"Campbell gives her characters the utmost respect...I was reminded of Annie Proulx and Ann Padgett.."
- MG Dietzel, CannonBallRead.com
The title story of a double amputee with eight pairs of legs sounds like something that might be either cloying or moralistic but manages to be neither. Like Raymond Carver, Campbell evokes a stark landscape with descriptions that do just enough to give the reader exactly what they need, no more and no less. “Cañon City … was a small, gossiping, high-security town in Colorado’s high desert … boasting thirteen prisons and fifty churches. … (I)ts ten thousand people … governed themselves as they saw fit and thrived on the stories, true or false, they told themselves.”
"These stories, ambitious in scope, at once gritty and lavishly told, set a clear-eyed beam on their characters, and in prose as careful as it is exact."
- Lauren Alwan, LitStack.com
Esquire magazine recently declared, “When crafted well, short stories are like grenades which quickly explode in front of us,” and indeed, some of the most innovative and engaging fiction appears in short story form. Indie publishers have been champions of the short story, and of books that tap into the cultural and literary moment—and among the terrific releases from indie publishers, this month is Leslie Kirk Campbell’s debut story collection, The Man with Eight Pairs of Legs. This collection of richly imagined stories was awarded the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction from Sarabande Books in 2020 and is Campbell’s fiction debut.
Anthony Doerr, who won the Pulitzer Prize for All the Light We Cannot See, says of the collection, “History and memory crosscut through The Man with Eight Pairs of Legs in a gorgeous weave. These are marvelous, stirring stories, sometimes sexy, sometimes harrowing, somehow both timeless and timely…” and Publishers Weekly calls the collection an “engaging debut…marked by surprising encounters and poignant reflections.”
"Unforgettable...tour de force." Campbell's stories "slap us awake."
- Joan Frank, San Francisco Chronicle
"Good literary fiction, we’ve often heard, should astonish. It’s no surprise, then, that author Alice Sebold selected San Francisco author Leslie Kirk Campbell’s debut story collection, “The Man With Eight Pairs of Legs,” to win Sarabande Books’ Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction in 2020. The title story’s opening slaps us awake: “Cañon City … was a small, gossiping, high-security town in Colorado’s high desert … boasting thirteen prisons and fifty churches. … (I)ts ten thousand people … governed themselves as they saw fit and thrived on the stories, true or false, they told themselves.”
Against this harsh, Carson McCullers-like setting, a lonely, gangly history teacher named Harriet enters a bar, desperate to shed the “ceaseless swill of pandering speeches at the Christmas faculty dinner (that) had driven her to near madness.” There she meets Callahan, a short, intense biker who tells gruesome stories of mining accidents and who’ll become — yes, astonishingly — her devoted lover: “sometimes holding each other so tightly Harriet thought there must be a steep precipice on either side.” Callahan’s shocking secret, and Campbell’s calm control of its development, are quietly perfect. Bravely, this oddest of couples invents its own path — and readers will exit their story in a state of wonder; however strangely or improbably, we can sometimes save ourselves.”
January 18, 2022
"A meaningful and utterly devastating collection that cements Campbell as a leading short story writer."
- Wendy J. Fox, BuzzFeed News
Review | 16 New And Upcoming Books From Smaller Presses You’ll Love
The Man with Eight Pairs of Legs by Leslie Kirk Campbell (Sarabande Books, Feb. 1)
"An abused woman is not allowed to leave her own house until she makes a deal with her terrible husband, a cheating man believes he will be ready to dies once he beats his wife at a word game they’ve been playing for years, and a tall woman who has struggled with cutting falls in love with a runner who has lost his legs. In these eight stories, Campbell spins tales of isolation that range from the desperate to the profound, and her clear prose cuts through the trepidation her characters often feel. A meaningful and utterly devastating collection that cements Campbell as a leading short story writer."
November 26, 2021
"Campbell’s engaging debut collection is marked by surprising encounters and poignant reflections...the longing of the characters consistently resonates."
- Publisher's Weekly Review
Review | The Man with Eight Pairs of Legs
Campbell’s engaging debut collection is marked by surprising encounters and poignant reflections. In the title story, Harriet, a reclusive high school teacher, meets a stranger named Callahan at a bar, who regales the barroom’s crowd with the story of a mine explosion. Harriet invites him home and learns he had been in the mine blast and lost his legs. Callahan moves in with her, bringing his extra pairs of prosthetics, and Harriet wishes she could also have a way to reflect her pain externally. “City of Angels” begins as a coming-of-age story about a group of seventh graders who take weekend bus trips to Santa Monica Beach. Years later, the narrator meets her former childhood friend and, instead of revealing trauma in her own life, thinks of those long-ago days. In “Nightlight,” Reiner breaks into his deceased neighbor’s house after his wife Beth thinks she sees a light on, only to discover Federico, a teen squatter with a penchant for Heidegger. Reiner continues to visit Federico without telling Beth, to talk poetry and drink wine. Campbell’s lyrical prose doesn’t always land (“His dark hair was greased, rolled back from his brow like a scroll,” she writes of Callahan), but the longing of the characters consistently resonates. It doesn’t break new ground, but it’s good at what it does. (Feb.)