2014 First Fiction Sampler

From the July/August 2014 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

For our fourteenth annual roundup of the summer’s best debut fiction, we asked five established authors to introduce this year’s group of debut writers. Read the July/August 2014 issue of the magazine for interviews between Maggie Shipstead and Courtney Maum, Victor Lavalle and Scott Cheshire, Ru Freeman and Celeste Ng, Chad Harbach and Yelena Akhtiorskaya, and Amanda Eyre Ward and Mira Jacob. But first, check out these exclusive excerpts from their debut novels.

I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You (Touchstone, June) by Courtney Maum
High as the Horses' Bridles (Henry Holt, July) by Scott Cheshire
Everything I Never Told You (Penguin Press, July) by Celeste Ng
Panic in a Suitcase (Riverhead Books, July) by Yelena Akhtiorskaya
The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing (Random House, July) by Mira Jacob

I Am Having So Much Fun Without You
By Courtney Maum

I remember the moment I decided I wanted to ask Anne-Laure to be my wife. For some people, the realization probably builds gradually, but for me, I was as sure in a single moment as I was ever going to be in my life.

It was because of a toy-filled chocolate egg. It was a weekend, a warm weekend in Providence, and we were on our fourth date—except the use of the term date is anachronistic because with Anne studying in Boston, she had come down for entire weekends at a time. In the beginning she stayed with her cousin Esther, but once I learned to be a bit handier with the mop and the broom, she started staying at my place.

It was one of those early weekends when simply being in each other’s presence could occupy us for hours, when her every gesture seemed contagious and new. Her smile contained multitudes. Her hair held constellations. The mere act of her pointing out something that she found funny struck me as a gesture of extreme import and grace.

I’d pick her up from the bus station and she’d be in these outfits. Silk trousers, silk blouses, wide-legged pants. I don’t think I saw her with her shirt untucked for months, except, of course, when we made love. And holy hell, when that happened did the good-girl walls come down.

On that particular Sunday, she’d suggested a bike ride out to Barrington beach and promised me a picnic. We met at India Point Park and biked twelve miles until we reached our destination, an elegant, narrow stretch of rocky beach along the coast. In common Anne fashion, she had everything prepared: a blanket, towels, a small umbrella just in case, a cooler full of treats.

In tiny jars and Tupperwares, an array of perfect things: peppered herrings, deviled eggs with paprika-spiked mayonnaise, wasabi peas, curried chicken salad, chilled grapes—all things that she had managed, in the time- and space-defying way that Anne has, to prepare in the three hours between our rendez-vous at the park and the moment she’d left my bed.

Excerpted from I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You: A Novel by Courtney Maum. Copyright 2014 © Courtney Maum. Reprinted with permission of Touchstone, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.