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A novel by Rikki Ducornet

A voluptuous novel of imposture, emotional deformity, feral children, and the dangers of taking in that little boy lost.

July 5, 2016
5 x 7.5 | 176 Pages
Trade Paper

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired.

To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at


ISBN: 978-1-56689-440-1.



A feral boy comes of age on a campus decadent with starched sheets, sweating cocktails, and homemade jams. Stub is the cause of that missing sweater, the pie that disappeared off the cooling rack. Then Stub meets Billy, who takes him in, and Asthma, who enchants him, and all is found, then lost. A fragrant, voluptuous novel of imposture, misplaced affection, and the many ways we are both visible and invisible to one another.

The author of eight previous novels as well as collections of short stories, essays, and poems, Rikki Ducornet has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, is a two-time honoree of the Lannan Foundation, and is the recipient of an Academy Award in Literature. Her work has been translated into over a dozen languages. She lives in Port Townsend, Washington.


“Ms. Ducornet’s novel about a man who ‘cannot fathom the bottomless secret of his own existence’ casts a lingering spell.” —New York Times

“Bursting with vivid imagery, beautiful language, heartbreaking characters, and the striking perspective of an emotionally stunted man in a carefully controlled society, Ducornet’s tale is unique and captivating.” Booklist

“In tracing the shape of what is left behind, Ducornet lends dignity to the universal plight of vanished illusions. We cannot help but empathize with Stub’s perpetual dream, ‘when everything dissolves and something epic takes over, something coherent, a thing that again and again surpasses itself.’” —Los Angeles Times

“A portrait of a surreal community that defies easy categorization. Like poetry, the novel’s central aims are to revel in language and investigate the inner lives of characters who see a world that is more numinous (to borrow a word of Stub’s) than the people around them can recognize. This makes Ducornet’s choice to focus on anthropologists and young children satisfyingly apt. . . . An endless delight at the sentence level.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Ducornet has written the oddest of varsity novels, one that anchors its charming caprice, philosophical fancy, and thriller-like pace to the psychological horror that lurks just beyond childhood innocence.” Publishers Weekly

“Most novels are prose; a few are poetry. Rikki Ducornet’s Brightfellow is less about storytelling than about what the light that illuminates the story looks like; her characters seem to float, loosely, in a sea of lush language.” —Seattle Times

“A dreamily written yet unsentimental meditation on what we do to survive.” —Library Journal

“Brimming with lyrical descriptions of the campus and with ornamental characters representing various academic ‘types,’ Brightfellow is both a portrait of small town American campus life and of the peculiarities of childhood.” Manhattan Book Review

“In Brightfellow, Ducornet . . . reveals strangeness in the most basic circumstances of life, flooding them in new light.”—Kenyon Review

“Rikki Ducornet’s novel Brightfellow is surreal and vivid, and cements her status as one of the most talented writers working today.” Largehearted Boy

“Ducornet’s is a world of surfaces so rich and textured that notions of meaning and interpretation are subsumed under a lush and seductive prose that eventually inhabits readers’ minds.” The Millions

“Ducornet’s prose always seduces, fulfills, and rewards. Her novels are prose rich cabinets of curiosity, the lines filled with obscure and puzzling wonders. Brightfellow is no exception.” —Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“A delicate and airy novel, Brightfellow combusts with beautiful words and sentences.” —Numero Cinq

“Here, the quotidian and the strange will rapidly become intertwined.” —Star Tribune

“It is Rikki Ducornet’s magic to be able to coax an entire universe—‘restless beyond imagining, a universe of rock and flame, whose nature is incandescence’—out of the modest and often grim contours of one man’s life. It’s one man, Brightfellow, whose job it is to simultaneously inhabit and invent and contain and protect and destroy this place of copperheads and academics, bad mothers and islands, a savant scholar and a little girl. He also knows how to break our hearts and fan the fires of hope.” —Kathryn Davis, author of Duplex

“Ducornet is a mad maestro of words.” —Seattle Weekly

“Beautifully done, Brightfellow is a tiny, but surprisingly complex, gem.” Powell’s Books, “Staff Picks”

Brightfellow’s symbolically perfect ending . . . is true to Ducornet’s thematic lament.” Cleaver Magazine

“Writer, poet, and artist Ducornet does things with words most authors would never even dream of. . . . It’s a novel that’s bizarre, engaging, and dark as hell.” Men’s Journal, “The Best Books of July”

“Rikki Ducornet has long been known for her surreal, vivid writing. Brightfellow, her latest novel, is no exception.” —KQED

“[Brightfellow] focuses its gaze on the refuse of life—things that are lost, tossed out, abandoned—and makes them beautiful through her mastery of imagery and voice.” Summerset Review

“Rikki Ducornet, in the effervescent and airy Brightfellow, deftly executes a hefty lightness, the lightest of a bright, light touch that delights and spontaneously combusts right before our eyes. Like an unbounded baron in the trees, like a goat boy on the loose in the groves of academe, this book inscribes a lofty scaffolding of amazing mazes, canopies of wonder. Ignited luminescence, irresistible levitation, iridescent images—the words skip like philosophic stones through a saturated and shimmering exhalation.” Michael Martone, author of Michael Martone and Winesburg, Indiana

“An engagement with the sometimes fickle quirks of evolution is perhaps Ducornet’s most striking contribution to the art of surrealism and the metafictional terrain of Calvino and Borges. . . .  As a devout reinterpreter of the world, [Stub] represents the best of Ducornet’s fiction, and the hope of creative, loving life through the experience of play.” —Publishers Weekly

Praise for Rikki Ducornet

“Ducornet—surrealist, absurdist, pure anarchist at times—is one of our most accomplished writers, adept at seizing on the perfect details and writing with emotion and cool detachment simultaneously. I love her style because it is penetrating and precise but also sensual without being overwrought. You experience a Ducornet novel with all of your senses.” Jeff VanderMeer

“A novelist whose vocabulary sweats with a kind of lyrical heat.” —New York Times

“Linguistically explosive. . . . One of the most interesting American writers around.” —The Nation

“Ducornet celebrates the playful and rebellious nature of art, and the anarchic ability of the imagination to subvert physical limitations.” —Times Literary Supplement