Alison Bundy: Dunce Cap


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“If a man paints a picture of a beefsteak on a plate very few people will ask, ‘Who bought that beefsteak? at what shop? And what did he pay?’ Those questions are made unnecessary by the skillful rendering of the lush red meat marbled with fat, the light glancing off the white porcelain plate– I would like the fact of a good sentence to carry similar weight.”

Alison Bundy was born in 1959 and grew up in Maine. She has an MFA from Brown University and has worked both as a teacher and a plumber. Her prose has appeared in journals like Ploughshares, Sulfur, Nimrod. Her first collection of stories, A Bad Business, was published by Lost Roads in 1985. Tale of a Good Cook was a Paradigm chapbook in 1990.

“The dunces Bundy creates resemble ourselves, with our unexplainable obsessions, our willful blindness to reality, our blunderings and embarrassments…. There’s a sinister quality to Bundy’s humor, a distance that elevates banal events and people to mysterious and often satirical proportions …. all are sudden fictions that strike with barbed wit and clemency.”

–Kelly Everding, Rain Taxi

“A truly epigrammatic prose can be difficult to pull off in English. The thirty-one fictions[‘] … economy is at once playful and finely controlled, reticent and suggestive … Bundy is at her best tracing the persistence of desire with a mournful wit reminiscent of the best work of Lydia Davis …. The real virtues of DunceCap, though, are formal. It reads like the contents of a costume jewelry box-each item oddly wrought in a new way, with a philosophic modesty that’s rare in self-conscious ‘play.”‘

–Brian Lennon, Review of Contemporary Fiction

“Fairy tales are called to mind when reading Bundy’s wonderful book…. The pieces are minimalist narratives that must be trusted by the reader, just as fairy tales are trusted. And like fairy tales they are antidotes to the oppressive and monstrous fictions of John Updike, Thomas Pynchon, Philip Roth and Ursula Hegi. Instead of closing off the imagination of the reader, Bundy invites the reader into the narrative so that the imagination is stimulated, enhanced, brought into play as part of the narrative. The stories bring to mind words like ‘mystery,’ ‘wonder’ and ‘magic.’ An outstanding piece of work.”

–Dallas Wiebe, Sulfur

“A book of capricious vignettes, of delicate ironies wrought fine, like porcelain figurines of intoxicating curiousness”

–drop forge