OUTSIDE IS THE OCEAN: WINNER OF THE 2017 IOWA SHORT FICTION AWARD
FINALIST FOR THE 30TH ANNUAL LAMBDA LITERARY AWARD
FINALIST FOR THE 2018 FERRO-GRUMLEY AWARD FOR LGBTQ FICTION
"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, August 2017
"Matthew Lansburgh has a keen eye and ear, and he puts them to great use in this lovely and, frankly, mesmerizing linked collection. Outside Is the Ocean is a gem."
─ ANDRE DUBUS III, Judge, Iowa Short Fiction Award
"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, author of The Night Ocean
"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."
─ PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, August 2017
"Spanning years and perspectives, the 15 linked stories in Lansburgh’s ambitious collection, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award, reveal the world of a fractured family . . . Lansburgh has crafted a unique, captivating debut."
─ BOOKLIST, October 2017
"Every so often a work of fiction presents us with the great gift of an entire life. What Matthew Lansburgh has given us here, like the points of a constellation, is the breadth of a family, across many decades, through all their hardships, unspeakable heartbreaks, and small victories. Outside Is the Ocean is a book full of grace and endurance. It’s an exceptional debut, and we’re lucky to have it in this world, now."
─ PAUL YOON, author of Once the Shore and Snow Hunters
"In the last couple of years, a number of debut collections have broken through the proverbial glass ceiling most short story writers confront, even with a large publishing house behind them, and have garnered considerable acclaim and review attention, among them titles by Carmen Maria Machado, Jenny Zhang, and Ottessa Moshfegh. Another writer who could justifiably take his place alongside the new generation of short story masters is Matthew Lansburgh . . . One of the more notable formal qualities of [his] addictive, deeply imaginative, and often very funny debut is that despite its classification as a story collection, it could be described as a novel with equal accuracy."
─ CHRISTINE SNEED in The Millions, March 2018
"A brilliant collection."
─ MARGOT LIVESEY via Twitter, author of Mercury and The Flight of Gemma Hardy
"Matthew Lansburgh’s luminous, character-driven collection of linked stories, Outside Is the Ocean, follows the life of a German immigrant named Heike as she grapples with the assorted disappointments of love and family. She is the book’s center of gravity, the sun around which other characters orbit . . . Many aspects of Outside Is the Ocean make it a memorable read: characters at once selfish and sympathetic; an overarching wit that informs the melancholy rather than undermining it; a structure that (from a craft perspective) makes the book worth studying as an exemplary model of the story cycle art form. But it is the dynamic between Heike and Stewart—particularly the constant friction between them—that gives Outside Is the Ocean life."
─ MICHIGAN QUARTERLY REVIEW, March 2018
"Winner of the 2017 Iowa Short Fiction Award, Matthew Lansburgh’s first collection possesses the satisfying reach and depth of a novel . . . The narrative voice throughout the collection is keenly self-aware, bracing, and heartbreaking, but also funny in the way that philosophy-infused comedy can be funny—comedy that depends upon perspective or distance . . . Lansburgh is a writer whose mind houses labyrinths underground but also towering cathedrals; even in ruins, they open onto sky."
─ SALAMANDER, Fall 2018
"Only the hardest-hearted will be unmoved by this graceful and empathetic chronicle of fractured family life."
─ PORTLAND PRESS HERALD, October 2017