The diamond-cutter craftsmanship of Kosinski, the modern immediacy of DeLillo, the fiery gothicism of Faulkner, the lurid melodrama of Williams, the deep insight of Murdoch. The best meditation on chance, choice, and fate that has fallen into my lap. There should be a warning about eyestrain—I couldn’t stop reading.
—Craig Conley, author of One-Letter Words: A Dictionary
Back in the suburbs, it was always autumn… The year is 1999. The Internet is young, the Millennium is coming, and hopes abound for peace and progress in a globalized world. But in the prosperous suburbs of a Pittsburgh still in its post-industrial decline, a fiery tragedy explodes. It begins when a charismatic teacher who has a dangerous habit of trying to save the lives of his students takes in a high-school senior with a catastrophically violent family. The teacher quickly invites his student to join his private and bloody crusade to right the wrongs of the neighborhood. Meanwhile, the teacher’s brilliant and nihilistic wife, a frustrated former actress, has her own designs on the young man, intellectual and otherwise. The ensuing conflagration threatens to destroy everyone involved, but as these characters confront the hopes and disorders of an age, a tragic heroism rises from their struggle. A drama about the danger of good intentions and how the dreams and ambitions of a generation went wrong, The Class of 2000 is an impassioned and inventive family saga in the grand tradition of the American novel. Find it on Amazon in print or ebook editions and on Goodreads. Read a sample chapter here.
The Quarantine of St. Sebastian House
A pandemic-related lockdown tests the residents of an apartment building in this nicely considered outing from Pistelli…This thought-provoking exploration of quarantine life offers plenty of tension.
The Quarantine of St. Sebastian House is a masterpiece—a vision of the modern artist that we so desperately need. It is inevitable that this book will impact the world.
—Samuel Worthington, musician and writer
A global pandemic has America under quarantine. In a run-down apartment building, with nowhere to go and nothing to do, five people—a philosopher, an academic, a filmmaker, a sculptor, and a philanthropist—come together, at first only for the pleasure of company. But then they find themselves in a ferocious debate about the obsessions that drive their lives and a ruthless quest to discover the secrets that brought them together. Their passions and betrayals play out against the dangerous backdrop of a state-enforced lockdown and a disease that can strike anyone at any time. The eventually explosive conflicts among these poor artists, underfed intellectuals, and desperate fanatics pose urgent questions of art and inequality, health and freedom, faith and power, love and death. The Quarantine of St. Sebastian House is at once a Platonic dialogue, a poem in prose, and a suspenseful story of mystery and romance: a fresh narrative for a new era. Find it on Amazon in print or ebook editions and on Goodreads. Read a sample chapter here.
I’m recommending Portraits and Ashes by John Pistelli to every avid reader. The bounce between characters, the riveting suspense, the unexpectedness of pure pleasurable literature… That’s what makes John special. Simply unputdownable.
—Gabriel Opare, author of The Face of Poverty Is Black & Other Poems
Reading Portraits and Ashes is like following a well-marked and yet unfamiliar winding path—the footing is sure, but it’s impossible to guess what’s around each corner…everything I hunger for in a novel.
—Craig Conley, author of One-Letter Words: A Dictionary
Julia is an aspiring painter without money or direction, haunted by a strange family history. Mark is a successful architect who suddenly finds himself unemployed with a baby on the way. Alice is a well-known artist and museum curator disgraced when her last exhibit proved fatal. Running from their failures, this trio is drawn toward a strange new cult that seeks to obliterate the individual—and which may be the creation of a mysterious and dangerous avant-garde artist. John Pistelli unforgettably portrays three people desperate to lead meaningful lives as they confront the bizarre new institutions of a fraying America. A suspenseful and poetic novel in the visionary tradition of David Mitchell, Kazuo Ishiguro, and José Saramago, Portraits and Ashes is a scorching picture of our troubled age. Portraits and Ashes is available for sale in print and ebook formats through Amazon, and it is listed on Goodreads. Read a sample chapter here.
Michaela is no saint. Living alone in a decaying rust-belt city at the end of the twentieth century, her life completely adrift, she grudgingly attends her estranged mother’s funeral. There she learns about the grisly murder of a local boy named Tony Zabelsky. She becomes obsessed with his story and begins haunting the places he frequented until she meets his former lover, Eliza May Bradford. Eliza has repudiated her wealthy family and now lives in a squatter’s commune with her and Tony’s child. Michaela embarks on an almost hallucinatory journey through the ruined city and through the memories of Eliza and others who knew Tony Zabelsky. Along the way, she learns who holds power in her city and how they treat those who do not. Such unforgettable knowledge compels her to action. The Ecstasy of Michaela is a dark literary fiction in the tradition of J. M. Coetzee and Don DeLillo. Purchase it in Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iTunes formats, or (in Norway) via Digitalbok.no. It is also listed on Goodreads.
“White Girl” (reprint, Expat Press, 2019)
“White Girl” (The Amaranth Review, 2016)
“Sweet Angry God” (Writing Raw, 2015) (posted here)
“Iconoclasm” (The Harpoon Review, 2015)
“They Are in the Truth” (The Stockholm Review of Literature, 2015)
“The Embrace” (Winter Tangerine Review, 2014) (posted here)
“Terminal Girls” (The Squawk Back, 2014)
“How People Live” (Revolver, 2012)
“Fools Like Me” (Whole Beast Rag, 2012)
“Mine” (The Legendary, 2009)
“Death’s Door; Or, European Cinema” (Muse / A Journal, 2016)
“An Incarnation” (Atomic: A Journal of Short Poetry, 2015)
“Nothing Is at Stake: On Shakespeare, Lana Del Rey, and the Relatable” (The Millions, August 2014)
“Gabriel Josipovici and the Burden of Modernism” (New Walk, Vol I:2, Spring 2011) (posted here)
Mikita Brottman, Thirteen Girls
Donald F. Bouchard, Hemingway: So Far from Simple & Robert Zaretzsky, Albert Camus: Elements of a Life
William Giraldi, Hold the Dark
Juliet Koss, Modernism After Wagner
Jon Lewis, True Swamp: Choose Your Poison
Marcus Pactor, Vs. Death Noises
Camille Paglia, Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars
Peter Y. Paik, From Utopia to Apocalypse: Science Fiction and the Politics of Catastrophe