Subcortical: Story Collection


Available from Johns Hopkins University Press, IndieBound and Amazon

Winner of The Story Prize Spotlight Award


“Conell brings the characters in her rich debut collection to life in weird, wise, and often poignant ways.”

-Publishers Weekly

“Conell depicts smart characters who are mysteries to themselves. The book’s title provides an accurate index for the wit and sophistication to be found in this volume.”

-Chapter 16

“‘Short story’ is a deceptive label for these works, as they contain multitudes: the stories frequently layer one atop another multiple perspectives and multiple decades. Conell traces shame, apathy, pleasure, loneliness, the slow erosion of capitalism on the psyche, delight, disappointment, tenderness, uncertainty, and the complex lattice of relationships that make up our lives.”

-Nashville Review

“Lee Conell is one of the most talented young writers it has been my pleasure to encounter. There is nothing she cannot do. She is psychologically astute to the point of eeriness. Her stories are structurally masterful. Her alertness to social class, generational gulfs, the passage of time, and psychological dislocation is her own, not borrowed, and sparkles with intelligence. These stories—with their knowledge of a variety of work and regions and backgrounds—comprise a tremendous portrait of America and the way we live now. Her theme and her method are often curiosity itself and what happens to people as a result, and she goes to unexpected narrative places, lets differences collide, keeps her readers on their toes. Did I neglect to say she is also very funny? Subcortical is a brilliant collection.”

Lorrie Moore, author of Bark

“Lee Conell’s stories possess a warmth, depth and humor much needed in our times. Subcortical is a terrific debut.”

Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask

“Lee Conell’s Subcortical is one of the most incredible debut collections that I’ve ever read. I cannot overstate how mesmerized and cracked open I was by the precision of each story, how Conell links the exterior and interior worlds of her characters in such a way that every sentence feels life-affirming. These stories are overflowing with strange beauty, such weirdness and truth. Conell has made something perfect.”

Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang

“Bright and appealing studies of mothers and daughters, alongside ventures of the young into the terra incognita of work and love. With a fresh, direct voice, Lee Conell tracks the lives of others with warmth and imagination.”

Jean McGarry, author of Ocean State

Subcortical is a marvel. In these remarkable stories, Lee Conell pulls off the masks we wear to hide from ourselves and each other, and she explores—with nuance, insight, humor, and deep heart—what science rarely does: the magic and mystery of being human. This a writer to read, to watch, to follow from one beautiful book to the next.”

Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Remember Me Like This

“Lee Conell’s stories are equal parts whimsy, nerve, genius, heart, steely eyes and sharp teeth. One of my all-time favorites lives inside this wonderful book. I’m not going to tell you which one —take your time and choose one of your own. Trust me: It’s in here.”

Tony Earley, author of Mr. Tall