book jacket for Phoning HomeCover


Advance Praise for Coulrophobia and Fata Morgana:


“The writer Jacob Appel writes confidently about what he knows. He draws from his experience in medicine and the law to create arresting stories that combine the eerie and the corporeal. Then we have manslaughter, murder and envy. The characters are not people you meet every day. Plucked from the imagination of the writer, they attempt to force behavior with varying results. Coulrophobia and Fata Morgana, the multi-word title of Appel's latest book features the superior mirage, and like a mirage, the stories within reflect a distorted and sometimes unrecognizable reality.”—EDITH PEARLMAN, author of Honeydew.

“Jacob Appel's narratives pull you in from the first entrance of their characters, whether it's a woman picking up her errant grandson from the police station, or two U.S.-Canadian border guards with too much time to kill. The portraits are sharp and perceptive, with a vivid sense of scene. They can also be quietly devastating, as in the love story "Counting," or bitterly funny, as in "Saluting the Magpie," which is to say that Appel is a writer of versatility and verve.  Coulrophobia and Fata Morgana is a collection that renews my faith in storytelling.”—DAVID GALEF, author of My Date with Neanderthal Woman.

"There's a great forward-leaning energy to the stories of Jacob Appel. And just like his characters, one finds oneself hooked into situations beyond oneself, each moment new and singular and compelling and strange."—WLLIAM LYCHACK, author of The Architect of Flowers.

“My admiration for Jacob Appel increases with each page I read.  He’s an ingenious storyteller. He’s also witty and large-hearted and graceful with a sentence.  Coulrophobia and Fata Morgana brims with distinctive characters:  Mimes and butchers, rabbis and diva, all of them seeking love and understanding with a zest all their own.  This is the finest comic prose I’ve read in a very long time.” —ALYSON HAGY, author of Boleto.

“In these ten clear-eyed fictions, Appel explores the tensions between sisters and lovers, grandparents and grandchildren, butchers and vegetarians, idealists and pragmatists, the vocal and the silent, the living and the dead. His work suggests the wry humor of Grace Paley, the linguistic joy of Stanly Elkin, and the psychic violence of Flannery O’Connor.  In short, Appel delivers the full experience, squeezing every possible nuance out of the form.” —TRUDY LEWIS, author of The Empire Rolls.

“A Jacob Appel story is like a beautiful room that contains a trap door.  Each tale in Coulrophobia and Fata Morgana is somehow ruthlessly observant yet compassionately engaged—and in the end uncannily human.  Open the cover and you’ll find yourself captivated by these unpredictable characters, the intimate and surprising glimpse of their lives.”—ERIN SOROS, winner of the Commonwealth Prize for the Short Story.

“An excellent writer with an excellent imagination and a wide-ranging curiosity—a rare combination in literary fiction these days….Here are stories about a woman who becomes a kosher butcher in New York City, a desert-bound census taker, a pair of guards at the U.S.-Canadian border in Vermont, and a family dealing with coulrophobia (fear of clowns) when a mime rents an apartment from them….”—JOE PONEPINTO, Tahoma Literary Review.

 Praise for The Biology of Luck:

Biology of Luck is astounding—astounding in its vividness, its originality, its inventiveness and heart. This outstanding novel will draw worthy comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut and George Saunders, but more than anything I’m struck by the sheer force of Appel’s vision and voice. The book marks the arrival of a trenchant and necessary voice in American letters.  How lucky we are!”—BRET ANTHONY JOHNSTON, Director of Creative Writing at Harvard, Author of Corpus Christi: Stories

An inventive exploration of the place where love, chance, expectations and ambitions intersect in the city that never sleeps.—KIRKUS REVIEW

“From Harlem to Queens to Battery Park, over the Brooklyn Bridge and across the water on the Staten Island Ferry, from present day Wall Street to seventeenth century New Amsterdam, The Biology of Luck takes the reader on a rollicking, unforgettable journey.  Novelist Jacob Appel tells a story within a story, gives us a novel within a novel, and at the same time weaves together the history, geography and cultures of New York City. The Biology of Luck is a delightful book that is ultimately about the act of writing and the power of love.” —NICOLE COOLEY,  Author of Judy Garland, Ginger Love
 “The Biology of Luck is a burghers’ banquet of the best of New York and an unapologetic romantic’s hopes for the dreams of the last and most forgotten among us. Appel’s novel is outstanding–a singular and extremely funny read for those of us who find our pleasures in contemplating loneliness and despair.” —MICHAEL DAHLIE, Author of The Best of Youth

"Appel's writing is like a road map of New York City, and not the safe, postcard, commercialized picture of 'The Big Apple' either.  He shows you the steam of the manholes, the carnival of Canal Street markets, the blur of hailing a cab drunk in Chelsea.  The best, most-developed character in 'The Biology of Luck' is his New York.....A writer with the craft to show you the big picture in the small details."—TREVOR D. RICHARDSON, Editor of The Subtopian

"Appel—a New York sightseeing guide, psychiatrist, bioethicist, and prolific, prizewinning playwright and short story writer—offers a nimbly satiric variation on Joyce’s Ulysses in this tale of one summer day in the life of Larry Bloom, a nebbishy New York City tour guide and struggling writer. A self-described “prisoner of his own inhibitions,” Larry is hopelessly in love with a beautiful, unconventional, and confused young woman, Starshine, who has agreed to have dinner with him. As in every romantic comedy, forces conspire to keep them apart, but in Appel’s clever, vigorously written, intently observed, and richly emotional tale, hilarious mishaps are wildly complicated by the intersections between life and Larry’s novel about Starshine. From bagel-throwing demonstrators attacking a group of puzzled Dutch tourists to Starshine’s bicycle odyssey in quest of a fruit basket for her Alzheimer’s-afflicted aunt to the mysterious powers of a one-armed building superintendent, Appel’s funky urban fairy tale is spiked with canny observations about human nature. Do we inherit or create luck? Is beauty a burden or a gift? Can love transcend fantasy? Seductive and thought-provoking."—DONNA SEAMANBooklist

"There are many books that are odes to New York City. There are many books that feature struggling writers and mysterious, footloose, ideal women. There are many books that spin stories inside of stories. There are not many books like “The Biology of Luck.” Why? Because few authors have the hyper-verbal skills of Jacob Appel."—LIZ BAUDLER, New City Lit

"Even the secondary characters are as vivid as any found in fiction."—WILL DONNELLY, Green Mountains Review

"The Biology of Luck is a fine showing from an author with a fresh and essential voice."—LINDSAY DENNINGER, The Summerset Review

" We’re offered a nuanced and sympathetic exploration of both characters, but the nuance and sympathy in Starshine’s narrative also suggest the fullness of Larry’s love, the degree to which Starshine has come to rule his imagination."—DAVID BOWENThe Colorado Review

"There’s a richness of allusion (besides the obvious nods to Joyce and his Bloom in June, Appel’s loving paean to his hometown pays extensive tribute to New York’s twin titans Melville and Whitman) in Biology that makes a few of Appel’s critically beloved contemporaries seem almost rootless by comparison."—ANDREW WETZELThe Masters Review

"Jacob Appel's The Biology of Luck is one of those books that comes with its own special set of forces operating in a quirky interior universe.  The novel is like some great mechanical clock that works with curious, sometimes maddining precision."—JOEL VAN VALIN, Whistling Shade

"While the book is playful and eccentric, there is always an underlying darkness....If you’re looking for a book that’s light, dark, and smart, The Biology of Luck is for you."—TOMMY DEAN, Nailed Magazine

"Appel captures the sounds, smells and feeling of human idiosyncracies, describing each person and place with layers of specifics and closely observed characters."—ANNE M. DROLET, North American Review

"What’s fascinating about the book is that the world of the inner, the one Bloom has written, collides with the outer novel’s world, as if both odysseys are occurring simultaneously....The ending of the book, which is the last chapter of the inner novel, effectively brings both novels to a conclusion with another echo of Joyce—but with a delicious, unexpected twist."—CLIFFORD GARSTANG, Prime Number Magazine

"Fun, quick, clever, and new, The Biology of Luck is worth the read."—KATIE AMUNDSEN, Stoneboat Literary Journal 

"You won’t find anything like this on commercial shelves!  That in itself is a major draw for readers like me— those who purposefully seek out writers willing to take risks."—C. A. LARUE, Ardor Lit Mag

"As a prior tour guide himself, Jacob Appel has been able to imbue the sometimes grungy and often beautiful metropolis scenery with a realistic accuracy that can make any reader want to step through the pages and walk the city with Larry Bloom."CATORI SARMIENTO, On the Rusk

“The Biology of Luck” is a rare book in that it turns the act of reading into the act of seeing. Appel effortlessly leads us on his own little tour of New York, and while there, we can see the trash on the streets, smell the rot of the garbage, and realize that it is all beautiful, simply because it is New York. A book very rarely paints a picture so vividly, but it is a picture worth far more than these thousand words.—E. BRANDEN HARTEmpty Sink Publishing

Appel’s reach is justified by his grasp, and the reader’s faith is justified by a work that ends in the most perfect, inevitable, yet unexpected manner. The characters go through so much, yet by the end of the story nothing about them has changed. Appel’s magic trick is that he’s transformed the reader."MATTHEW MIRANDA, Prick of the Spindle

"Appel uses a 'story within a story'┬Łapproach and engages the reader with a cornucopia of imagery. His real life experience as a tour guide helps tighten the story and polish it in a succinct way. For those who have never visited New York City, the author's description provides a touristy feast for the mind."—WENDIE DAVIS-GRAUER, Twisted Vine

"It’s powerful rendition of love and the complexity of life from two perspectives, each with their own  emotional heft and message, craft a book that is soulful, powerful, and meaningful in every sense of the word."—TIM O'SHEA, Through the Gaps

"A refreshing labyrinth of subtle nuances and smack-you-in-the-face conclusions...The pin-point accuracy skills of a psychological academic mixed with the talent and imagination of a fiction writer is a singular style...."—KAYLA GREENWELL, Blot Lit

"One gets the tangible feel of Larry’s disappointing anticipation in one chapter and Starshine’s admirer-filled bicycle ridden “mythological everyday” spread across the pages with an overwhelming precision and emotional honesty which feels like a New York bound Virginia Woolfe."—MELISSA RATAJCZAK RATELDiscerning Literature

"Appel has created a small masterpiece…vibrant, clever and utterly memorable."—VICTORIA NUGENT, Ricochet

"The Biology Of Luck is a stroke of genius....It is epic."—JANINE M. PICKETT, Indiana Voice Journal

"Enough praise cannot be heaped upon The Biology of Luck. Smart, genuine, hilarious, hurtful, heartfelt, heartbreaking, hope-inspiring, disconcerting—this novel will make you simultaneously want to ride your bike through Manhattan and take a break from city life."Remarkable Doorways

"The strength of the book lies in detailing, in small descriptions and how they fit together into a perfect, mosaic-worked whole."—SPENCER DEW, decomP magazinE

"[T]he cleverest structure of a book that I think I have ever read....This is a wonderful novel, a deep, unflinching gaze inside the prosaic, mundane soul of a modern anti-hero with a powerful message about institutionalised patriarchy and misogyny, where all value is based on beauty, desirability, transience and unrealistic hope."ORLA McALINDEN, HeadStuff

Praise for Scouting for the Reaper:

"The dialog, even when one of the speakers wobbles on the verge of madness, shows bite and intelligence.....The rambunctious serendipity recalls T.C. Boyle, as does the ability to turn on a dime, now cutthroat, now huggable."—JOHN DOMINI, The Brooklyn Rail

"Appel approaches his characters with compassion and an understanding of human frailty....A beautiful, well-balanced collection."KIRKUS REVIEW (starred review)

"For me to really enjoy a short story it must be something special and every once in a while, I find an entire collection of very special short stories. “Scouting for the Reaper” happens to be one of those collections."—AMOS LASSEN

"Every story is filled with all the pathos, humor, and intimacy readers will come to expect from this author."—SUE ELLIS, Prick of the Spindle

"After reading so much contemporary fiction that is fretful, laboring in the shadow of modernist complexity or postmodern minimalism, there is solace in reading stories that beckon one into the lives of characters in situations that naturally evolve from satisfying plots."—W. M. HAGEN, World Literature Today

Praise for Phoning Home:

"Entertaining, intelligent and compassionate essays that provoke reflection."KIRKUS REVIEW (starred review)

"In essay after essay, Appel holds the reader’s attention through a combination of wit, self-deprecation, wisdom, incisive knowledge and a deep sense of compassion and empathy for his fellow human beings. Phoning Home is a worthy addition to the pantheon of great American essays and Appel proves himself to be an astute observer and chronicler of the modern human condition."—GIRIJA SANKAR, New Pages

"Superbly written and replete with deftly crafted character sketches, these are essays as candid as they are entertaining, and as entertaining as they are memorable."—JACK MASONMidwest Book Review

"....[Appel]'s observations seem fresh and biting at the same time. His is an urban, frequently Jewish world, where the longing for personal connection is challenged by an anonymous sea of millions of nameless souls....."JOSHUA RUNYAN, Baltimore Jewish Times

"Always entertaining while often also being quite thought-provoking, this is a book for those who like their literature smart, compelling, yet not too terribly dense, and it comes enthusiastically recommended today for a general audience, and especially those interested in Jewish-American history and the practical complications of theoretical ethical decisions."JASON PETTUS, CCLaP

"Appel’s lucid, sharp prose speaks for itself."BETH GILSTRAP, Fjords

Praise for Einstein's Beach House:

"Enthusiastically recommended and solidly entertaining."Midwest Book Review.

"Jacob Appel captures New York City and its satellites around the turn of the millennium with painful, entertaining accuracy. Lives are coming apart, and coming together, in stories that live with you long after you've read them. Comparisons to Cheever, Trevor, and especially Chekhov can't be helped, but Appel writes with a grace and humor all his own."Dan O'Brien, author of War Reporter and The Body of an American.

"Jacob Appel is licensed to give sightseeing tours, and reading Einstein's Beach House certainly cements his qualifications. A capacious curiosity is at work here: Appel's stories move with thirstful purpose, rarely slowing, filled with wry humor and bon mots as we proceed briskly down his fictional paths, invited to examine modern ethical issues along the way. Take this tour—you’ll want to give a tip once you reach the end."Matthew Pitt, author of Attention Please Now.

"A failed professional ventriloquist, a possibly morose hedgehog and a particularly acute array of parents and their children populate Jacob Appel's impossibly keen Einstein's Beach House -- a collection that takes a sharp look at the moments when we, whether child or adult, see who we truly are and the inevitability of who we will become. Appel's achy, skewed, sometimes heart-breaky world is dense with truth and humor -- the stuff of great literature."Allison Lynn, author of The Exiles and Now You See It.

"Appel is a master at character interaction, defining the family relationship between parents and children in short order."G Emil Reutter, Fox Chase Review

"So, if you are looking for really great storytelling with depth and some twists thrown in, then Einstein’s Beach House is for you."Julie Demoff-Larson, Blotterateur

"The reader comes away amazed at Appel’s dexterity and finesse with complicated, sometimes humorous, often surprising, storylines. Though frequently maligned as a lesser art form, the short story’s stature can only gain luster in the masterful shaping of Jacob Appel."Robert Detman, Nomadic Press

"....Appel's prose manages to be hilarious and devestating, cynical and candid, highly polished and fast-paced all at the same time."Doreen Thierauf, Carolina Quarterly

Praise for The Man Who Wouldn't Stand Up:

"The whole thing is a marvellously-controlled farce, a funny and insightful send-up of the tinny faux-patriotism and aggressive narcissism of the 21st Century’s first decade."Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly

"In this inventive and commercially appealing book, Appel sheds a harsh light on a society that allows its most vocal and least tolerant elements to form the basis of public opinion."Joe Ponepinto, Los Angeles Review

"A darkly comic satire, full of insight into American culture."Stephen Fry

"Engaging, funny, ingenious, even charming.Philip Pullman, author of The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.

"A biting, derisive, and thoroughly zany British comic novel that follows in the tradition of quirky British satire....A worthwhile read...."Michael Ravenscroft, Adirnondack Review

"While [Arnold's] actions were deemed unpatriotic, he believes he was exercising his basic right to protest a pat neo-McCarthian breed of patriotism that demands of the American citizenry that we all live and think and speak the same way. This, ultimately, is the pith of The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up. It explores what it means to test our freedoms, to express ourselves as we will, even—or especially—when our words run counter to mainstream social and political beliefs. 'In hindsight,' Appel writes of Arnold, 'he wanted his protest to have been directed at anything and everything—against all the perversions of justice that passed for decency.' So that, by refusing to stand, Arnold in fact stood far taller than the rest of them."Andrew T. Powers, Prick of the Spindle

Praise for Miracles and Conundrums:

"Appel presents a cast of characters worthy of his quirky title. Among them Red Ziggy, a restaurateur from a distant planet who opens Birmingham, Alabama's only Latvian eatery, and Happy Gallows, a widower with granddaughter who advertises in the newspaper for 'housekeeping and discourse.' The topics are weighty—abortion, climate change, cancer—but the touch light enough to make you wonder whether you're reading miracles and conundrums of this world or some other. An intriguing read"George Harrar, author of Reunion at Red Paint Bay

"A superb collection. These eight stories by Jacob Appel are beautifully crafted, rich in ideas, wit and compassion. The author's talents are various and so are the effects they producethe interplay of light and dark radiates from every page....These stories can be wise and playful at the same time.  And sometimes they can also break your heart."Lucy Rosenthal, author of The World of Rae English

"Engaging, surprising, and often deeply affecting..."Jason Hess, New Pages

"A fine collection of memorable stories with a delicately surreal edge."KIRKUS REVIEW (starred review)

"Jacob M Appel has a very special gift for storytelling, both his characters and their settings possessing a magical quality that brings them to life on the page. Exploring different lifetimes, parallel universes and, even, other planets, in Miracles and Conundrums of the Secondary Planets, Appel successfully pulls his reader into each and every one of his worlds, his characters and the dilemmas they face lingering long after their stories are finished."Jacqueline Grima, Humanity Hallows

"...delightful, smart and above all witty..."Hubert O'Hearn, San Diego Book Review

Praise for The Magic Laundry:

"Another strong story collection that displays the author's trademark thoughtfulness, humanity, and wit."—KIRKUS REVIEW

"Jacob Appel is a genius. His stories are filled with humor and insight, tremendous intelligence and ingenious plots. The Magic Laundry is one of the best collections I've read in years." —Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans

"The stories in The Magic Laundry are as surprising as they are captivating as they are dazzling, with ethical dilemmas exploding like land mines. Jacob M. Appel melds satire and sincerity like no writer I know, and the result is a distinctive subversiveness subversiveness with a beautifully beating heart."Michael Kardos, author of Before He Finds Her and The Three-Day Affair

"If you want to know more about how to write contemporary fiction, read this book."—Bryan R. Monte, Amsterdam Quarterly