BOOKS


THE TWENTY-SEVENTH LETTER OF THE ALPHABET

University of Nebraska Press, 2018

A stunning merger of form and content. —David Shields

Growing up in the New Jersey suburbs of the 1970s and 1980s, Kim Adrian spent her childhood ducking for cover from an alcoholic father prone to terrifying acts of rage and trudging through a fog of confusion with her mother, a suicidal incest survivor hooked on prescription drugs. In The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet Adrian, now a mother herself, tries to make peace with this troubled past by cataloguing memories, anecdotes, and bits of family lore in the form of a glossary. But within this strategic reckoning of the past, the unruly present carves an unpredictable path.

REVIEWS

"A story with a shadow half. This ambitious memoir glints with poetry and wisdom...aching, endless, unresolved, and extremely compelling... The glossary is a clever choice of form. Like mental illness, a glossary impedes forward momentum (if one is compelled to flip forward and back), but it also provides a logic that real life doesn’t offer... The structure allows different truths to exist at once... Adrian’s novelistic attention to scene works...her prose is lyrical and funny, often in the same moment." —The Los Angeles Review of Books

"A feat on many levels. Adrian tells a harrowing story, surprisingly redeemed by her own sweet family, but in many ways also continuing. She gives it meaning without having answers to all the questions she still asks herself. Her work as glossator is astonishing and inventive. Her glossary is strangely gripping, with a momentum pulling the reader in and through. The result is whimsical, even darkly funny at times, brimming with compassion, terribly sad and deeply loving. Memoir readers should not miss this singular offering." Shelf Awareness

"Details, with precision, sensitivity, and lyricism, the specialized language of a childhood and adulthood with an alcoholic father and a mother with a catalog of emotional problems. The form imposes a semblance of order, is an attempt at understanding, and blazes with harrowing moments (the three-year-old Adrian seeing her mother’s first suicide attempt, “the blood, the razor blade”; the incest and physical abuse her mother suffered; the lifelong tug and push between daughter and mother). The book is an intimate and searching accumulation of the moments, tender and brutal, that heap together and create a life." The Boston Globe

"Adrian uses a highly unconventional form to mirror her confusion over how to connect her wide-ranging, frequently painful memories of what she and her sister endured living with a mentally ill mother and an alcoholic and violent father... Despite the heartbreaking pain of the stories Adrian shares, she remains clear-eyed about what she remembers, providing minute details in ways that bring her scenes to life while also creating deep connections between the reader and her childhood self... Despite everything, Adrian still loves her parents. By sharing her conflicted feelings in such an intimate way, she helps the reader see not only that love, but its indelible impact on the identity of a woman still wrangling with how to define it." —Hippocampus

"Adrian’s unique approach to narrating a story that resists order is to transform it into glossary entries. The story is told through an alphabetical list of terms—from Abecedarian to Zigzag—in which she jigsaws together the bits and pieces of her experiences in order to create this beautiful reckoning. Some of the entries are long and provide pages of narrative, others are brief like a punch." Signature Reads

ENDORSEMENTS

“A stunning merger of form and content; a remarkable portrait-becomes-self-portrait; and something like a master class in complicity.”
—David Shields, author of Reality Hunger

“The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet is a revelation. By structuring the book in the unconventional form of a glossary, Kim Adrian allows the reader into the very intimate mechanics of her memory. Each page I read pulled me deeper under the book’s peculiar spell. Through Adrian’s rigorous attention to detail I found myself involuntarily drawn into her perspective, both as a child and a grown woman, hungry to make sense of this troubled family, and this vibrantly unstable mother.”
—Alysia Abbott, author of Fairlyand: a Memoir of My Father

“A vivid, vibrant glossary of a life. Adrian’s sharp prose and unique form combine to illustrate how powerfully our childhoods reverberate throughout our lives.”
—Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic & Desire

“This is desperately serious work, an exacting memoir that excavates, with compassion for all involved, the harrowingly repetitive patterns of abuse as well as moments of something like hope, crushable and delicate, thwarted, and yet renewable. An agonized, beautiful, unflinching account.”
—Lee Upton, author of Visitations: Stories

EXCERPT

Read an excerpt published in AGNI magazine

RELATED PRESS

• The 27th Letter of the Alphabet: A Conversation with Kim Adrian in Tin House
• An Interview with Kim Adrian in Washington Independent Review of Books
Kim Adrian on Listening to What Our Nonfiction Is Trying to Tell Us on LitHub

An intimate and searching accumulation of the moments, tender and brutal, that heap together and create a life.
The Boston Globe

SOCK

Bloomsbury, 2017

Fun, focused, and footloose! —Nicholson Baker

A celebration of the sublime aspects of the mundane, Sock unravels the history, construction, and necessity of this most common of objects—something we daily tug on and take off with hardly a thought—and along the way reintroduces us to our own bodies: vulnerable, bipedal, and flawed. Part of Bloomsbury's acclaimed Object Lessons Series.

REVIEWS

"An utterly engaging investigation—not so much of [the sock], per se, as of human evolution, anatomy, physics, sexuality, fashion, painting, consumerism, manufacturing, and motherhood. . . . illuminating, erudite, deeply intelligent." —Los Angeles Review of Books

"Sock reflects on the brilliance present in the minutiae of our lives. With piercing wit, idiosyncratic humor and sharply insightful moments of personal examination, Adrian uses the most domestic of items as a lens through which to view the inelegance and wondrousness of humanity." —Shelf Awareness

"If a book called Sock makes you think, 'Twenty-five-thousand words on socks? Uh, no,' then you’re unclear on the concept. You’re also missing out on a thoroughly delightful discussion." —Washington Independent Review of Books

"It is a remarkable read, a perfectly satisfying balance of fact and quirk and charm." —Knitty.com

"[Adrian] speaks about knitting throughout the book with such capable intensity I found an appreciation for her voice on it and an interest in her as a human." —PopMatters

ENDORSEMENTS

"Kim Adrian's Sock is the darndest thing. Witty and sly, written with the highest tactile precision, it is at the same time stacked with erudite asides and unexpected perspectives. Adrian reminds us where the ground lies and how we move upon it—and what miraculous things we have encasing our feet as we do so."
—Sven Birkerts, author of The Gutenberg Elegies

"Fun, focused, and footloose!"
—Nicholson Baker, author of The Mezzanine

RELATED PRESS

• On Writing the (Short) Nonfiction Book: a Conversation in Poets & Writers 
• Containing the Hidden Lives of Ordinary Things: a Conversation with Seven Authors in Assay: a Journal of Nonfiction Studies 
• Great Liberations: Writing Beyond the Academy in Public Books
• You Can't Have Flabby Curiosity: Three Questions for Kim Adrian in the Los Angeles Review of Books

Sock reflects on the brilliance present in the minutiae of our lives.
Shelf Awareness

THE SHELL GAME

University of Nebraska Press, 2018

Daring, innovative, and mind-bending. —Kathy Fish

The Shell Game: Writers Play with Borrowed Forms is an anthology of intriguing essays that take their forms from ordinary, everyday sources: a recipe, a crossword puzzle, a Craig’s List ad... Edited and with an introduction by Kim Adrian, this selection of beautifully written, thought-provoking work has already become a classic in the increasingly popular genre affectionally known as "hermit crab essays."

REVIEWS

"This book is the science fiction of creative nonfiction, or better yet, the Ulysses of the modern essay. It’s a shell for itself, in that, without claiming these essays as “essays,” one wouldn’t know what to call them, what to do with them. The Shell Game is far from the five paragraphs that grammar schools teach, and it makes readers feel as if they are learning what an essay is (or could be) all over again." —New Pages

"The essays in this collection bring with them a sense of hope about literature and its capacity for evolution and change . . . a volume that is as much an inspiration for other writers as it is a definitive collection of a constantly evolving genre." —The Millions

"If good creative writing sparks the instinct to write, The Shell Game provides ample embers to inspire a wide range of writers. . . Anyone from the expert essayist, lay reader, or a teacher looking for an evocative anthology will find something of value in these pages." —Columbia Journal

"Kim Adrian has curated a selection of thirty essays that adopt different forms in order to present new ideas, compose startling images, and provide a deeper understanding of the relationship between form and content...The Shell Game may serve to expand what readers think of when they think of the essay." —Punctuate Magazine

"If you were to recommend this book to others, you’d likely tell them to savor it, make it last: tell them that they should not 'binge-read' it, but rather treat themselves with a new form each day until they’ve read the last one." —Hippocampus Magazine

"This collection can be returned to again and again, as the reading mind grows. . . . The Shell Game makes a unique and significant contribution." —Split Rock Review

ENDORSEMENTS

“Virginia Woolf asked of the essay ‘simply that it should give pleasure.’ The Shell Game fulfills this request, even exceeds it, bringing startling diversity of subject, voice, and form."
—Patrick Madden, author of Sublime Physick and Quotidiana

"Daring, innovative, and mind-bending, this anthology showcases the best of what is arguably the most exciting new thing on the literary landscape today: the borrowed form essay."
—Kathy Fish, author of Wild Life

RELATED PRESS

• Online Survey for the Editor of an Anthology of Borrowed Form Essays in Punctuate Magazine 
•  On Anger, Experiments in Form, and The Shell Game: a Conversation with Kim Adrian at Essay Daily

The essays in this collection bring with them a sense of hope about literature.
The Millions
↑back to top