Matthew Lansburgh in conversation with Anna Solomon
October 17, 2017, 7:00 PM
Matthew Lansburgh’s debut collection of linked short stories, Outside Is the Ocean, has at its heart a German woman named Heike, who comes to America after World War II to start a new life. The stories follow Heike through multiple marriages, a troubled relationship with her son, and her adoption of a disabled Russian girl, who she hopes will finally provide her with the affection and companionship she craves. Outside Is the Ocean turns one family’s private life into art, one story at a time.
In selecting Outside Is the Ocean as the winner of the 2017 Iowa Short Fiction Award, Andre Dubus III called the book "mesmerizing."
"Not for the faint of heart, this collection is relentless and intense, but Lansburgh’s prose offers stunning moments of tenderness amid its stark depictions of loneliness. Arresting and pointed." -- Kirkus
"Matthew Lansburgh's Outside Is the Ocean is one of the best short story collections I've read in years. It's sharp and funny and it sweeps the reader along through the lives of a cast of difficult and damaged characters. But there are no villains here; the joy of reading Lansburgh's stories is that he keeps spinning his characters around, finding tenderness alongside their abjection, compassion alongside hurt, until finally the people in this book feel as human and real as anyone you've known." – Paul La Farge
"The linked short stories in Lansburgh’s debut collection comprise a moving portrait of the book’s central figure, Heike . . . Lansburgh reveals Heike’s complexity through exquisite imagery: Heike’s too-tight bikini, which she calls her 'orange knockout,' is emblematic of both her confidence and her exhibitionism. Recurring details lend cohesion, while the settings—zipping from 1993 to 1967 to 2019—give the collection a novel-like scope. Lansburgh’s linked stories succeed as a nuanced character study and a resonant commentary on the challenges of romantic and familial love." – Publisher's Weekly