The Balloonists

“Eula Biss writes in spare brushstrokes that evoke an emotional universe, by turns funny, scary, dreamlike, haunting. These prose poems are shards of gleaming observation, fragments of intimacy and illusion. Here we find our families and ourselves, our words and our silences. A most impressive debut.”

~ Martín Espada

“With deceptively quiet, unflinching compassion, Eula Biss records the perceptual wedges that cleave the self from its origins. The family history refracted here is mutable, notable, more gravid than grave. The Balloonists holds a fresh line on confession, biography, and the formal uses of information in poetry.”

~ Rebecca Wolff

“Sometimes stories are announcements that we are fragments of how we overhear ourselves and others and the world. The Balloonists is a multiplicity of surfaces and angles and memories and presences—it’s all there even if you know it isn’t. A very delightful and engaging and open book.”

~ Michael Burkard


“Laced with a simplicity as lucid as it is sincere, as much a meditation on marriage as it is on memory, Eula Biss’s The Balloonists weaves a tapestry of multiple narratives, collective family memories and stunningly rendered moments with impressive concinnity into an intriguing and oftentimes luminous first book.”

~ Noah Eli Gordon, Slope

“In the morally dubious, aesthetically risky, kind of great prelude, Biss crosscuts black-box transcripts with sound-bites from family members concerning her mother’s own thwarted artistic ambitions. The brief, intimate impressions that follow read like carefully selected diary entries; something like Renata Adler cool-neon fragments, as melancholy as they are wry.”

~ The Believer

“Biss’s slender debut collection is as spare as a Japanese watercolor. Her narrative prose poems limn, via a series of interwoven subjects and themes, the story of a family, complete with a cast of characters and time lines, a tale that, by extension, transcends into the universal.”

~ Whitney Scott, Booklist

“In a beautiful blending of narrative styles (dialogue, brief anecdotes and narrative theory) Biss navigates her narrative through complex relationships, re-mapping previously charted territory, however, with one important distinction—she offers no set destinations and no pre-drawn conclusions. Instead, The Balloonists is a continuation of life’s ‘unresolved arguments.’”

~ Melissa Farnand, Double Room

“Biss particularly succeeds in examining the similarities between fictional narrative and autobiography, how the stories we call our lives are, in fact, a form of fiction, and how we can unwittingly find ourselves living a story not our own. ‘What if an entire generation were to reject their central story line?’ she wonders. Her book’s ambiguity as to genre serves to keep the narrative on a tightrope, nimbly balancing itself between truth and fiction, while always calling into question the reality of both concepts.”

~ Thomas Wiloch, Rain Taxi