Kristen Arnett

Author of
  • Mostly Dead Things
    Tin House, 2019

Kristen Arnett is a queer fiction and essay writer who has held fellowships at Tin House, Kenyon Review, and Lambda Literary Foundation. She was awarded Ninth Letter’s 2015 Literary Award in Fiction, was runner-up for the 2016 Robert Watson Literary Prize at The Greensboro Review, and was a finalist for Indiana Review’s 2016 Fiction Prize. Her work has either appeared or is upcoming at North American Review, The Normal School, Electric Literature, Literary Hub, Volume 1 Brooklyn, OSU’s The Journal, Catapult, Bennington Review, Portland Review, Grist Journal, Tin House Flash Fridays/The Guardian, Salon, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Her debut story collection, Felt in the Jaw, was published by Split Lip Press in 2017.

Books by Kristen

Mostly Dead Things

One morning, Jessa-Lynn Morton walks into the family taxidermy shop to find that her father has committed suicide, right there on one of the metal tables. Shocked and grieving, Jessa steps up to manage the business, while the rest of the Morton family crumbles: her mother starts sneaking into the shop to make aggressively lewd art with the taxidermied animals, her brother Milo withdraws, struggling to function, and Brynn, Milo’s wife and the only person Jessa’s ever been in love with, walks out without a word.

Jessa struggles to salvage the failing taxidermy shop, seeking out less-than-legal ways of generating income, all the while clashing with her mother and brother. As their mother’s art escalates to include a figure of her dead husband and a stuffed buffalo in an uncomfortably sexual pose, Jessa must find a way to restore the Morton clan’s delicate balance, and that means first learning who these people truly are, and ultimately how she fits alongside them all.

Mostly Dead Things is a heart-wrenching, eccentric look at loss and love and art and family, and how all these complicated, messy parts of life blend together. A complex exploration of intimacy, sexuality and forgiveness, Mostly Dead Things is at its heart a gritty family story firmly rooted in Florida, complete with gators, oppressive heat, and dead animals. Kristen Arnett’s writing is visceral and she has an immense talent for descriptions that cut through you and make you ache. This story will resonate with anyone who’s ever had to deal with their maddening family and will surely appeal to fans of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Karen Russell’s Swamplandia and Kevin Wilson’s The Family Fang.

Praise for Mostly Dead Things

MOSTLY DEAD THINGS packs messed-up families, scandalous love affairs, art, life, death and the great state of Florida into one delicious, darkly funny package. Kristen Arnett is wickedly talented and a wholly original voice.

Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins

Kristen Arnett has written a portrait of an American family grieving their dead and their living, and lovingly tearing one another to shreds in the process. Too, this is a book about salvaging, about the Mortons’ refusal to abandon what remains, to be buoys and coconspirators for one another’s hearts. MOSTLY DEAD THINGS is a vicious and tender beast, alive with wry humor and the undeniable beauty of the ways we love.

Danielle Lazarin, author of Back Talk

Mostly Dead Things is one of the strangest and funniest and most surprising first novels I've ever read. A love letter to Florida and to family, to half-lit swamps and the 7/11, and to the beasts that only pretend to hold their poses inside us. In Kristen Arnett's expert hands, taxidermy becomes a language to capture our species' impossible and contradictory desire to be held and to be free.

Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia

If Heather Lewis and Joy Williams had a child it might be this—I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel like it. There’s a gunslinger cool to every sentence, like someone is telling you the last story they’ll ever tell you. Kristen Arnett is the queen of the Florida no one has ever told you about, and on every page she brings it to a steely and vivid life.

Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

The landscape of grief is paved with crazy as Kristen Arnett so beautifully shows us in her debut Mostly Dead Things. The Morton family has had more than their share of loss with the suicide of their father and the abandonment of Brynn, the girl loved by both Jessa and her brother, Milo. Throw in the Central Florida locale, a whole lot of taxidermy and a mother using sex toys as Art and that landscape takes crazy to a whole new level. Arnett shows a family learning to cope with what their new reality is with compassion, hope and humor. I look forward to hearing more from her.

Jennifer Dayton, Darrien Library
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