“Big Ray is a disgusting man and a great character. He’s dead at the start of the novel, and it’s impossible not to wish him deader. … Mr. Kimball is not one to flinch, and this portrayal is the better for it.”
“Distilled, intense … Fear and revulsion mingle with a kind of helpless love.”
[Big Ray is] “astonishingly moving … to mesmerizing effect. … Big Ray is an appalling tale told with anger, dark humor and surprising tenderness.”
“In his novel BIG RAY, Kimball offers a complex and graceful peek at one man’s grieving process: It’s a eulogy, a tribute, an indictment, and a painfully truthful examination of fathers and sons.”
“Stunning … gripping … fascinating”
-- BBC Radio 4
“Despite his disturbing material, Kimball manages his narrative with a dark humor, as well as stirring empathy. Big Ray is an ogre, yes but a multi-faceted one -- and most poignantly, a father whose son continues to yearn for his love.”
“Paperback of the Week: … in this sparingly written document, which pares back all extraneous detail to get at the emotional core, there’s a striking degree of honesty, which Kimball/Carrier tries to present almost casually as though he weren’t deeply troubled but just thinking things through. It is, above all, a convincing depiction of a man trying to work through conflicting emotions.”
-- The Herald
“It is rare for obesity to be tackled this directly in literature and Kimball is ahead of the pack with this intimate account … Kimball’s delicately layered account of Daniel’s efforts to connect with his dad builds to a whole that is intensely moving.”
“One of ‘The Ten Best Books of 2012’”
-- L Magazine
“Emotional and yet funny.”
“This plainspoken novel about a man coming to terms with his abusive father’s death sneaks up on you--and is unlike anything else you’ve read.”
-- Reader’s Digest
“Prepare to be utterly punished.”
MK talks about obesity in fiction on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book.
“Novels like Michael Kimball’s Big Ray reveal that corpulence has become a go-to metaphor for emotional unrest.”
“Psychologically acute, Michael Kimball’s narrative is … both ingenious and painfully funny, as well as deeply moving.”
-- Daily Mail
“Together, the fragments form a surprisingly enthralling portrait of an abusive father … a spellbinding and unflinching meditation on forgiveness, a novel that secures Kimball’s reputation as a literary innovator.”
“Michael Kimball has been writing innovative, compelling and beautifully felt books for years, but Big Ray seems a break-through and culmination all at once. It's funny and terrifying and it's his masterpiece, at least so far.”
-- Sam Lipsyte
“An uncompromising work of power and grace. I finished reading it a week ago, but I still can't put it down."
-- Jon McGregor
“Reading Big Ray is like hearing a close friend processing some serious loss. Michael Kimball does emotional immediacy better than any writer alive, I shit you not.”
“Dude can write.”
“There aren’t many characters as big as Big Ray in modern fiction.”
“Big Ray is a great novel, a small books that happens to be about the idea of bigness. … Measured sentences come one after another, like ticking time bombs. … Kimball’s prose is so luminously clear that each new paragraph seems like another piece of evidence in the case for and against Big Ray. … I finished it feeling shaken. In this small book Kimball has captured the terrible contradictions of life as it’s lived.”
“Michael Kimball’s Big Ray is a powerfully intimate and sorrowful work, a novel that will forever mark your consciousness with its indelible and heartfelt beauty."
excerpt of Big Ray @ Vice
MK’s article about the underrepresentation of overweight characters @ Huffington Post
“Big Ray has an honesty and a forthrightness of approach … which serve to establish … an intense and personal connection, like I feel in the best nonfiction. But this isn’t nonfiction. The ambition on display in Kimball’s book is pretty clearly novelistic. His subjects are big ones.”
“Michael Kimball gained a devoted following with three brilliant novels (Us, Dear Everybody, and The Way the Family Got Away), all of which deal honestly and unconventionally with loss. His latest work, Big Ray, is his most powerful: A propulsive first-person narrative by a man mourning his abusive and obese (over 500 pounds) father’s death.
“In the novel Big Ray, Michael Kimball uses the phrase ‘my father’ over eight hundred times. … “Michael Kimball uses that phrase so many times it begins to weigh on you … The father is unbearable.”
“I have a lot of feelings for Michael Kimball … Kimball’s prose traipses between intimacy and detachment. The novel adopts a kind of first-person omniscience that intensifies the reality of the narrator’s complicated grief for the death of his father, without sacrificing any heart. … humans often need the comic to understand the tragic. Kimball just has the balls to do it with Fat Father jokes.”
MK and Brad Listi talk about polar bears, the ocean, eating a burrito, and a fear of finishing @ Other People.
“Hinged on the border between love and hate, between redemption and condemnation, Big Ray is a tremendously beautiful novel that tackles death and obesity and child abuse and forgiveness from a strikingly new perspective. … an enormously powerful examination of truth and love and cowardice and courage between a father and a son.”
“Both humorous and heartbreaking, it has gained a permanent place on my bookshelf. … It’s a book to return to again and again … for life.”
[Big Ray] “packs the emotional charge of a lifetime.”
From an interview @ The Nervous Breakdown: “Big Ray is Michael’s … most intimate and moving … You can’t help but be somewhat changed after reading this book.”
From an interview @ Charlotte Viewpoint: “This deeply affecting novel”
"The book reads like a memoir, the
entirely believable product of a son grappling with the
death and life of his father. The narrator talks frankly
of his estrangement and efforts to connect, the abuse he
suffered and his mixed feelings; the obituary, he notes,
listed those who preceded Ray in death and those who
survived him. 'I’m one of the people who survived.'”
From an interview @ Vice: “Somehow [Big Ray] manages to be simultaneously Kimball’s most brutal and heartfelt and blackly hilarious book yet.”
“Big Ray is a lovely, very melancholy book, and one that leaves an imprint in the mind just like Big Ray’s on that armchair [on the cover]. ”
-- Big Other
“Big Ray is a novel that has the feel and authenticity of a memoir.”
“The compelling nature of the character
is never in doubt. Big Ray crashes through the 182 pages
of this slim volume, pushing everything else to the side
to make way for his bulk. One week later, this reviewer
was still having nightmares about him.”
“Kimball’s story takes on something of
a redemptive, Job-like intensity. … it is a well-told
story that is not easy to forget.”
-- Library Journal
-- Full Stop
“The most impressive feat of Kimball is his ability to do two things at once, all the time … funny and sad … hateful and reassuring.”
In Big Ray, Kimball writes “with a previously untapped range of emotion and intimacy."
“Big Ray’s power is unquestionable.”
“When I finished Big Ray, I was thankful for the dad I have. … Be prepared to have your heart broken. You will love every second of it.”
”Overwhelming … In Big Ray, Michael Kimball has accomplished something astonish. In seeking to explain how love and hate can exist at once, he’s given us the experience of loving and hating. … You’ll both love and hate him for it.”
“Fall head over heels for Michael Kimball’s Big Ray."
Big Ray is "part eulogy, part psychological retaliation, and an entirely devastating whole."
“I was astounded by the level of truth
and emotion that are in every page of Big Ray.”
Big Ray: Best Cover of the Month @
"The best little novel you haven't heard about, Us ... Kimball's clear-eyed prose unlocks the most vulnerable voice ... creating an emotional link that leaves no reader untouched."
5 Stars: "The sentences and even
paragraphs simulate the stunned but dutiful response to
the suffering of a loved one: short, raw and somewhat
elliptical, wrapping themselves around the small tasks at
hand and the larger questions constantly raised. ...
Kimball’s short chapters cast such a hypnotic spell, the
reader is able to plug directly into the character’s
grief. It’s a simply gorgeous and astonishing book, the
kind that makes the outside world disappear once you open
“Michael Kimball’s Us is heartbreakingly lovely ... the
writing’s a pleasure, and sometimes you just need to read
something with weight.”
“Be forewarned: when you pick up
Us, Michael Kimball's haunting story of
love and letting go, you will not be able to put it
"Your book, Michael Kimball, is the
book I wish I could write. Your book is the book I wish
every book could be. It is reification. It is haptic. It
is ecstatic. Thank you, Michael Kimball, for
"Kimball is an amazingly empathetic
[Us is] "incredibly raw and unabashedly
real ... Kimball wins us over by his impressive emotional
authenticity. Us is so authentic that one might mistake
it for an autobiography."
-- Rain Taxi
"brilliantly written and heartbreaking
in all the best ways"
"this examination of love, grief and
family makes these universal themes seem achingly fresh.
... Us delivers a powerful emotional
"A Breathless Humanity":
is "bold and generous. Its
greatest strength is the sensitivity with which Kimball
explores the complexities of understanding pain and
watching someone you love die. Us is a book that evocatively renders the
static of sadness into a breathless humanity."
A Top 10 Best Literary Love
story chronicles a relationship that is both
bludgeoning in its sheer devastation and yet
remarkably–exquisitely–beautiful ... a must read."
"One of the saddest [books], and most
compelling, ... is Michael Kimball’s gutting new
novel, Us ... We consumed the entire book in one
subway ride, and got more than a few strange glances our
way as Kimball’s novel caused us to convulse with sobs."
Michael’s friend and genius Adam
Robinson interviewed him about Us for Bomb. Adam asks Michael some impossible
questions and Michael tells him what he'd be doing if
he wasn't writing novels.
Book Page has named its Top 10 Indie Picks for 2011 and Us tops the list
City Paper named Us to its Top Ten list for The Year in Books
"As entertaining as it is intelligent as it is irreverent, Kimball’s prose is that rare creature that devours while being devoured."
"One of my favorite books of the year"
"We’re all familiar with the classic
boy-meets-girl scenario, but what would happen if the
tale kept going? Kimball takes the reader to the end of
the love story—the real end—and shows just how crushing
it can be. "
-- City Paper
"The novel is heartbreaking, crushing
... powerfully so. It's the good kind of crushing, too."
An interview with Michael about
sadness and reckoning, euphoria and writing, and writing
as something that is rendered @ Used
A five-question, one-minute interview at Birdsong.
"I’ve read review after review of this amazing book that turns back on itself and becomes a sort of self-examination by the reviewer. I think that says more about the brilliance of Kimball’s novel than it does about us readers ... Michael Kimball’s wonderful book ... it fastened itself around my neck as I read, got in my eyes, swam in my bloodstream, infected my brain. The book made it happen. Us became a story about my grandfather, about my husband, about the people I love and the loss I fear."
-- Amber Sparks, Big Other
"... disarmingly simple, gorgeously
structured, and as achingly sad a book as I have ever
read. I had to stop a couple of times. I really did. The
book’s elderly couple—so painfully aware of the fact that
one of them is living the last parts of her life—are
drawn so concisely, and the situation is so precisely
rendered, it was hard not to spend all my time living in
it even when I wasn’t reading the book."
-- Matthew Simmons, HTMLGIANT
Us is "tightly written, unflinchingly
direct, and achingly beautiful." "The prose is as clean
as a surgical incision and Kimball dives directly into
the dark waters of love and mortality that most writers
only dip their toes into. This is a book you should be
"a literary gem"
"Michael Kimball is a rare, rare
writer, a writer whose empathy knows no limits. He holds
the note of loss and his voice never cracks."
"Kimball wonderfully balances gravity
with brevity. That he can pack such an emotional
experience into such a small space speaks to his talents,
both as a mature authority on relationships and as a
craftsman of tight, effective prose. ... Each moment the
husband gets to share with his wife becomes a beautiful
extension of their time together on earth. ... leaves the
reader absolutely floored"
"Michael Kimball faces mortality
directly, confronting the passionate life in the most
poetic sentences I’ve read from a fiction writer in a
long time. And by poetic, I don’t mean that the prose is
prettified with a lot of adjectives and fancy syntactical
flourishes. It is poetic in the sense that the sentences
seem made, hewn, created by a mind and hand that love the
way we think and talk in sentences. ... After having
finished one of the saddest books I’ll probably ever
read, I was filled with a strange exuberance. ... If
death is a sentence, Michael Kimball has found its
"Michael Kimball's stylistic capacities
dwarf those of most contemporary fiction writers."
-- Room 220
An interview with Michael about
compression, beautiful documentaries, and the reputation
of The Tyrant @ Creative
"I sat down with the book and didn’t get up until I finished without realizing that any time had passed. ... The man’s story is heart-wrenching and he holds onto you without letting go, not that you would ever want him to."
-- New Pages
Michael is "the writer you've been
"Kimball's naked prose magnifies the
poignancy of the situation ... Us is a reminder that we are all tragedies
waiting to happen. It makes you aware of the fragility of
your own heart, of the dull ache it often carries. Some
readers may find Us depressing, but with its awareness
comes a gem of appreciation for the life you currently
lead, even with its eventual demise. This book shines a
laser beam into the deep, dark places in the human soul,
and renders them oddly transparent."
"There is this gentility and softness
and purity that becomes some kind of being, and this
being, by the end of the book, is us. ... There is a gap
here in what is actually happening and what is going on
in the narrator's head, and it is in this gap where the
sadness and the love exist."
"Us is such strange magic ...
brings up something strange
and terrifying to consider ... [about] the real beauty
and magic of being alive ... It's a gorgeous book."
"5 Stars ... Michael Kimball has blown
me away with his upcoming release Us -- a beautiful, heart-wrenching novel"
“such a painful softness”: "Michael
Kimball’s Us is, as much as we may not want to admit
it, the story of all of us and what we daily attempt to
ignore: that eventually our loved ones, our spouses and
significant relations, will either die and leave us or we
will die and leave them."
-- Red Fez
"Us might break your heart, but it's a good
kind of break-- the kind that reminds you how nice it is
to be alive."
"a devastatingly beautiful portrait of
a human being losing the person who matters to him most"
"I even walked to and from school in
order to keep reading the novel." "Us moves you, rattles you, and shakes your
spirit as a human ... read this magnificent novel."
"an unflinching account." "Kimball
takes many risks in Us and ... the risks pay off, leading to a
conclusion that is as surprising as it is inevitable, and
-- Chamber Four
NPR's Madeleine Brand interviews Michael about
Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on
a postcard) for All Things
Listen to the interview, read about the project, and watch the slideshow build-out.
Dear Everybody is a "curatorial masterpiece"
-- The Believer
is now available as
The Way the Family Got Away is now available as an ebook.
"60 Writers/60 Places is a wonderful example of literary thinking becoming a visual language." Both "I Will Smash You" and "60 Writers" are "disarmingly engaging" and both films "subtly acc[rue] an emotive force."
-- Bret McCabe, City Paper
Michael featured in Poets &
Writers: Suzanne Pettypiece's profile
"Beyond Words" about
writers who practice other arts. There's a two-page+
interview where Michael talks about painting.
Dear Everybody is named one of the "25 Important Books of the 00s" at HTMLGIANT
Dear Everybody is on Flavorwire's Ultimate Hipster Reading List
"Dear Everybody is one of the finest, most heartbreaking books I’ve ever read ... Kimball writes his characters with a tenderness that moves me profoundly ... The complexity in Dear Everybody builds subtly, but by the end of the book the immensity of the story that has been told is staggering."
--Roxane Gay, HTMLGIANT
"I know of no one ... who knows and
understands every cog and flywheel and screw of the
language machine to the degree of Kimball's reach."
is "forever embedded in my
-- John Madera, Word Riot
I WILL SMASH
YOU: "Kimball and Dipierro have put
together a collection of money shots that make you
care about who's coming and why."
-- Bret McCabe, City Paper
... touches the heart of
hearts ... snowflake-like letters ... exquisite ... the
innermost feelings of real feeling ... "
Michael Kimball "is already delivering
the future of the novel." He is "one of the authentic
innovators in contemporary fiction," who should be
compared to Raymond Carver and Italo Calvino, and his
writing "sings the most intimate tragedies of the Great
-- Mauricio Montiel Figueiras,
"In addition to writing stunning prose,
Kimball evocatively hints at entire physical and
emotional worlds lying just behind his story’s surface.
In many cases, the author’s verbal compression both
amplifies and dampens the tragic clamor of Jonathon’s
letters ... they harbor such a strange emotional power
that you’ll find them hard to forget."
-- Michael Miller, Time Out New
"There is a whole life contained in
this slim novel, a life as funny and warm and sad and
heartbreaking as any other, rendered with honest
complexity and freshness by Kimball's sharp writing."
Baltimore: Michael is City
Paper's Best Literary Agent of
"I don’t always say this, so I hope you will indulge me: Read Dear Everybody. It is a work of literary inventiveness and great compassion."
"elegantly and eloquently written ...
It's an unforgettable book ... I highly recommend it"
-- Anne Stinson, The
"Kimball does a superb job. ... The
picture that is drawn, though, is unutterably sad. It’s a
difficult read in places, but moving, more real and
heartfelt than many stories where authors cover up their
discomfort by giving their characters extravagant
-- Bruce Dennill, The Citizen
"Human Destiny Starkly Illuminated"
-- Rupert Wondolowski,
"A wonderful, clever, imaginative and
moving book. It really is quite something ... a fucking
-- Scott Pack, Me and My Big
-- Citizen Dick
349 Pieces: On Writing
in The View From
An interview at Apostrophe Cast in which Michael answers whether he ever had a crush on a literary celebrity
"In this intimate epistolary novel, a mentally ill weather man radiates crystalline awareness and luminous delusion while his family and others who knew him try to make sense of his tragic life. Both gloomy and amusing, Kimball's flurry of short short stories remind us of the necessity of communicating and the daunting difficulty of truly connecting."
"very affecting, warm" and "wry and
funny and sweet"
-- Simon Appleby, Bookgeeks
5 stars (out of 5): "beautifully
heartbreaking" and "a genuine discovery"
--Kathleen Wächter, The Junction
--Dan Wickett, EWN
"one of the hottest, most innovative
books of the year"
"the novel is spot on. It amazes me
that a writer can build suspense in a story where we
already know the ending. It’s kind of awesome. In fact, I
enjoyed this book so much I did something I never do. I
wrote the author a fan letter."
-- Jodi Chromey, Minnesota
is about a weatherman who
commits suicide, and it is heart-achingly good."
--Matthew Simmons, Hobart
Michael named "International King of Postcards"
An interview at Hobart
Michael's Word reading a Time Out New York "Critic's Pick": "Kimball’s book, Dear Everybody, is a truly moving and often hilarious epistolary novel"
Michael's radio interview on City Pulse on the Air
Kimball's "latest book could be a breakout for him. ...his work is about death, and it has been stripped down in the stark way it deserves."
-- Bill Castanier, City Pulse
Michael reads from Dear Everybody
Michael is an Indie Heartthrob at Bookslut
An interview in Word Riot
An interview in the Sunday print & online editions of The Baltimore Sun
"Dear Everybody is a book both intricate and new, painful and engaging, tapping on the clearest rendering of what is human, on the importance of the rhythm of each word. Dear Everybody is so many things--a collage, a hypnosis, an invention, a thing of awe, perhaps a warning--a work of new that will no doubt linger in your mind and in your stomach and in your aging skin for quite some time."
-- Blake Butler
Playlist for Dear Everybody
at Largehearted Boy's
"Dear Everybody is a cleverly constructed book that balances pathos and humor exquisitely, and proves Michael Kimball to be a master storyteller."
-- David Gutowski, Largehearted
“quite a literary feat … the character
of Jonathon Bender is stripped down to his emotional
-- Gregg Wilhelm, WYPR
"Kimball writes with such deep emotion
and crafts his sentences with such mastery that he sweeps
away his own footprints and allows the reader unhindered
access to the story. The fragmented nature of the book
makes it an addictive read, giving the reader regular
breaks while at the same time drawing them along. I often
found myself thinking, 'Just one more letter. One more
diary entry. One more interview,' until it was time to go
back to the beginning and start over. With
Michael Kimball achieves the perfect balance of form and
content, comedy and tragedy – all without sliding into
melodrama or sentimentality, instead evoking genuine
emotion that will remain with readers far beyond the last
-- Josh Maday, New Pages
"Quirky, and idiosyncratic, this is a
very amusing novel that is oddly endearing, and conceals
a warm heart beneath its wit."
is "inventive and often
extremely funny, but it will also break your heart.
Michael Kimball is one of the most talented and original
writers in America today. You should read his books."
“In Bender’s unsent letters of apology or thanks, Michael Kimball transforms the familiar into the strange again and the simplest confessions are made moments of sublime wonder. Hold on to this book.”
-- Christine Schutt, author of Florida
has the page-turning
urgency of a mystery and the thrilling formal
inventiveness of the great epistolary novels. Jonathon
Bender's magical letters to the world that never wrote to
him are at once whimsical, anguished, funny, utterly
engaging and, finally, unforgettable.”
-- Maud Casey, author of Genealogy
“Michael Kimball's wise-hearted
epistolary portrait of an endearingly honest, suicidal
depressive is by turns hilarious and haunting--and always
thrillingly deep, surprising, and pitch-perfect.
Everybody confirms Kimball's reputation as one of
our most supremely gifted and virtuosic renderers of the
human predicament. It's as moving a novel as I have read
-- Gary Lutz, author of
Stories in the Worst
“I love this book, love the strangely
detailed world that accumulates through letters, lists,
yearbook quotes, and psychological evaluations.
And I love the character of Jonathon Bender, the way he makes me so sad and also makes me laugh so hard. He will stay with me forever.”
-- Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Summer of Naked Swim
Review Excerpts for
the UK edition of Us
"It’s easy to see why Kimball is held up as one of the potentially great literary hopes of recent times."
"Kimball has created something rare and brave in his second novel: the voice of an elderly man watching a beloved life slip away and with it the entire meaning of his own existence. … [It is a] beautifully tuned, near perfect account of a very ordinary death."
"A deep love between an ageing husband and wife is given a heartbreaking voice in Michael Kimball’s second novel, [Us]. … Told through the eyes of the husband, the story is tender and poignant. His despair moves us because it is neither fantastic nor indulgent."
"Not only does he address mortality head-on, but his narrator describes the deep and powerful love between his grandparents as his grandfather quietly and desperately watches his wife slowly dying. The grandfather’s narration is powerful and moving … uncomprehending and breathless."
"This is the saddest book I have ever read and one of the most beautiful and unusual. A very old man wakes up in the night to find his equally-aged wife has had a stroke. Then follows a minute-to-minute account of what happens in the hospital and finally, his tender care for her back in their own home. One can't help being aware of his grief and the great love he feels for his dying wife. It will make you cry and break your heart but this is one book you must read. Fewer than 200 pages but it says all."
Review Excerpts for The Way the Family Got Away
"Kimball's first novel ... is moving and clever: the open road, so long a symbol of freedom and self-discovery in American fiction, is here rendered as denuded of promise, embodying desertion, desolation and rootlessness. ... Kimball's novel reads as parable about the death of the family, of how impossible family life is in a numbedly materialistic society. However, the largeness of the message should not detract from the intricacy of fine, precise storytelling ... he has taken it [American literature] somewhere very dark and unsettling."
"Occasionally a novel by a new writer will cause critics to choke with excitement. This is one. ... Kimball resembles a skinhead at a cocktail party—no quarter given to poxy commercialism. For that reason alone, his achievement is admirable. He ignores the media's liason with trends, fame, success, and trivia."
"An extraordinary novel"
"A bleak, powerful and extraordinary debut"
"Kimball has created a short novel with long echoes, an epitaph of economics."
"The feelings inspired by Kimball's first novel are hard to shake, like a continuous, terrifying, fever-induced nightmare."
"Michael Kimball breathes life into
American experimental fiction in this moving debut
"You'll come away thinking you’ve shared time with someone who’ll be on shelves for many years to come."
--RTÉ (Irish Public Broadcasting)