Attempts at a Life
by Danielle Dutton

A Small Press Distribution Bestseller
Featured in “Ten Great Titles from Underground Presses” from Time Out New York

Fiction. Short stories. 90 pages. Paperback. 2007

Operating somewhere between fiction and poetry, biography and theory, the pieces in Attempts at a Life, though nominally stories, might indeed be thought of as “attempts.” They do what lively stories do best, creating worlds of possibility, worlds filled with surprises, but rather than bring these worlds to some sort of neat conclusion, they constantly push out towards something new. In “S&M,” a marriage suffers from “the words you were always missing: sky, loft, music, dogs, pipes, puppets, war.” In “Mary Carmichael,” a woman with a pair of scissors and the need to “cut out her insatiable desire” slices “a veiled hat from a fern in a pot” and “a river out of a postbox.” This is writing in which the imagination (both writer’s and reader’s) is capable of producing almost anything at any moment, from a shiny penny to an alien metropolis, a burning village to a bright green bird.

Attempts at a Life
by Danielle Dutton

A Small Press Distribution Bestseller
Featured in “Ten Great Titles from Underground Presses” from Time Out New York

Fiction. Short stories. 90 pages. Paperback. 2007

Operating somewhere between fiction and poetry, biography and theory, the pieces in Attempts at a Life, though nominally stories, might indeed be thought of as “attempts.” They do what lively stories do best, creating worlds of possibility, worlds filled with surprises, but rather than bring these worlds to some sort of neat conclusion, they constantly push out towards something new. In “S&M,” a marriage suffers from “the words you were always missing: sky, loft, music, dogs, pipes, puppets, war.” In “Mary Carmichael,” a woman with a pair of scissors and the need to “cut out her insatiable desire” slices “a veiled hat from a fern in a pot” and “a river out of a postbox.” This is writing in which the imagination (both writer’s and reader’s) is capable of producing almost anything at any moment, from a shiny penny to an alien metropolis, a burning village to a bright green bird.

Danielle Dutton executes expert, miniscule language slips that make us slide down the surface of her narratives like raindrops streaking the windows of the last un-gentrified house in an old Victorian neighborhood. . . . An important new literary voice. (Peter Connors, Rain TaxiIn Dutton’s appropriation of the genre’s hallmarks of tone and syntax, she recontextualizes the gothic setting. The ruined estate becomes language itself. Language is the setting which allows us to dream. And as the surrealist uses of Gothic elements remind, if we can dream in this way, we might trespass into the unfamiliar, and in so doing uncover more poignant ways to attempt life. As the drama inherent within the book’s title suggests, there is a way that Dutton’s appropriations project the human drama onto the stage of the book. It’s serious, but as many dramatists celebrate: comedy orbits a dark sun. Which is to say, this is also a very funny book. (Selah Saterstrom, American Book ReviewDanielle Dutton’s stories remind me of those alluring puzzles where the pool is overflowing and emptying at the same time. Dutton’s answer? That the self is a rush of the languages of storytelling and moments of helpless intimacy, and she recalculates the lives of her numerous heroines to assert the busy and the broken. (Robert Glück) Danielle Dutton writes with a deft explosiveness that craters the page with stunning, unsettling precision. Here “car lights like licorice whips slick the road outside the window,” there “the puffed-thumb Emma person” sways and falls, and everywhere “the firelight is orange against the midnight of the ocean.” Her marvelous, generous Attempts at a Life proves that, like Gertrude Stein, she knows how to be “at once talking and listening.” (Laird Hunt)

Danielle Dutton executes expert, miniscule language slips that make us slide down the surface of her narratives like raindrops streaking the windows of the last un-gentrified house in an old Victorian neighborhood. . . . An important new literary voice. (Peter Connors, Rain TaxiIn Dutton’s appropriation of the genre’s hallmarks of tone and syntax, she recontextualizes the gothic setting. The ruined estate becomes language itself. Language is the setting which allows us to dream. And as the surrealist uses of Gothic elements remind, if we can dream in this way, we might trespass into the unfamiliar, and in so doing uncover more poignant ways to attempt life. As the drama inherent within the book’s title suggests, there is a way that Dutton’s appropriations project the human drama onto the stage of the book. It’s serious, but as many dramatists celebrate: comedy orbits a dark sun. Which is to say, this is also a very funny book. (Selah Saterstrom, American Book ReviewDanielle Dutton’s stories remind me of those alluring puzzles where the pool is overflowing and emptying at the same time. Dutton’s answer? That the self is a rush of the languages of storytelling and moments of helpless intimacy, and she recalculates the lives of her numerous heroines to assert the busy and the broken. (Robert Glück) Danielle Dutton writes with a deft explosiveness that craters the page with stunning, unsettling precision. Here “car lights like licorice whips slick the road outside the window,” there “the puffed-thumb Emma person” sways and falls, and everywhere “the firelight is orange against the midnight of the ocean.” Her marvelous, generous Attempts at a Life proves that, like Gertrude Stein, she knows how to be “at once talking and listening.” (Laird Hunt)

About the Author

Danielle Dutton is the author of Attempts at a LifeSPRAWL (a finalist for the 2011 Believer Book Award), and Margaret the First, named a best book of the year by The Wall Street Journal, Vox, Lit Hub, St. Louis Magazine, etc., and winner of a 2016 Independent Publishers Book Awards gold medal in historical fiction. She also wrote the texts for Richard Kraft’s Here Comes Kitty: A Comic Opera. Her writing has appeared in Harper’sBOMB, FenceNoon, The Paris Review, The White Review, etc. In 2009 she co-founded the acclaimed feminist press Dorothy, a publishing project. The press is named for Dutton’s great aunt, a librarian who drove a bookmobile through the backroads of Southern California, delivering books to rural desert communities. Born and raised in California, Dutton now lives in Missouri with her husband and son. She teaches literature and writing at Washington University in St. Louis.

About the Author

Danielle Dutton is the author of Attempts at a LifeSPRAWL (a finalist for the 2011 Believer Book Award), and Margaret the First, named a best book of the year by The Wall Street Journal, Vox, Lit Hub, St. Louis Magazine, etc., and winner of a 2016 Independent Publishers Book Awards gold medal in historical fiction. She also wrote the texts for Richard Kraft’s Here Comes Kitty: A Comic Opera. Her writing has appeared in Harper’sBOMB, FenceNoon, The Paris Review, The White Review, etc. In 2009 she co-founded the acclaimed feminist press Dorothy, a publishing project. The press is named for Dutton’s great aunt, a librarian who drove a bookmobile through the backroads of Southern California, delivering books to rural desert communities. Born and raised in California, Dutton now lives in Missouri with her husband and son. She teaches literature and writing at Washington University in St. Louis.

Danielle Dutton in the Media

Danielle Dutton interviewed at The Paris Review

At The Paris Review, Nicole Rudick interviews TSky Press author Danielle Dutton (Attempts at a Life) about her fabulous press, Dorothy, a publishing project, along with topics ranging from crossover readerships (you know, poets who deign read fiction, and vice versa), artist Yelena Bryksenkova, book design, and the real Aunt Dorothy....

Danielle Dutton’s Attempts at a Life reviewed at with hidden noise

With hidden noise reviews Danielle Dutton's *Attempts at a Life* (Tarpaulin Sky Press): "An argument could be made that these pieces are prose poetry, but there’s an emphasis on narrative that isn’t usually stressed so much in prose poetry. But like prose poetry (I’m thinking of Mallarmé), this is a firmly written language: they couldn’t really exist in spoken form, because they have to exist on the page...."

Aufgabe reviews Danielle Dutton’s Attempts at a Life

At aufgabe, Brian Whitener reviews Danielle Dutton's *Attempts at a Life* (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2007): "A fascinating debut, one that signals a writer whose work is worth following.... Neither Acker or Barthelme, rather these pieces inhabit their sources, and, in opening them up, chart a narrative territory triangulated between New Narrative, prose poetry, and the postmodern novel.... Dutton does not subsume difference, she multiplies it, turning it weird, wonderful."

Octopus Magazine reviews Danielle Dutton’s Attempts at a Life

At Octopus Magazine, Adam Peterson reviews Danielle Dutton's *Attempts at a Life* (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2007): "By straining out the Victorian niceties and putting the words, retold, into Eyre’s mouth makes the visceral body immediate, and love seems to have put the characters, if not their ribs, at risk for a pain different than that for which they are destined. When the separation comes sentences rather than chapters later, the effect is complete and devastating."

Coldfront reviews Danielle Dutton’s Attempts at a Life

At Coldfront, Jason Schneiderman "struggles" to review Danielle Dutton's *Attempts at a Life* (Tarpaulin Sky Press): "I would want to claim these pieces firmly as prose poems—in large part because of the way that poetry has become the big tent where everything that doesn’t fit somewhere else is welcome.... Dutton is certainly at home in a theoretical universe—one could discuss many of these poems—and quite profitably, I think—in terms of contemporary literary theory. However, Dutton’s work is incredibly inviting—she’s able to inhabit the insights of theory and then perform them without having to get bogged down in the sort of jargon or explanation that might deter the general reader (whoever you are). Dutton’s work is “accessible” in the best way possible. She’s working at a remarkably high level of insight while still inviting you to enjoy yourself."

Rain Taxi reviews Danielle Dutton’s Attempts at a Life

At Rain Taxi, Peter Connors reviews Danielle Dutton's *Attempts at a Life* (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2007): "In section after section in Attempts at a Life, Danielle Dutton executes expert, miniscule language slips that make us slide down the surface of her narratives like raindrops streaking the windows of the last un-gentrified house in an old Victorian neighborhood.... It most certainly introduces an important new literary voice."

Danielle Dutton’s Attempts at a Life reviewed at dogmatika

At dogmatika, Kristina Marie Darling reviews Danielle Dutton's *Attempts at a Life* (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2007): "In her debut collection, Attempts at a Life, Danielle Dutton combines floral umbrellas with strange dreams, the English countryside, and Virginia Woolf.... Written in a lyrical style that borders on the poetic, the works in Attempts at a Life question such literary conventions, frequently manipulating reader's expectations while at the same time scrutinizing them.... Attempts at a Life is a compelling, enigmatic read. Ideal for readers of the fiction and the literary essay alike, Danielle Dutton's new book is a significant contribution to contemporary experimental writing. Five stars."

Review of Contemporary Fiction reviews Danielle Dutton’s Attempts at a Life

In The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Kate Zambreno reviews Danielle Dutton's *Attempts at a Life*: "The stories often read like curious abstract puzzles, and one should resist running to the bookshelves to attempt to break the code. The best pieces call to mind that of Gertrude Stein or Diane Williams, both obvious influences on Dutton whose lines she also pastiches, with a voice that comes off as refreshingly eccentric, as in the title story, a collection of nine fragmented first-person biographies. She also reimagines the lives of famous heroines from literature, from Hester Prynne to Virginia Woolf’s Mary Carmichael in A Room of One’s Own to Alice James to Madame Bovary. Her glorious version of Jane Eyre reads like one of The Guardian’s congested reads as reimagined by Gertrude Stein or Jane Bowles."

Bookslut interviews Danielle Dutton

At Bookslut, Angela Stubbs interviews Danielle Dutton, author of *Attempts at a Life* (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2007): "Another odd thing that Christian noticed is that I tend to hyphenate words that don’t need to be hyphenated because they are just two separate words that a normal person wouldn’t hyphenate or they’re actually one word that doesn’t need a hyphen. Christian had an interesting theory about it, that maybe it has to do with how close I am to texts that are a century (or more) old. There’s a lot of rabid hyphenating going on in those books. Now I see that I do it all the time. I’m constantly asking myself, “Does this need a hyphen? What am I doing?” It’s like a sickness."