Select Page

absolute away

dzanc, april 2024

A narrative triptych, Absolute Away is the story of one life reimagined.

The first movement tells the story of Edie Metzger, a little Jewish girl who bit Hermann Göring’s lip so hard it bled at a Nazi book-burning rally in 1933. In the second, in 1956, grown Edie is the passenger clinging to the backseat of the Oldsmobile 88 convertible driven by Jackson Pollock, moments before it plunges off the road. In the third, the narrative embarks into an ever-unspooling universe of Edies that might have lived—Edie’s gender, past, and consciousness flying forever farther apart.

Absolute Away is a novel about travel in its largest sense—about the self, the past, the future, aging, ideas, relationships, our own mortal being(s) as transitive verbs, and how what and who we are connects to everything else.

“A surreal story bridges historical trauma with existential nightmares. … Olsen depicts the horrors of history and more speculative anxieties with equal power. Impossible to classify, this novel raises big questions about memory and identity.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Through the roiling thunderstorm and utter marvelousness of his exuberant imagination, Lance Olsen rescues Edith Metzger from the oblivion of her violent death to reinvent her with the crackling skinfizz and full-body thrill of a Jackson Pollock painting. This jazz improvisation of a novel will open and wreck you as you enter the miraculously weird shimmerings of the infinite and absolute away where identity shreds into a proliferation of possibilities—where anyone might have been, might still become, wildly, spectacularly other.”

—Melanie Rae Thon, composer of As If Fire Could Hide Us

“I can’t decide if Lance Olsen is a magician or a wizard or an open channel to some electric ether where pitch-perfect sentences and formally daring narratives tumble through to save us from the soul-annihilating mundanity of most American fiction. This novel of recounting and re-imagining the life and lives of Edie Metzger will haunt you in all the best ways. Absolute Away dazzles.”

—Robert Lopez, author of A Better Class of People

“What makes Absolute Away so impressive is Olsen’s ability to dive into two historical moments in a way that renders them palpable and real, and then, having established the possibilities of the mirror of realism, to tap that mirror sharply in a way that spreads cracks throughout its surface, multiplying and complicating the real. A novel of possible and impossible worlds that is above all a compelling, provocative read.”

—Brian Evenson, author of The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell

order :::

shrapnel : contemplations

anti-oedipus press, february 2024

For decades, Lance Olsen has been a wellspring of literary innovation, sophistication, and elan. With more than thirty books to his name, he consistently pushes the limits of narrative and aspires for the New. Shrapnel: Contemplations brings together some of Olsen’s most compelling nonfiction from the twenty-first century. In this collection of essays and interviews, he discusses topics ranging from the philosophy of contemporary writing and the corporatization of the literary scene to entropology, creative disjunction, autrebiography, media culture, and identity politics, with insights into the lives and writings of fellow stylists like Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka, Donald Barthelme, Steve Tomasula, Kathy Acker, and many others. All this is supplemented by reflections on his own craft and worldly experiences. Intuitive, edifying, and earnest, Shrapnel reveals Olsen’s breadth of knowledge while (re)establishing him as one of the few living authors invested in preserving the increasingly lost art of literature.

“Olsen is among the finest writers of social critique and speculative fiction today.”

—American Book Review

“Perhaps no other American author writes as expansively and insightfully as Lance Olsen about what it means to be alive at this place, at this time.”

—Steve Tomasula

“In the world of contemporary fiction, Lance Olsen is a rockstar.”

—The Brooklyn Rail

“Lance Olsen reminds us that defying classification has lasting, imaginative value.”

—Review of Contemporary Fiction

“A fine and daring writer.”

—Publishers Weekly

order :::

Always Crashing in the Same Car

FC2, february 2023

Having kept his cancer diagnosis a secret from almost everyone, David Bowie’s death in 2016 shocked the world. Lance Olsen’s Always Crashing in the Same Car reimagines Bowie’s last months, during which he worked on Black Star, his acclaimed final album. Washing back and forth across Bowie’s kaleidoscopically costumed life, Olsen’s portrait of the artist as a dying man enacts a poetics of impermanence, of art, of love, of truth, even of death.

At its core beat questions about how we read others, how we are read by them, how (if at all) we can tell the past with something even close to accuracy, what it feels like being the opposite of young and still committed to bracing, volatile innovation.

An intricate collage-novel fusing and confusing fact and imagination, Always Crashing in the Same Car is a prismatic exploration of David Bowie through multiple voices and perspectives—the protean musician himself, an academic trying to compose a critical monograph about him, friends, lovers, musicologists, and others in Bowie’s orbit.

Always Crashing in the Same Car presents a phantasmagorical mosaic of facts and fantasies concerning the life and art of David Bowie, for whom the mask always melted into the face and vice versa. A meditation on memory, loss, and love; on the projection of a writer’s self through their chosen idols; on the artist’s attempt to orchestrate the manner of a life’s conclusion. All this, Lance Olsen delivers, and more.”

—Jonathan Lethem, author of The Fortress of Solitude

“Already the author of among the most distinguished bodies of work in contemporary American letters, one that includes marvels like Girl Imagined by Chance, Dreamlives of Debris and My Red Heaven, Lance Olsen outdoes himself with Always Crashing in the Same Car. As he takes us on a moving, multi-nodal journey through the stunning kaleidoscope that was David Bowie’s life, Olsen offers up a generous vision of the indispensable role of art, love and friendship as — with old mortality in the offing — we prosecute the wonders of our days and the challenges of our nights.”

—Laird Hunt, author of The Impossibly

“Lance Olsen concocts a world in which the concoction of self is spectacularly illegible and gorgeously weird. Biography, lit crit, metafiction, history: everything and nothing belongs. Time is confetti and here comes the wind. Love and fatherhood, fortune and fame. Augury, memory, dream. Nothing’s sortable. This book blew my mind—it’s all questions, super-charged and divine.”

—Noy Holland, author of I Was Trying to Describe What It Feels Like

“Bewildered and bereft, adrift in the ever-grief of his wife’s death, scholar Alec Nolens seeks comfort by immersing himself in the sea of words surrounding David Bowie, a project he imagines as a ‘love song,’ not so much to Bowie, ‘as to the lacunae around the thought of him.’ Lance Olsen’s visionary novel is the apotheosis of such a project. Always Crashing in the Same Car offers a kaleidoscope of Davids tenderly dissolving into Davy Jones, a desperately-human human being awakened to the expansive possibilities of consciousness by the news of his own impending departure, an un-Bowied genius composing his own rapturous elegy to this transient interlude we call a life.”

—Melanie Rae Thon, author of As If Fire Could Hide Us

“In Always Crashing in the Same Car, David Bowie woos Iman with tales of the Museum of Jurassic Technology, that wonder-cabinet of the lurid imaginary. So, too, Lance Olsen’s novel, which presents Bowie as Citizen Kane, as the Dylan of I’m Not There, as that lyric which won’t parse, that image which becomes iconic but can’t simply communicate. Olsen ellipsizes a greedy-yet-giving Bowie, reader as much as rocker, neither celebrated nor reviled—Davy, determined to never be Mr. Jones.”

—Eric Weisbard, author of Songbooks: The Literature of American Popular Music

“Precise, intensely readable dissections of a life imagined, its trail of clues strewn through evidence that unsettles the idea that any person can ever be known or understood, let alone one whose life was a capacious library of fictions.”

—David Toop, author of Rap Attack and Ocean of Sound, member of The Flying Lizards

reviews :::

3 a.m. magazine
call me brackets

interviews :::

heavy feather review
largehearted boy playlist

order :::

Skin Elegies

dzanc, 2021

Skin Elegies uses the metaphor of mind-upload technologies to explore questions about the relationship of the cellular brain to the bytes-entity to which it gives rise; memory and our connection to the idea of pastness; refugeeism (geographical, somatic, temporal, aesthetic); and where the human might end and something else begin.

At the center stands an American couple who have fled their increasingly repressive country, now under the authoritarian rule of the Reformation Government, by transferring to a quantum computer housed in North Africa. The novel’s structure mimics a constellation of firing neurons―a sparking collage of many tiny narraticules flickering through the brain of one of the refugees as it is digitized. Those narraticules comprise nine larger stories over the course of the novel: the Fukushima disaster; the day the Internet was turned on; the final hours of the Battle of Berlin; John Lennon’s murder; an assisted suicide in Switzerland; the Columbine massacre; a woman killed by a domestic abuser; a Syrian boy making his way to Berlin; and the Challenger disaster.

An innovative, speculative, literary novel in the key of Margaret Atwood, Stanislaw Lem, and J.G. Ballard.

“I can’t help but adore Olsen’s willingness to rescue text from the screen and set it free on the page.”

―Mark Z. Danielewski, author of House of Leaves

“To read Skin Elegies is to ping between verbal asterisms generated by de-selving selves, to become, in the process, de-selved yourself. What is a mind without the brain to house it? Lance Olsen has written an historiographic neuronovel of residues and traces, static and sparks. Skin Elegies is a love poem from the future and a countdown to the past. It’s a new structure for thinking being, now.”

―Joanna Ruocco, author of The Whitmire Case

Skin Elegies is the novel that the twenty-first century has been waiting for. Brilliantly conceived and impossible to sum up because it radiates in so many directions, it poignantly articulates the always-ever-present of the Now, relating experiences as disparate in time and space as John Lennon’s murder, the plastic smell inside an astronaut’s helmet, the consciousness of mountains. With the lyricism of poetry, its clouds of association conjure a theater of memory so profound and interconnected that we feel in our guts how the past, indeed, isn’t really past. Which is another way of saying, the future is already here; it just isn’t finished.”

―Steve Tomasula, author of VAS: An Opera in Flatland

“Lance Olsen’s newest work is an amazing literary experiment.”

―Stacey Levine, author of The Girl with Brown Fur

Skin Elegies is an enormously subtle and complex feat of the imagination, blending historical and contemporary artifacts and memories within a much larger and vaguely conspiratorial context fitting for some its late sixties setting. Shades of Pynchon and DeLillo and all Lance Olsen in this important new book.”

―Joseph Salvatore, author of To Assume a Pleasing Shape

“Not since the revolutionary novels of Rudy Wurlitzer in the 1960s and 1970s have I encountered such a stunningly ambitious and astonishing narrative bricolage as Lance Olsen’s Skin Elegies. This meaty metanovel takes an esthetically and judiciously selected handful of our most vital history from 1945 to a prescient 2072, atomizes and digitizes it, then hits the SHUFFLE button before replaying the events through a set of hallucinogenic filters that Instagram would kill for. The effect is like riding a rollercoaster through a set of stargates, looping in an out of a multiverse composed of unforgettable characters and scintillant prose-poems. As fresh as the unfolding new decade, yet as eternal as the oneiric oracles of Tiresias, this book rebuilds our shared past and channels our mutual futures.”

—Paul Di Filippo, author of Ribofunk, Cosmocopia, The Mezcal Crack-up, and others

“In Skin Elegies, Lance Olsen takes the notion of the ghost in the machine to its superlative. Grappling with the human limits of and capacities for violence, grief, tragedy, and tenderness, Skin Elegies asks us to contemplate how the self is constructed and managed in and beyond the twenty-first century. A novel of kaleidoscopic horror―and Olsen at his most haunting.”

―Lindsey Drager, author of The Archive of Alternative Endings

“Reading Skin Elegies feels like watching your mind explode, translating and transfiguring its limitless possibilities into a brilliant galaxy all around and piercingly inside you. Memories spark and intensify, each flare fueled by compassion, invention, despair, horror. We are not ourselves, alone. Lance Olsen’s spectacularly innovative novel is a song of exaltation for the limitlessness of our minds―and a lament for limits of our bodies.”

―Melanie Rae Thon, author of The Voice of the River and The 7th Man

“The curiously soulful mosaic of Skin Elegies‘s stories of connections missed, broken, catastrophic, and impossible is a reminder that, for all that has been and will be made of Lance Olsen’s architectonic innovations, his novels are never other than deeply humane and inspirited, not to mention pure pleasure for the adventurous reader. Skin Elegies is horrific, elegiac, far-seeing, and brilliant.”

―Gabriel Blackwell, author of CORRECTION and Babel

“Lance Olsen’s literary experiments are a constant source of wonder. He has the rare ability to reinvent not only himself but the text on the page. His innovative, interrogative prose feels uniquely suited for the crisis of our time. Held together as much by the couple in the supercomputer and the nine other narrators as by the reader herself, Olsen boldly challenges us to recognize that our ability to create meaning in the present might just be what saves us.”

―Jarret Middleton, author of Darkansas

“Visions erupt throughout this magnificent text, a 21st-century metamorphoses, an Ovid come back to restore us to awe. The comparison might make other writers quail, but not Lance Olsen, the American most of the moment and farthest off the chain. Here he often works with figures from history, like the Challenger astronauts and the victims at Columbine, but even those who never made the headlines make bold and bruising new shapes of their stories. Skin Elegies shreds.”

―John Domini, author of The Color Inside a Melon

film :::

skin elegies trailer

reviews :::

foreword reviews (starred)
kirkus reviews (starred)
publishers weekly (starred)

interviews :::

colorado review
largehearted boy playlist

order :::

My Red Heaven

dzanc, 2020

Set on a single day in 1927, My Red Heaven imagines a host of characters––some historic, some invented––crossing paths on the streets of Berlin.

The subjects include Robert Musil, Otto Dix, Werner Heisenberg, Anita Berber, Vladimir Nabokov, Käthe Kollwitz, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Rosa Luxemburg––as well as others history has forgotten: a sommelier, a murderer, a prostitute, a pick-pocket, and several ghosts.

Drawing inspiration from Otto Freundlich’s painting by the same name, My Red Heaven explores a complex moment in history: the rise of deadly populism at a time when everything seemed possible and the future unimaginable.

“Rarely is genuine innovation this heartfelt. Through erudition and capacious prose, Olsen achieves a kind of cultural autopsy of an inflamed space and time. The result is a privileged view of naked humanity, consoled by art, science, and the rest, but ultimately unable to escape its baseness. A powerful work.

Sergio de la Pava, author of Lost Empress and Personae

“Lance Olsen’s My Red Heaven is a superb evocation of a specific time and place — Berlin, 10 June 1927 — that captures the intellectual ferment, the descent into decadence, and rise of Nazism during the Weimar Republic. With historically precise detailing and grimly gorgeous imagery, Olsen portrays a number of notable people traversing the day, conveyed from a variety of points-of-view — even a dog’s — and in a variety of 1920s forms: Joycean interior monologue, Dos Passosian newsreel, UFA film script, Benjaminian notes, and more. My Red Heaven is an intellectual and stylistic tour de force from one of America’s most consistently innovative writers.”

Steven Moore, author of The Novel, An Alternative History

“Lance Olsen locates his porous, alluring, heartbreaking, and haunted narrative in Berlin on a day in 1927. Poised at a moment of such hope and doom, it is a ravishing meditation on history, on time, and on what is it to be alive.”

Carole Maso, author of Ava and Mother and Child

“Sparked by the exuberant energy of his own multivalent perception, ignited by the brilliance of his wildly playful imagination and unfathomably expansive compassion, Lance Olsen has translated My Red Heaven, Otto Freundlich’s abstract cubist painting, into a novel full of dissonant shocks and thrilling confusions, a library of loss revealing the perilous ecstasies of life in Berlin between the wars. Layer by layer, he unpeels a palimpsest of paint, turning his fiercely attentive, unbounded love to every being in every moment, exposing infinite unknown dimensions, delivering us to exhilaration and terror as we watch the future and the past irradiate our present moment.”

Melanie Rae Thon, author of The Voice of the River, Silence & Song

“In this 24-hour novel, Olsen explores new subjectivities and new histories both after and before the moments directly written about. It’s fascinating and wonderfully readable. Kafka, Nabokov, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe all make their appearances…and strange lists of newsworthy events cascade down before us now and again. It’s a fitting follow-up to Calendar of Regrets and beautifully written.”

Samuel R. Delany, author of Dhalgren and Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders

film :::

my red heaven

reviews :::

the arts fuse
heavy feather review
the wall street journal

interviews :::

the collidescope
brooklyn rail
the big other
largehearted boy playlist

order :::

Dreamlives of Debris

dzanc, 2017

The Minotaur in this retelling of the myth is not a monster with a man’s head & bull’s body, but a little deformed girl—she calls herself Debris—hidden away from public view beneath Knossos. A kind of living instrument through which sound & time travel, Debris possesses the ability to hear the thoughts & see the memories, desires, & futures of others throughout history as she roams her labyrinth without center or perimeter.

Dreamlives of Debris is a stunning song cycle on the pixelation of memory in a hyperdigitalized universe, opening out into an extraordinarily beautiful and powerful meditation on nothing less than the erasure of time itself.”

David Shields, author of Reality Hunger

“Lance Olsen opens up an astonishing world of thought and emotion—a place distant but familiar that hangs almost out of the reach of our daily perception…. A beautiful and moving reading experience, Dreamlives of Debris is a unique and impressive achievement.”

Carole Maso, author of Mother & Child

“Breaking boundaries of horror, science fiction, nonfiction, love story, and myth, this rare and brilliant novel reinvents the female ‘monster’ in the form of a disfigured girl. Subverting the hero’s journey, Debris goes on a quest to find her self within an impossible labyrinth where architecture mirrors the disfigured female body, imprisoning and revealing a girl monster who stands between humanity and the darkness. In this world where what seems to be monstrous is more human than human, the stories most difficult to tell are the ones we most need to be told.”

Aimee Parkison, author of Refrigerated Music for a Gleaming Woman

“In a rapturous fusion of myth, premonition, philosophy, and human history, Dreamlives of Debris delivers us to the pure poetry of perception. I fell in love with Debris. Monstrous in form, radiant in spirit, she hears everyone: Sappho, Sophocles, Borges, Plato, a traveler on the Silk Road, Danielle Steele. Those who dare to listen this way will be transfigured, scattered through time and space, bewildered, ecstatically alive, forever lost in a vast labyrinth of infinite possibilities.”

Melanie Rae Thon, author of Voice of the River

reviews :::

fiction advocate
publishers weekly

interviews :::

largehearted boy playlist
literary ashland

order :::

There's No Place Like Time

&Now Books, 2016

There’s No Place Like Time is a catalogue for an actual traveling multimodal retrospective (so far shown in Germany, France, & around the U.S.) dedicated to the career of a video artist, Alana Olsen, who never existed, & curated by her equally non-existent daughter, Aila.

There’s No Place Like Time is a strange beast: a critifictional catalogue for a real retrospective of experimental films by a videographer who never existed. It forms one room in a novel you can walk through.

Author Lance Olsen and videographer Andi Olsen are staging the faux retrospective in galleries in Europe and the U.S. Enter those spaces and you enter a three-dimensional text: a real place dedicated to the unreal career of Alana Olsen, one of America’s most overlooked artists.

From Alana’s videos and the language surrounding them (including this catalogue), one is invited to infer her character, development, obsessions, and relationship with her equally fictive daughter, Aila, who curates the exhibit.

A collection of allegedly critical and biographical essays, stills, and reminiscences about Alana’s emotionally powerful body of work produced in relative anonymity,

There’s No Place Like Time remembers an oeuvre of fewer than twenty videos (some of which have already gone missing) that span roughly five decades and have, despite the paucity of their numbers, influenced artists as varied as Lars von Trier, Douglas Gordon, and Martin Arnold.

In one sense, then, There’s No Place Like Time is part of a larger conceptual work investigating the problematics of identity construction and historical knowledge. In another, it is an exploration of the question: What does an aesthetics of obscurity look like?

interviews :::

brooklyn rail

gallery website :::

zweifel & zweifel

order :::
northwestern u.p

[[ there. ]]

anti-oedipus press, 2014

Part trash diary about his 5-month stay in Berlin & part crifictional meditation on the confluence of travel, curiosity, paying attention, & innovative writing practices, [[ there. ]] is a wide-ranging collage comprised of observations, recollections, quotations, & theoretical reflections.

Part trash diary about his 5-month stay in Berlin & part crifictional meditation on the confluence of travel, curiosity, paying attention, & innovative writing practices, [[ there. ]] is a wide-ranging collage comprised of observations, recollections, quotations, & theoretical reflections.

Written during Olsen’s five-month stay at the American Academy in Berlin as the Mary Ellen von van der Heyden Fellow, [[ there. ]] is part critifictional meditation and part trash diary exploring what happens at the confluence of curiosity, travel, and innovative writing practices. A collage of observations, facts, quotations, recollections, and theoretical reflections, it touches on a wide range of authors, genres, and places, from Beckett and Ben Marcus to David Bowie and Wayne Koestenbaum, film and architecture to avant-garde music and hypermedia, the Venezuelan jungle and Bhutanese mountains to New Jersey mall culture and the restlessness known as Berlin. [[ there. ]] is an always-already bracketed performance about how, by inhabiting unstable spaces, we continually unlearn and therefore relearn what thought, experience, and imagination feel like.

reviews :::

the big other
salt lake underground

press release :::

anti-oedipus press

order :::

How to Unfeel The Dead

Teksteditions, 2014

25 years, 21 fictions: how to unfeel the dead is an amalgam of styles, voices, forms, & approaches to being in the world that have appeared in best american non-required reading, bomb, conjunctions, denver quarterly, gulf coast, iowa review, & many other nationally renowned journals & anthologies.

praise for lance olsen’s fiction

“Olsen is a master of an evocative, expressive prose.”

Publisher’s Weekly

“In the world of contemporary fiction, Lance Olsen is a rock star.”

Brooklyn Rail

“Filled with humor, dazzle, and a reality that realism seldom achieves.”

Iowa Review

“Lance Olsen is a writer whose technical ingenuity is matched only by his fertility of invention and compassion for his characters.”


order :::

Theories Of Forgetting

fc2, 2014

The story of a filmmaker struggling to complete a documentary about Robert Smithson’s earthwork, The Spiral Jetty. The story of her husband & his slow disappearance in Jordan. The story in the marginalia added to his section by his daughter. All housed in a spiral structure & ultimately about the impossibility of remembering, the impossibility of forgetting.

Theories of Forgetting is a narrative composed of three parts. The first involves the story of Alana, a filmmaker struggling to complete a short experimental documentary about Robert Smithson’s famous earthwork, The Spiral Jetty, in the wake of having fallen victim to a pandemic called The Frost. The second involves the story of her husband, Hugh, owner of a bookstore in Salt Lake City, and his slow disappearance in Jordan while on a trip there both to remember and to forget. His vanishing may well be linked to the Sleeping Beauties, a rising global religious cult that worships barbiturates. The third involves the marginalia added to Hugh’s section by his daughter, Aila, an art critic living in Berlin. Aila discovers a manuscript by her father after his disappearance and tries to make sense of it by means of a one-sided “dialogue” with her estranged brother, Lance.

“If you really want to know what great writing in the 21st century is all about . . . start here.”

San Francisco Book Review

Theories of Forgetting offers us multiple moments of skilled, gifted, and inspired narration.”

Word Riot

“Lance Olsen is the literary astronaut we dreamt of being when we were children.”

Salt Lake Underground

“Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting is a remarkably fugue-like ode to the intricacies of memory. Offering two intersecting stories about illness, loss and forgetting, with annotations, this is an extremely smart and moving book about how our lives wind snail-like around one another as they risk flindering away into absence or death.”

Brian Evenson

film :::

a. olsen’s film from the novel

reviews :::

15 bytes
the small press book review
heavy feather review

interviews :::

brooklyn rail
largehearted boy playlist

order :::

Architectures of Possibility: After Innovative Writing

Guide Dog Books, 2012

architectures of possibilities: after innovative writing is an anti-textbook that in part theorizes & questions the often unconscious assumptions behind such conventional writing gestures as stable character & normative structure.

In part it offers supplemental reading lists & exercises for generating writing that resists, rethinks, and/or expands our notions of narrativity.

And in part (thanks to collaborator Trevor Dodge) it provides more than 40 interviews about the problematics of innovation with such authors, editors, & publishers as Robert Coover, Lydia Davis, Brian Evenson, Ben Marcus, Carole Maso, & Lidia Yuknavitch.

order :::

Calendar Of Regrets

fc2, 2010

Calendar of Regrets. 12 intersecting stories. 12 historical moments. 12 styles. 12 genres. A narrative about narrativity, about how we tell ourselves & our world again and again in an attempt to make sense of it, & fail every time.

“Perhaps no other American author writes as expansively and insightfully as Lance Olsen about what it means to be alive at this place, at this time. The power of Calendar of Regrets comes from the ease with which it convinces its readers that the most astonishing thing about life is that we are here at all: the surreal visions of Hieronymus Bosch are no more vivid than the religious minds of suicide bombers; a tourist’s experience of an exotic country; or the moment when a teacher realizes that her students will never change. Page after page, Olsen places us in the position of those first travelers in hot-air balloons whose shift in perspective allowed them to see the world they lived within as though for the first time. The long view provided by the many private metamorphoses in this novel comprise a portrait of posthumanity where forms endure, and each of us is a time traveler through them: a tour de force of elegance, thought, and transcendence.”

Steve Tomasula

“Olsen pulls it off and in consistently stunning ways.”

Review of Contemporary Fiction

“I’m completely sold.”


Calendar of Regrets ultimately reminds us of the ways that art and narrative doggedly navigate that thin line between the drive for order and the deep-seated realization that the universe that greets us each morning has only increased its entropy.”

Rain Taxi

“A novel of echoes, reflections (sometimes inverted), and criss-crossing lines, Lance Olsen’s Calendar of Regrets locates nodes of intersection, spotlights the forgotten, and magnifies the unnoticed.”

The Arts Fuse

“A fascinating, complex work.”

Salt Lake City Weekly

Calendar of Regrets is one of those wonderful monsters, the intellectual page-turner.”

Open Letters Monthly

“Lance Olsen misbehaves in all sorts of grave and playful ways. He throws Hieronymus Bosch in the mix with Agamemnon; God in the mix with the devil. Here are postcards, podcasts, and fairy tales; terrorism and angels; aphasia and aneurysym; bludgeonings and vacuous friendships. Calendar of Regrets is a spectacular synthesis, a wild ride through a free mind.”

Noy Holland

film :::

calendar of regrets

reviews :::

the arts fuse

ebook version :::


order :::

Head In Flames

chiasmus, 2009

Head in Flames is a collage novel exploring two intersecting narratives about the nature of art: Vincent van Gogh’s suicide in Auvers in 1890 & filmmaker Theo’s murder in Amsterdam in 2004 at the hands of Mohammed Bouyeri.

Head in Flames composed of chips of sensation, observation, memory, & quotation shaped into a series of narraticules told by three alternating voices, each inhabiting a different font & aesthetic/political/existential space.

The first belongs to Vincent van Gogh on the day he shot himself in Auvers-sur-Oise in July 1890. The second to Theo van Gogh (Vincent’s brother’s great grandson) on the day he was assassinated in Amsterdam in November 2004. The third to Mohammed Bouyeri, Theo’s murderer, outraged by the filmmaker’s collaboration with controversial politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali on a 10-minute experimental short critiquing Muslim subjugation & abuse of women.

The aggregate: an exploration of art’s purpose, religion’s increasingly dominant role as engine of politics & passion, the complexities of foreignness & assimilation, & the limits of tolerance.

Head in Flames has set a new standard for the social consciousness of postmodern narrative.”

Rain Taxi

“Lance Olsen has written an important book. Important because it manages to succeed where most innovative literature fails: it plays while being deadly serious. The structure is a tour de force of formal innovation calling to mind Pinget’s That Voice, Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo, and Cortázar’s Hopscotch.”

Review of Contemporary Fiction

“Recalling the radically condensed novels of David Markson, the fragmented storytelling of Alain Robbe-Grillet, and the high-velocity jump cuts of an action movie—or maybe an MTV music video—Head in Flames is the rare novel that satisfies equally as an exploration of personality, character, novelistic form, and narrative potential.”

The Quarterly Conversation

“Striking, shocking….In the world of contemporary fiction, Lance Olsen is a rock star.”

Brooklyn Rail

“The great power of the book . . . comes from its unflinching confrontation with painful salients in the conflict of civilizations commonly called the clash of Islam and the West.”


“A fine collage novel.”

Experimental Fiction / Poetry

film :::

part one
part two

reviews :::

brooklyn rail
experimental fiction & poetry
travel through stories (video)

order :::

Anxious Pleasures

shoemaker & hoard, 2007

“Olsen “outkafkas Kafka. . . . [Anxious Pleasures] calls for and urges upon us a questioning, a re-reading, a renewed reflecting again and again. Then, gradually, it opens its riches.”

Walter H. Sokel, Hyperion: On the Future of Aesthetics

“In Anxious Pleasures, a graceful, haunting work, Lance Olsen reminds us that defying classification has lasting, imaginative value.”

Review of Contemporary Fiction

“What Olsen is magnificently able to do in this book is take all the timelines (present and past), and points of view, and fashion them in such a way that we get a theater of the absurd that is at once timely, comic, tragic, randomly hysterical, Priapusly (sic) pungent, dreamy and sweet, insightful and intellectually satisfying—all of it in finely modulated prose that shifts effortlessly from one inventive style to the next as each character comes on stage and speaks herself/himself alive….Olsen is a writer’s writer.”


Anxious Pleasures is a multi-faceted jewel.”

American Book Review

“Lance Olsen’s new novel Anxious Pleasures does for The Metamorphosis what Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead did for Hamlet: furnishes a familiar story with fresh dimensionality in order to creatively re-explore it .… Anxious Pleasures achieves a thrillingly stereophonic effect .… Daring and literarily subversive.”

Willamette Week

“An eminently ambiguous text in the spirit of The Metamorphosis—one that, to paraphrase Olsen describing Kafka, becomes less clear the closer one looks. . . . A challenging, meticulous novel.”

Rain Taxi

“What a wonderfully and intellectually satisfying novel this is! Jeweled with gorgeous prose, rich in the copper and mahogany tints of the world before the Great War, when what, today, can seem to be little tragedies were preparing us for the overwhelming ones of the past century, Olsen’s fictive meditations on a varied cast’s watching a self devolve exploits with daring and great invention the critical notion that Kafka’s writing is entirely about the history—the ‘natural’ disasters—that would follow him.”

Samuel R. Delany

“Following Nietzsche’s Kisses (2006), Olsen treats another great modernist to postmodernist investigation, this time retelling Kafka’s Metamorphosis from the supporting cast’s points-of-view. Olsen hews closely to the original, and his additions, excursions and elaborations are simultaneously stimulating and entertaining. . . . Intricately woven and richly imagined, Olsen’s novel is a cerebral treat unto itself and a fine companion to Kafka’s original.”

Publishers Weekly

“Engrossing . . . . Lance Olsen continues to write lyrically, joyfully.”

Notre Dame Review

“This is the book Lance Olsen was placed on the planet to write. These are the themes—the vertiginous otherness of others (including oneself), the terror of everyday life (how German is it?), reading as creation, the necessary uselessness of art—Olsen has been exploring with increasing power for nearly thirty years. Here, in Anxious Pleasures, he has compressed his leitmotifs into an extraordinarily beautiful, dense, complex, and moving novel.”

David Shields

“Very clever postmodern gamesmanship. . . . In analyzing, extending, glossing and interpreting [Kafka’s] important novella, Olsen seems to create a metamorphosis of his own.”

Globe & Mail

“Olsen, who demonstrated his brilliance in probing the heights and depths of human consciousness in Nietzsche’s Kisses, here manages to go even deeper. . . . [He] makes Metamorphosis even more unsettling, absurd, and darkly humorous than ever. Highly recommended.”

Library Journal

“Combining his dexterity for cutting-edge experimentation and love classic literature, Olsen takes on Franz Kafka’s surreal novella The Metamorphosis and ingeniously adapts the story line to multiple perspectives.”


reviews :::

publishers weekly
willamette week

order :::

Nietzsche's Kisses

fc2, 2006

Nietzsche’s Kisses is a brilliant achievement, a seamless, precise, marvelously affecting novel that must be read by everyone who appreciates the best of today’s fiction.”

American Book Review

“Olsen … depicts this fallen übermensch with inventiveness and stark-raving prose.”

Time Out New York

Nietzsche’s Kisses is a brilliant book and a book of brilliances, one which follows the logic of the disintegration of a great mind with poetic grace, profound comedy, and a sense of tragic inevitability. With this novel Lance Olsen moves well beyond mere experimentalism to occupy a ground worthy of the magisterial and manic figure of Nietzsche himself. This is a deeply moving, compelling, intelligent, and utterly human account of the power of mind and the glory of post-history’s first and most vulnerable superman.”

Michael Joyce

“This is a complex work—invigorating and exhauting at the same time. I was dazzled by it.”

The Olympian

“Lance Olsen’s Nietzsche’s Kisses has a Dionysian soul that the great philosopher would have loved. More importantly, Olsen, and the novel, understand what Nietzsche meant about the scary business of looking into the abyss.”

Percival Everett

“A fine and daring writer.”

Publishers Weekly

“A riveting, witty, and empathetic exploration of a fascinating mind, and beautifully written.”

Kelly Cherry

“This Philip K. Dick Award nominee continues Olsen’s, and Dick’s, tradition of exploring human consciousness, sometimes in delightful and surprising ways.”

Library Journal

“Kisses, tears, and laughter. Pride, embarrassment, and humiliation. Lance Olsen’s beautiful novel gives us both the “human, all too human” side of Nietzsche, and the dream of lightness and grace that was central to his philosophy, but that is too often forgotten or ignored by his disciples.”

Steven Shaviro

reviews :::

electronic book review
publishers weekly

interviews :::

nietzsche circle

order :::


chiasmus, 2005

What goes through the heads of a few dozen people, one cat, one mouse, & several ghosts one winter midafternoon in a movie theater in the Mall of America ten minutes and one second before the feature begins.

“Lance Olsen is a writer whose technical ingenuity is matched only by his fertility of invention and compassion for his characters. His novel 10:01 illustrates all these qualities beautifully.”

Paul Di Filippo, Asimov’s

“Walter Benjamin envisioned the underground Paris Arcades as the quintessential 19th century industrial dream space. In 10:01 Lance Olsen provides us with the Millennial version: the Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minnesota, “large enough to contain seven Yankee Stadiums.” Each page headlines a different character or set of characters randomly flung together in a movie theater there in mid-afternoon. They interface (often freakishly) with each other; with the Mall’s blandishments; with the images on the screen; with their own fantasies. At the climax the theater and its inhabitants suddenly implode, perhaps out of the ultimate logic of late industrial capitalism. Or they don’t implode but are sucked irresistibly into the black hole of American make-believe. Olsen has written a cunningly original docufiction of the American psyche post-9/11 and perennial.”

Hal Jaffe

“You’re sitting in a darkened theater, waiting for the movie to begin when American culture explodes all around in I-Max, Surround-Sound, Technicolor—this is the experience of reading Lance Olsen’s brilliant 10:01, a novel in frames that unreels the random thoughts of a random movie audience: a screening of our own moment that Olsen lights with the white heat of a projector beam.”

Steve Tomasula

“All America comes to the Mall of America to settle in (or not) to one of its fourth floor theaters: to fantasize, to make their own films, to hide out, make out, freak out, speak out (to themselves, their cell phones, each other, their absent partners, to the world at large) in the voices of all America. In 10:01 these are the lost and lonely of Nathanael West’s Hollywood in The Day of the Locust, crammed together in one small, dark place where “everyone is working off a script he doesn’t have access to”; where, as in the movies, “life flies at us in bright splinters” and “reality feels so inadequate simply because you can’t look at it through a frame like you can a movie.” So caught up are these characters in the bizarre, fragmented, apocalyptic film of their own lives that they never get to the main feature, which is, of course, Lance Olsen’s fine, penetrating novel.”

Alvin Greenberg

hypertext version :::


reviews :::

rain taxi

order :::

Hideous Beauties

Eraserhead Press, 2003

Hideous Beauties is a collection of a dozen fictions exploring the nexus where image and language kiss.

Each of ten pieces in it is based on a photograph, painting, sketch, collage, or assemblage by an artist of the strange: Hans Bellmer, Ed Kienholz, Joel-Peter Witkin, Andy Warhol, Max Ernst, Dorthea Lange, Leonardo da Vinci, John William Waterhouse, Hugo Simberg, Paul Delvaux.

In the universe called Hideous Beauties, death is a village of mermaids, millennial sex a radical form of digestion, and suburbia a hunchbacked dwarf at your door who just won’t go away.

“Imaginative … intelligent … thought-provoking.”

American Book Review

“Olsen’s writing is always sharp and vibrant.”

Rain Taxi

order :::

Girl Imagined By Chance

fc2, 2002

A critifiction about a couple who in an unguarded moment create a make-believe daughter (and a make-believe life to accompany her) in order to appease their friends, family, and the culture of reproduction.

“Smart and moving and elegant.”

Shelley Jackson

“Lance olsen has composed a spare parable of representation and self, the loss of the real and the reality of loss. Girl Imagined by Chance is smart and moving and elegant, its seemingly offhand scenes as effortlessly poignant as a handful of old snapshots.”

Shelley Jackson

“Trapped between reproductions and reality and partaking of the consolations and terrors of both, the central couple of Girl Imagined by Chance makes a snap decision that ends up establishing a second, private, unreal life for them. but, Olsen suggests, there is no clean distinction between life and imagination—some of one’s most satisfying moments are those which are the least real to others. A marvelous book that quietly says more about reality and imagination than the much flashier hyperbooks currently in vogue.”

Brian Evenson

“Like the images scattered throughout its pages, Lance Olsen’s extraordinary Girl Imagined by Chance is composed of a cunning series of multi-tonal cubist squares, rectangles, triangles, and quadrangles, shot through with bright white vertical and horizontal thrusts. Olsen’s novel—for which David Markson, Roland Barthes, and Mary Shelley might stand as precursors—is both a treatise on sight and the haunting vagaries of perception and a moving tale of the loss of a girl who has never quite been.”

Laird Hunt

reviews :::

3 a.m. magazine
rain taxi

order :::

sewing shut my eyes

fc2, 2000

Sewing Shut My Eyes is an avant-pop concept album in prose—nine cuts, nine darkly satiric, deeply conflicted takes on how our socity has become all about watching.

How one day we woke up, looked in the mirror, and saw these two television screens staring back at us.

500 channels, and everything is on: sex, dwarfs, plane crashes, alien invasions, cyborgs, supermodels, side shows, dead poets, conjoined twins, cockroach conspiracies, the gender-blended, the genre-blasted . . . and, of course, always Mr. Blue-Eyed Death.

The only thing left to do is start sewing shut our eyes.

“Edgy, angular, these intricate narrative-pictorials fizz in that most anxiety-saturated space for high art, where the word and image meet easily and breezily on the bubbling rim of genre.”

Samuel R. Delany

“An exhilarating, high octane performance . . . consistently inventive–at once frenzied and furious and tender.”

Carole Maso

“An extremely subtle, complex, and rigorous investigation into a set of related themes hovering around TV and death. Sewing Shut My Eyes is constantly exploring, with great rigor, wit, brilliance, and invention, how this folding screen actually folds. Andi Olsen’s visuals . . . take the coverlet off and assault the reader with the dream nation’s reptile brain.”

David Shields

order :::


wordcraft of oregon, 2000

“A treat for anyone interested in the place of the human will in a society that seeks at every turn to remove and commodify our memories and selves, turning us all into isolated units locked inside a building, dreaming dreams that were, and never will be, truly ours.”

American Book Review

order :::


Wordcraft of Oregon, 1996

“A wonderfully funny, definitely unusual SF novel. . . . Witty prose, outrageous situations, a healthy sense of the absurd and genuinely entertaining writing prevail in this unique look into one of the less obvious side alleys of speculative fiction.”

Don D’Ammassa, Science Fiction Chronicle

“A funny cautionary tale.”

Publishers Weekly

animation :::


order :::

Time Famine

permeable, 1996

“Relentless, savage, hysterically funny. . . . With his amped-up language and massive powers of invention, Olsen succeeds in tattooing his future on your hide.”

Paul Di Filippo, Asimov’s

“One of the best of 1996.”

Science Fiction Chronicle

order :::

Surfing Tomorrow

potpourri, 1995, editor

Essays on the future of American fiction by Mark Amerika, Ron Carlson, Omar Castaneda, Fred Chappell, Kelly Cherry, Tracy Daugherty, Janice Eidus, Raymond Federman, George Garrett, Frederick R. Karl, Thomas E. Kennedy, Brooks Landon, Larry McCaffery, Steven Moore, Robert A. Morace, Marjorie Perloff, Eric Rabkin, Lewis Shiner, Ronald Sukenick, Curtis White, Alan Wilde, Robley Wilson.

Lolita: A Janus Text

twayne, 1995

“[Olsen] quickly and clearly creates historical and theoretical frames and then uses them to support analyses of the novel, adding detail to detail and connection to connection until the intellectual ante is raised.”

Robert L. McLaughlin, Review of Contemporary Fiction

order :::

In Memoriam to Postmodernism

sdsu press, 1995, co-editor

Essays on the Avant-Pop by Larry McCaffery, Ronald Sukenick, Eurudice, Takayuki Tatsumi, Curtis White, Brooks Landon, Martin Schecter, Steven Shaviro, David Blair, Michael Joyce, Harry Polkinhorn, Raymond Federman, Harold Jaffe, Don Webb.

order :::

Scherzi, I Believe

wordcraft of oregon, 1994

“Reminiscent of the British New Wave Movement at its best.”

Science Fiction Chronicle

“In Scherzi, I Believe, we get the full range of Olsen’s craft and decidedly unsullen art, a kind of Whitman sampler of fictions, each selection different, but all filled with humor, dazzle, and a reality that realism seldom achieves. . . . Here is a collection to water a parched place with laughter, delight, and that rarest of commodities as we approach the third millennium: intelligence.”

Thomas Kennedy, Iowa Review

Scherzi, I Believe . . . is a series of five-finger exercises, fables, urban legends, prose poems, anecdotes/aphorisms, experimental pieces and exercises in magical realism, many of which are set in a kind of quiet suburban hell filled with scenes of manic domesticity, stories which often revolve around invasions of the fantastic, the bizarre, into the everyday.”

Richard Calder, Science Fiction Eye

order :::

Tonguing The Zeitgeist

permeable, 1994

finalist for philip k. dick award

“Brilliant black comedy.”


“The ultimate rock’n’roll novel.”

Brian Stableford, Interzone

order :::

William Gibson

starmont house, 1992 & wildside books, 2012

“Olsen is one of the liveliest critics writing today . . . . [William Gibson] is a revealing and rewarding study. . . . an essential book for everyone interested in the movement which revolutionized science fiction over the last decade.”

Paul Kinkaid, Vector

order :::

Live From Earth

available/ballantine, 1991

“This story is an outstanding portrait of human interaction on an emotional and visceral level. It is often absurd, sometimes disturbing, and wholly engrossing . . . . [An] excellent piece of contemporary fiction.”



Lexington Herald-Leader

order :::

Circus of the Mind in Motion

wayne state, 1990

Circus of the Mind in Motion is an elegant and informed analysis of postmodern fiction and the forms that are shaping its comic vision within the labyrinths of language and experience.”

Ben Stolzfus, International Review of Fiction

order :::

Ellipse of Uncertainty

greenwood, 1987

“The greatest strengths of Ellipse of Uncertainty are eclecticism and intellectual stimulation. It is rare in these days of the densely argued monograph and the abstruse theoretical tome to be taken on so pleasurable a switchback ride through some of the more (and the less) well-known postmodernist texts. . . . An intellectually invigorating book.”

Richard Toby Widdicombe, Extrapolation

order :::