Dreams collide with reality, modernity with antiquity, and myth with identity in the twelve arresting stories of A House Is a Body. In “Earthly Pleasures,” a young painter living alone in San Francisco begins a secret romance with one of India’s biggest celebrities, and desire and ego are laid bare. In “A Simple Composition,” a husband’s professional crisis leads to his wife’s discovery of a dark, ecstatic joy. And in the title story, an exhausted mother watches, hypnotized by fear, as a California wildfire approaches her home. Immersive and assured, provocative and probing, these are stories written with the edge and precision of a knife blade. Set in the United States and India, they reveal small but intense moments of beauty, pain, and power that contain the world.
A House Is a Body introduces a bold and original voice in fiction, from a writer at the start of a stellar career.
More About Shruti Swamy:
The winner of two O. Henry Awards, Shruti Swamy’s work has appeared in The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. In 2012, she was Vassar College’s 50th W.K. Rose Fellow, and has been awarded residencies at the Millay Colony for the Arts, Blue Mountain Center, and Hedgebrook. She is a Kundiman fiction fellow, a 2017 – 2018 Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University, and a recipient of a 2018 grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation. She lives in San Francisco.
Praise for A HOUSE IS A BODY:
“Shruti Swamy’s A House Is A Body will not simply be talked about as one of the greatest short story collections of the 2020s; it will change the way the all stories—short and long—are told, written and consumed. There is nothing, no emotion, nor tiny morsel of memory, no touch, that this book does not take seriously. Yet, A House Is A Body might be the most fun I’ve ever had in a short story collection.”
—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
“Swamy’s debut short story collection is rich, mesmeric, and often mournful, blurring the boundaries between dreams and reality, and making time less linear and more pliable. …nuanced and quietly powerful stories about our most urgent and deeply felt experiences — grief, love, and desire.”
—BuzzFeed (29 Summer Books You Won’t Be Able to Put Down)
“The winner of two O. Henry Prizes, Shruti Swamy will publish her first short-story collection this summer, and you won’t want to miss out on reading it. The 12 stories in A House Is a Body move between India and the U.S., focusing on women’s interior lives and the ways in which their identities differ from the perceptions and presumptions of those around them.”
—Bustle.com (The Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2020)
“This is one of the books I’ll turn to again and again, to study the tapestry of the prose, which is so beautiful and original. And there is such a deep curiosity at work here. I couldn’t stop reading once I’d begun, couldn’t part with this clear, exquisite, intelligent mind, contemplating an endlessly troubled and intimate world. It made me love reading all over again.”
—Rebecca Lee, author of Bobcat and Other Stories
“In this debut collection, time is temperamental. Reality bleeds into dreams, and these dreams later shape reality. Swamy’s pulsating prose produces riveting narratives. Her stories twist in subtle yet unexpected ways, and crucial revelations appear buried in the middles of paragraphs. The fallible characters in Swamy’s ravishing book are always falling into something and bravely grasping what they can on their way down in a frenetic attempt to pull themselves back up. A dazzling and exquisitely crafted collection.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Swamy writes with a cool precision that draws the reader into her debut collection. Eleven of the 12 stories have simple descriptive titles—“Wedding Season,” “Night Garden,” “Mourners,” “The Neighbors”—that belie the works’ complexity, and the plots unspool in lovely lucid prose that has a poetic omniscience. Swamy is off to a strong start.”
“I’ve been reading Shruti Swamy’s stories for a long time and so for me to have them here together is cause for great celebration. These stories are written with such rare patience and a restraint that they are at times, almost unbearably tense. That’s a story writer. Not a book to read in a hurry. Take your time, as Swamy did. No need for hyperbole, either. The beauty and timeless grace of these stories will always speak for themselves.”
—Peter Orner, author of Maggie Brown & Others
“Powered by intense imagery and jolts of frank sexuality, Shruti Swamy’s A House Is a Body blurs the line between fantastical and naturalistic storytelling with its tales of love, loss, and life lived across cultures. Throughout, Swamy’s sensuous style illuminates her characters’ thoughts and actions, easily accommodating a wide range of moods, from understated tragedy to more surreal flights of fancy. Just like the loyal housedog and cobra who duel in the concluding, fable-like “Night Garden,” Swamy dances on the boundaries between life and death, and between ennui and irrevocable change, with mesmerizing results.”
—Foreword Reviews (starred review)
“Swamy’s haunting debut short story collection follows various female characters who struggle with expectations and hidden desires…Spanning the geographical and social distance between India and the U.S., Swamy’s 12 tales illuminate her characters’ imperfections and struggles, ultimately forming an attuned and mystical exploration into the enigmas of being human.”
“Shruti Swamy writes with a confidence and rich understanding that recalls such renowned storytellers as Katherine Anne Porter and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Her collection A House is a Body is the perfect book for lovers of the short story and for all those willing to lose themselves in Swamy’s thoroughly developed fictional worlds. Shruti Swamy is a rare talent and A House is a Body is a gorgeous debut.”
—Laura Furman, author of The Mother Who Stayed and former series editor of The O’Henry Prize Stories