The Merrill Diaries – A Novel in Stories
202 pages - published July 2013
soft, full-color cover, 30 stories: fiction
US $13.00, plus shipping
Intro from M-G-M Studios:
My mother liked telling the story of how she did her child-star auditions sitting on the lap of Mr. Mayer (of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer fame). Of course it was a crock. My mother never went to Hollywood. She never starred in a movie. She did some off-Broadway and summer stock. When my father jumped ship, around the time I was starting school, she worked as a fit model in the garment district. She felt it was beneath her talents, referring to herself as a live clothes dummy. That bit about Mr. Mayer was stolen from Debbie Reynolds' life. That's how my mother operated. Steal a little here, steal a little there. It caused some confusion in my young mind. But, hey! Isn't that why mothers were invented?
A novel in stories, linked flash fictions following the adventures of a young woman as she travels the globe...
from the pen of Susan Tepper
Men, I've discovered, need a good solid reason that explains why you no longer want them. Once they've accepted it, they seem to get on with things; while women can obsess for years about what went wrong. – Apollo
"You caused all this! Nobody else, just you, Teddy. If you hadn't phoned they would've worked something out. He's a spy. Why can't he tap his spy network for a place to stay?" – The Dog House
I have to admit I am pretty damned good at the job. The tourists are generally annoying, but once we get them off, I'm left to my own devices. – Bearing Gifts
Munching the tart apple I'm thinking sometimes could work. I'm not a daily commuter. If I could just get to Lucca, then I could come and go when the trains do run! It's not so bad. – Italian Style
"Merrill, do you eat all the whipped cream first all the time?" She's watching me doing exactly that, spoon after spoon of whipped cream down my gullet. – Confucius
As for the kids – she should be relieved Tony has threatened to take these kids away. I would pay to have them abducted. – Demon Seed
"This is what I like to see," he says. It sobers me. I don't understand why I can't relax and just be happy. – Barbados
At the beach I'm reading this new magazine called Ms. when Teddy comes bounding out of the surf shaking his head like a wet dog. Toweling off, he bends over my sand chair dripping on the magazine. "That's a commie magazine." – Liberation
What people are saying about The Merrill Diaries
"I finished The Merrill Diaries last night. She's hot shit! Glad she made the plinth high above the mundane. In Merrill you embody a young woman's angst, ambition and that ravenous search to belong in one's own body and the world. I enjoyed the travel log, especially the long section set in Italy. I've read other work of yours in journals. Enjoy your voice, perceptive slants and that smooth, aerobic writing pace. Thanks for the read."
Catherine Arra — author of Loving from the Backbone
"Spies have paid us a surprise visit. This couple who lived upstairs from us, when we lived at Fairlevel Gardens, is sitting on our couch, on the other side of the wall from where I'm still in bed. Our bedroom being right off the living room, no hallway, no pause here a moment before entering type of open area. Just the living room and plunk—the bed staring you in the face…"
In polite society, one does not read another's diary, but with this opening, how could you resist? So begins The Merrill Diaries, the latest novel by Susan Tepper. Known for her smart language and quirky characters, Tepper does not disappoint here. In this opening, we learn much about Merrill: her impatience at unwanted visitors, her frustration with a too-public bedroom, her paranoia—or is it merely distrust?—of her old neighbors, who she believes are spies. What follows is hilarious, as her growing need to pee conflicts with her desire to avoid the visitors. Read the rest...
Linda Simoni-Wastila — Blue Fifth Review: Blue Five Notebook Series
Sep 7, 2013
Wow. I loved this book. Merrill is a world of contradictions: an adventurer who cannot seem to conquer her own skittishness; a twice-married woman who chafes under the bonds of commitment; a traveler by default, who runs away from life, to turn up in exotic places; a sensual being with a prudish soul. Tepper paints this portrait of a Girl Lost in fine, subtle colors, with a rich dollup of humor, and the reader roots for her (and despairs for her) from her earliest adventures in fire and cleaning fluid, right up to the outstandingly appropriate ending. The Merrill Diaries is a deceptively quick read about a complex woman, a character who is both robustly real and a ghost in her own life. It's funny, sad, and immensely enjoyable.
Susan K O'Neill — author of Don't Mean Nothing and editor at Vestal Review
Aug 21, 2013
Susan Tepper's new novel, The Merrill Diaries, does what you want your best reading experiences to always do for you--it transports you into the daily life of itself. This is done with ease and humor and beautifully constructed sentences by Ms. Tepper throughout her remarkable literary performance. You inhabit this young woman's life with her like a medium, the emotional as well as the physical sensations are as real as your own. You can tell when you are in the hands of a capable writer when you don't want to leave that world--it seems so real, so vivid and so familiar.You want the story to go on a little bit further. But of course all good things must come to an end.However isn't it wonderful to have this particular artist at work, creating the kinds of word journeys that can gift you immediately with somewhere else special to go? I think so, and so will you when you pick up this endearing new book of Ms. Tepper's.
Darryl Price — editor at Olentangy Review
Aug 19, 2013
Merrill Kimberley is not Bridget Jones (thank god). In fact, as we learn, she's not Kimberly but just Merrill, a name that strangely resonates with me, I don't know why. It's not Merrick (the elephant man) and it's not frilly. It uncannily fits the young woman on the cover of this beautifully written and presented book. In Germany, where I'm from, the diary novel, much like its cousin, the epistolary novel, are highly appreciated — reading Merrill, I understand why: there's an intimacy in this form that instantly transports you into the life of this young woman and her explorations, spurred by Gloria Steinem, scanning the various stations of her journey (covering both sides of the pond) with an American curiosity and a home-grown wit that never fails to amuse. After breezing half way through the book, smooth sailing thanks to Tepper's light-hearted but never flighty prose, I want to know what's happening to this girl, and so will you. Not to worry though — she's a big girl and, as Merrill says: "Men do not worry me." I know one shouldn't read other people's diaries, but you need to make an exception for this one.
Marcus Speh Birkenkrahe — author of Thank You For Your Sperm
Susan Tepper's hilarious The Merrill Diaries follows a quirky young woman running from a couple of doozy marriages but mainly from herself. Humor as well as pathos are discovered as our narrator opens up to the world, takes risks, and learns. The language is whip smart, the characters live and breathe on the page. A beautiful book.
Bonnie ZoBell — author of The Whack-Job Girls and Other Stories
Raymond Carver meets Jennifer Egan in Susan Tepper's new book, The Merrill Diaries, in which a restless young woman finds love and lust. The language is spare and intense getting quickly into the staccato rhythms of Merrill's slap-dash life. Merrill is never long without a man and her patter about her adventures is fast-paced entertainment. From London to a Pennsylvania nunnery and onto Italy and points beyond, the reader never knows where she's going next. I don't think Merrill ever knows either. "When I don't know what to do, I generally run away." Great fun, yet sad too.
Gay Degani — author of Pomegranate Stories and staff editor at Smokelong Quarterly
The Merrill Diaries takes you on a wild ride you don't want to exit. This novel in stories is the end of innocence and the start of "the broken tracks, the roads where the river has flooded over." Merrill is one of the most interesting, inventive characters I've read in a long time. A delightful, extraordinary book giving us a look at one woman's unique destiny.
Gloria Mindock — editor of Červená Barva Press