Over the past months I’ve been lucky enough to receive these kind words endorsing my novel KEEPING BEDLAM AT BAY IN THE PRAGUE CAFE.
“In John Shirting, Ellis creates an American protagonist observing capitalism break over Prague. . . . The pages are filled with blinking lights and video game consoles, billboards, song lyrics, slogans, and the constant ousting and replacing of businesses and tenants in the changing city. The result is dizzying. . . . Passages containing beautiful imagery and ideas that strike at a truth about humanity abound. . . . There are wonderful descriptions of the place and people that made Prague Prague. . . . There is a deft re-creation of the chaos that accompanies revolutions, and the clashing of political and social systems—no easy task—paired with a great love of Prague at that particular time, that come together to create a novel of . . . beauty. ”
–The Coffin Factory
Keeping Bedlam at Bay in the Prague Cafe is a must for any contemporary literary fiction collection, highly recommended.”
–“Small Press Bookwatch,” Midwest Book Review
“This book comes highly recommended along with the cliched statement, ‘If you’re going to read one book this year, have it be . . .’ Bedlam is chock full of hilarious set-pieces, strange characters, biting satire, and verbal bombast. . . . It is not only wonderfully written, but it is a book that has wide cross-over appeal. The Andrei Codrescu blurbs on the front and back cover give it the needed NPR hipster bona fides, but this is also a light comedy one can read on the beach, at the airport, and elsewhere.”
— Karl Wolff, Chicago Center for Literature and Photography
“Both charming and absurd in all the best ways.”
— David Gutowski, LargeHeartedBoy.com
“A novel for readers who enjoy smart writing, wry humor, fresh settings, and above all, eccentric characters. . . . [F]rom Shirting’s remarkable encounter with the philosophical skinhead to the novel’s funny and surprisingly touching conclusion, Ellis weaves their stories together with an impressive balance of comedy and poignance.”
“Difficult to put down, unsettling yet addictive, the novel is a must-read for anyone who dares to peek behind the postcard image of a famously beautiful centre of European civilization.” — Winnipeg Free Press
“An ode to expatriate living, culture clashes, and the heady days of early 1990s Europe, this novel is a manic, wild ride. . . . [D]arkly comic . . . immersive, nostalgic, and thoroughly enjoyable.” — Booklist
“[G]enuine imagination and an energetic wit. Ellis vividly re-creates the atmosphere of a city in the throes of transformation as well as the American Quixotes who populate this new frontier.” —Publishers Weekly
“Former barista John Shirting from Chicago, an expat in the hallucinatory Prague of the Nineties, stands in the good company of Ignatius J. Reilly, Chauncey Gardener, and Forrest Gump as a remarkable and original member of that autistic and exclusive club. In creating Shirting, Mr. Ellis has enriched the literature of estrangement and given us a marvelous portrait of postcommunist Prague in its heady and wild rush into capitalism. This novel is a worthy addition to both expatriate writing and Czech storytelling, managing also to reflect in its rollicking drive profound insights into the ideologies of the last century.”
—Andrei Codrescu, NPR contributor and author of So Recently Rent a World: New and Selected Poems and New Orleans, Mon Amour
“Don’t let the title fool you. The bedlam here is never kept at bay for very long. Ellis writes with manic, overcaffeinated energy about the wild westernization of Prague after the fall of the Iron Curtain and he captures that era perfectly. A strong and lively debut.” –Andrew Ervin, author of Extraordinary Renditions
“With fresh and evocative language, Ellis delivers us into a frenetic and history-haunted world. By turns strange and subtle, imaginative and knowing—and also often very funny—this assured and original debut novel is a must-read for anyone, like me, who ever daydreamed about expat life in 1990s Eastern Europe but didn’t have the nerve to go for it.”—Rosie Schaap, author of Drinking With Men; Drink columnist, New York Times Magazine
“Thanks to Ellis’s wickedly good writing and laser-like focus on the absurdities of expat life, Keeping Bedlam at Bay in the Prague Café is an arresting, hilarious, and thoroughly enjoyable novel—both a vivid portrait of an already-bygone era and an up-to-the-minute snapshot of civilization in decline.”—Katherine Shonk, author of Happy Now?
“John Shirting, master of mission statements, and misfit of the planet, makes his way to Prague to offer change that’s not needed. This loveable mess lives in the past while trying to escape it, often unable to tell whether he’s getting better or worse, but his obsession with building a global outpost of the American coffee-chain that fired him keeps him moving forward. Ellis has written a hilarious hallucinatory satire, built on shots of caffeine.” –Amanda Stern, author of The Long Haul, founder and host of the Happy Ending reading series
“Mr. Ellis has fashioned a delightful, and ultimately moving, traipse through Middle Europe in bitingly satiric prose reminiscent of Joseph Heller, David Markson, and Alexander Theroux at their most playful. A pleasure.” —Joshua Cody, author of [sic]: A Memoir
It beats “Best of luck elsewhere” any day.
-Matt Ellis, writer, manuscript editor