Ted Morrissey

Ted Morrissey is the author of five books of fiction—Men of Winter, Figures in Blue, An Untimely Frost, Weeping with an Ancient God, and, most recently, Crowsong for the Stricken—as well as two books of scholarship. Weeping with an Ancient God was a Chicago Book Review Best Book of 2015. His stories and novel excerpts have appeared in more than fifty journals, among them Glimmer Train Stories, PANK, ink&coda, and Southern Humanities Review. His essays and reviews have appeared in North American Review, Slush Pile Magazine, and elsewhere. In addition  ...See more >


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"[Crowsong for the Stricken] resists easy description; recommended for those looking for something strange and beautiful. [Mrs Saville is a] fantastically chilling psychodrama intelligently woven into literary history."

Kirkus Reviews


AWARDS, PRESS & INTERESTS

Kirkus Star: CROWSONG FOR THE STRICKEN

Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2017: CROWSONG FOR THE STRICKEN

International Book Award in Literary Fiction 2018 (Int'l Book Fest), 2018: CROWSONG FOR THE STRICKEN

American Fiction Award in Literary Fiction 2018 (American Book Fest), 2018: CROWSONG FOR THE STRICKEN

Flyleaf Journal Editors' Choice Reprint Award, 2015: CROWSONG FOR THE STRICKEN

Hometown Galesburg, Illinois

Favorite author William H. Gass

Favorite book Cartesian Sonata

Day job teacher

Favorite word serendipity

Unexpected skill or talent Designing books

Passion in life helping people realize their potential, especially young people


BOOKS REVIEWED BY KIRKUS:

FICTION & LITERATURE
Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-0-9987057-2-9
Page count: 133pp

Morrissey’s (Weeping with an Ancient God, 2014, etc.) novel in stories tells of the residents of a Midwestern town in the 1950s as they deal with a plague and personal issues.

The author states in an introduction that the 12 stories in this book may be read in any order, which will change how the reader views the overall narrative. Perhaps the story starts with the tale of Old Man Stevenson battling a crow, which he believes took his wife, Clara, away years ago. Or perhaps it starts with the disruption of the town’s Passion play by Rhonda Holcomb, whose dissatisfaction with her own marriage boils over after she puts a new resident, Mrs. Espejo, in charge of the production. Or it could begin with the very first story, which introduces the O’Brien family, who begin showing symptoms of a plague. When this happens, the town custom is to quarantine the home and carefully deliver supplies to the family; when there are no longer any signs of life, the house is burned down. Depending on where the reader starts, they may see a different character as the primary protagonist. But although the narrative is malleable, the vignettes all feature people weighed down by foreboding; there’s always a sense that something is coming for his characters, although Morrissey never defines it clearly. Indeed, they never seem to be able to truly define their own unease—even as the author makes readers feel it, too. References place the book in the mid-’50s, and the author describes the small, unnamed town in loving detail, but there’s also a feeling of detachment, as if all of this is happening in a place apart from our own. It also hints at the supernatural, especially when different characters encounter people in crowlike outfits, but it never presents events that couldn’t be ascribed to the natural world

A work that resists easy description; recommended for those looking for something strange and beautiful.

ISBN: 978-0-9987057-6-7
Page count: 203pp

In this epistolary novel set in 19th-century England, a brother’s sudden return ushers a darkness into his sister’s home. 

Margaret Saville is left alone to run the household while her husband, Philip, is away on business, fecklessly turning to domestic obligations as a way to manage her loneliness. Then her brother, Robin, abruptly appears after a three-year absence, “penniless and beaten” after a harrowing experience at sea. He was the captain of a ship that explored the unforgiving waters of the Arctic. Robin was always a vigorous man, an autodidact known for his insatiable curiosity, but now there’s “something rather shattered about him”—he’s not only physically diminished, but spiritually exhausted as well. He’s also stubbornly laconic and avoids any conversation about whatever experience devastated him. Then a mysterious Russian, Mr. Andropov, a carpenter on Robin’s ship, arrives and explains “the strange time” at sea that shook the captain to his core, a tale hauntingly related by Morrissey (Crowsong for the Stricken, 2017, etc.). Meanwhile, Margaret grapples with demons of her own—her young son, Maurice, dies of illness, a torment that undermines her faith in God. In addition, she hasn’t heard from Philip in weeks, and she fretfully fears the worst, especially as her financial circumstances become increasingly precarious. In a tantalizing subplot, Margaret befriends Mary Shelley, the not-yet-famous author and wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley, who struggles to produce her first book. (This storyline also effectively dates the setting of the novel to about 1815.) 

The entirety of Morrissey’s tale is told from the first-person perspective of Margaret, conveyed in a series of letters to Philip. The prose is mercurial, especially the dialogue, which can be beautifully refined and moving: “I find I cannot fault him, for loneliness is a hard master, inflicting his lashes most vigorously during the quietest moments.” But it can also be clumsily overwrought and baroque, as when Mary discusses her husband’s genius: “Words flow from him like rays from the sun, and just as golden, only ceasing for necessary nocturnal rest; and I am not confident he fully comprehends that that is not a quality granted to all mortals in equal measure.” Further, Margaret’s “compulsive writing” can be exasperatingly long-winded and disorderly—even she calls them her “meandering missives.” Too often and at too great length her attention dwells on household matters tangential to the main plot and themes. Yet Morrissey magisterially conjures—first by incremental inches and then in a crashing crescendo—a fearsome atmosphere of something vague but evil. The author builds that cloud of foreboding out of pieces that seem disconnected but finally cohere in a univocal mood: Philip’s worrisome silence, the death of a child, and Margaret’s resentful conclusion that God has abandoned her. In addition, the author cleverly ties that mounting malevolence to Mary’s own writing in a way that genuinely adds to the story. 

A fantastically chilling psychodrama intelligently woven into literary history.

ADDITIONAL WORKS AVAILABLE:

AN UNTIMELY FROST
Historical fiction, revisionist fiction

In the novel An Untimely Frost, or The Authoress, set in 1830s London, American author Jefferson Wheelwright seeks out the reclusive English novelist Margaret T. Haeley, creator of Dunkelraum's monster and widow of the poet Stephen Haeley. The story is inspired by Washington Irving's rumored courtship of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. The book also includes the author's essay "Researching the Rhythms of Voice" and discussion questions.

Published:
ISBN: 978-0989515115
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FIGURES IN BLUE
Literary fiction

Figures in Blue is the story of Esteban Espiritu, a young Spanish artist who is commissioned to paint the portrait of Kristena von Lichtenberg, an elderly Baroness living in a deteriorating mansion that overlooks a provincial German village. However, Esteban uncovers a local mystery regarding the disappearance of her brutish husband, the Baron. The novelette is set in the beginning of the twentieth century and references classical mythology.

Published:
ISBN: 978-0989515139
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MEN OF WINTER
Historical fiction, revisionist fiction

Hektr Pastrovich, a journalist and poet, travels to the front of a war his country has been fighting for nine years in search of an enigmatic traveler who calls himself the Prince of Ithaka. Along the way he meets Helena, a beautiful and captivating woman who becomes a mystery to Hektr as well. Men of Winter is a revisionist work drawing from Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, set in early twentieth-Century Russia. It features a Preface by the author, in addition to an Interview, Afterword and Discussion Questions that make it ideal for book clubs and classroom study.

Published:
ISBN: 978-0989515108
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MRS SAVILLE
Historical fiction, revisionist fiction, literature

Mrs Saville begins where Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein ends. Margaret Saville has an absent husband, a dead child and two more surviving when her brother Robert returns from the sea, defeated and traumatized from his near-death experience exploring the Polar region. In a series of letters Mrs Saville describes the strange events surrounding her brother's return as she implores her husband to reply to her letters and come home from his business affair.

Published:
ISBN: 978-0998705767
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THE 'BEOWULF' POET AND HIS REAL MONSTERS
Scholarship

This book opens a new line of inquiry into the Old English poem, specifically trauma theory, which attempts to map the psychological typography of an author and his or her culture, that is, when the text appears to be wrought of traumatic experience. Indicators of a "trauma text" are narrative techniques often associated with postmodernism--expressly, intertextuality, repetition, a dispersed or fragmented voice, and a search for powerful language. The anonymous Beowulf poet made extensive use of all four narrative techniques, suggesting he and his culture were suffering some sort of traumatic stress. The author brings together knowledge from myriad disciplines, among them history, anthropology, sociology, biology, psychology, with special emphases on the branches of psychoanalysis and neuropsychology--and focuses his trauma-theory reading on the poem's original language.

ISBN: 978-0779906925
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THE CURVATURES OF HURT
Literary, Midwestern Gothic, uncanny

Finding Rebecca in this small, isolated village was the only thing that helped Frankie cope with moving here with her widowed father—in fact, Rebecca’s friendship helped her cope with everything. But now something isn’t right … not with Rebecca, not with Rebecca’s old friend Shirley who is suddenly back in the picture, and not with Frankie’s entire world. More alone than ever, Frankie must explore the curvatures of her hurt without Rebecca by her side. “The Curvatures of Hurt” is set in the 1950s and is part of the Crowsong Universe, stories associated with the prismatic novel Crowsong for the Stricken. This edition includes an Afterword by voice artist Jenny Bacon, who reads the audiobook. She discusses bringing the story to audio, stage and screen.

Published:
ISBN: 978-0998705736
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TRAUMA THEORY AS A METHOD FOR UNDERSTANDING LITERARY TEXTS (Unpublished)
Scholarship

Trauma Theory As a Method for Understanding Literary Texts: The Psychological Basis of Postmodern Heremeneutics (Edwin Mellen, 2016) is a multidisciplinary work that responds to the question “If we associate postmodern literature with the period between the conclusion of the Second World War and, roughly, the end of the twentieth century, why have seemingly postmodern texts appeared in centuries far removed from postmodernism?”
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WEEPING WITH AN ANCIENT GOD
Historical fiction, revisionist fiction

"Weeping with an Ancient God" is a novella set in the Marquesas Islands in the summer of 1842. The protagonist, Melvill, has jumped ship from the whaler Acushnet into a wild, savage and exotically beautiful land. Melvill contemplates his dangerous present, his sad past and his wholly uncertain future on an island teeming with cannibals.The novella is based on author Herman Melville's real-life adventures as a young seaman. It includes nine illustrations by Adam G. Perschbacher, and a conversation with the author by Beth Gilstrap.

Published:
ISBN: 978-0989515160
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Crowsong for the Stricken Book Trailer