A Swallow Press Book

The Quick-Change Artist — 2006


By Cary Holladay

“As for the actual characters in The Quick-Change Artist, they are some of the most unique and surprising in contemporary American short fiction. Ultimately, the most intriguing of all these characters is (the town of) Glen Ellen itself, with its ‘low locomotive thunder,’ its ‘singing rails’ luring us into a world we will not soon forget.”

The Southeast Review

“There are writers who have a gift for the short story the way Coltrane had a gift for making music with a saxophone: Cary Holladay is one of those. She is a poet of the unlikely screwball tale of possibility, quick changes of connection and view that startle and delight. Holladay is one of the most exciting voices in contemporary fiction.”

Robert Morgan

“These stories succeed wonderfully, flashing with insight and lingering in the mind long after they're over.”

Robert Olen Butler

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In these stories of magic and memory, clustered around a resort hotel in a small Virginia community, Cary Holladay takes the reader on an excursion through the changes wrought by time on the community and its visitors. From the quiet of a rural forest to the rhythms of rock and roll, The Quick-Change Artist is at once whimsical and hard-edged, dizzying in its matter-of-fact delivery of the fantastic.

Romance, a sense of place and belonging, and the supernatural—especially in the lives of children coming of age—offer windows into worlds beyond the ordinary throughout The Quick-Change Artist. In the title story, a young chambermaid is in love with a foreign magician who performs at the hotel where she works. In “Heaven,” set during the 1918 flu epidemic, a struggling mother and son rely on the support of their fortune-telling plow horse. The narrator of “Jane's Hat” recalls a childhood enlivened by an unusual school principal and a friend who starts finding beauty everywhere.

Horses and the people who love them, wanderers and those who feed them, creatures that disappear and those who search for them: these are stories with a constant heart.

Picture of Cary Holladay

A native of Virginia, Cary Holladay is the author of a novel, Mercury, and two collections of short stories, The People Down South and The Palace of Wasted Footsteps. Her awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Tennessee Arts Commission as well as an O. Henry Prize. Her work has appeared in New Stories from the South and many literary magazines.

  • Finalist for the 2007 John Gardner Award for Fiction
Cover of 'The Quick-Change Artist'


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