine (full review here)


“I’ve been captured by Ben Stroud’s extraordinary story collection Byzantium. It is, at times, mind-numbing what Stroud can do with the form: the power he can extract from it, the way he can transport with it, and how he can establish worlds both near and far, in both place and time, with fortitude that rivals any novel. That the book is a debut is almost laughable; I stop and wonder how it’s possible to evoke on such a spectrum without having lived about eight prior lives.” —Meredith Turits, Bustle 


“Stroud writes with straightforward grace reminiscent of Hemingway or Steinbeck…The high points of Byzantium are very high indeed, and this debut establishes … Stroud as an author with a terrific future.”–Michael Adelberg, New York Journal of Books (full review here)


“The characters who populate this story collection journey for many reasons–some seek riches, some want to find love, some are merely running from responsibility–but what holds true for all is the assured messiness of the road ahead. …  [Byzantium is] wild, unexpected, and quite readable.”–Andrew Lapin, Michigan Alumnus magazine


“A young writer’s imaginative powers are amply displayed in this debut short story collection. … This short story collection is likely to appeal to readers seeking an alternative to plot-less, heavily internal narratives in which nothing much happens. In Ben Stroud’s Byzantium, from the days of ancient empire to a lumberyard in East Texas, a lot happens.”–Lee Polevoi, Foreword Reviews (full review)


“Stroud shows remarkable control in whatever he’s writing, an ability to establish setting and character in just a few paragraphs. From one story to the next, I felt like I was in the same capable hands, though they took me to very different places.”–Joshua Isard, Philadelphia Review of Books (full review)


Stroud’s stories are these brief treasures I value when I come across them in literary journals, and it’s excellent to see that his first collection will be coming out in July. His work is incredibly intelligent, and it feels gratefully removed from the workshop environment to which we’ve become accustomed.”  –Barrett Bowlin, from Memorious Magazine’s Anticipated Books of 2013.  (Find the full list here.)


“[T]he strange historical fictions play to his strengths–inventiveness, summary, and authority, which Mr. Stroud possesses in spades.”–Travis Fortney, Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (full review here)


“Let us praise the full-blooded sweep and majesty of Stroud’s imagination. Let us celebrate a writer of great bravery and artistry and deep feeling . . . Stroud’s Calvino-like deconstruction of narrative . . . turns the unlikely ingredients into a marvel of story-telling . . . Stroud is a magician.” —Randall Kenan, Bakeless Prize judge


Byzantium is both a collection of exciting stories, and of extraordinary journeys. Ben Stroud is a smart, versatile, sure-handed tour guide, whether he’s taking the reader to Germany, Havana, or Constantinople. In each story he builds a vivid, seamless world, and brings it memorably to life. This is an astonishing, transporting book.” —Caitlin Horrocks, author of This Is Not Your City


“Ben Stroud is a tremendous talent. The ten exquisitely wrought tales in Byzantium stretch through the ages and across the globe. From ancient Constantinople, to Havana in the height of the slave trade, to modern-day Wiesbaden, each story unfolds in unexpected ways, with great humor and skill, and then, when you least expect it, strikes at your heart.”—Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief


April 26, 2013 | Comments Closed