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Instructions for a Funeral

David Means

Instructions for A Funeral sees the universally acclaimed David Means return to short fiction in a collection of harrowing and personal tales.

Date Published
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‘One of the most talented writers of short fiction in America. . .’ James Wood, New Yorker

Following the publication of his widely acclaimed, Man Booker-nominated novel Hystopia, David Means returns to his signature form: the short story.

Instructions for a Funeral finds a universally admired practitioner in newly expansive territory. Means writes with compassionate precision about fatherhood, marriage, a homeless brother, the nature of addiction, and the death of a friend at the hands of a serial killer nurse. He transmutes a fistfight in Sacramento into a tender, life-long love story; two FBI agents on a stakeout in the 1920s into a tale of predator and prey; a man’s funeral instructions into a chronicle of organized crime, real estate ventures, and the destructive force of paranoia.

Means’s work has earned him comparisons to Flannery O’Connor, Alice Munro, Sherwood Anderson, Denis Johnson, Edgar Allan Poe, Anton Chekhov, and Raymond Carver but his place in the American literary landscape is fully and originally his own.

‘David Means is that lucky (and brilliant) writer: a man in full possession of a vision.’
– Richard Ford

Critic Reviews

David Means's latest stories [Instructions for a Funeral] floored me. These are little machines for thinking and feeling, made of sentences in which the object in the mirror-consciousness-is much closer than it ordinarily appears.

Jonathan Lethem, author of THE FERAL DETECTIVE
Critic Reviews

Poetic, insightful, and deeply moving. David Means is one of my very favourite writers.

Tara Westover, author of EDUCATED
Critic Reviews

The return of an American master with his finest collection. There is no shortage of heartache here but Means's devotion to the short story form, the sureness of his touch and his sense of balance bring with it an extraordinary consolation.

Mike McCormack, author of THE SOLAR BONES
Critic Reviews

Instructions for a Funeral offers fresh proof that David Means is a true master of the short story form. No one else quite hits this particular note, a perfect balance of storytelling and the gliding virtuosity of pure, inventive style.

Amitava Kumar, author of IMMIGRANT, MONTANA
Critic Reviews

No one can give voice to the silence of the moment like David Means. These are short stories from the margins, from the edges of the world, the voices of lovers, drifters, cops, Raymond Carver, Kurt Cobain; and they speak of hope and regret, of beginnings and endings, and of the possibilities of now, and then, with spare power, and grace. A beautiful book, and one that catches in the heart.

David Keenan, author of THIS IS MEMORIAL DEVICE
Critic Reviews

‘The prose is truly cemented in the nation . . . a wonderful collection from a wonderful writer.’


David Means is the author of A Quick Kiss of Redemption, Assorted Fire Events, and The Secret Goldfish. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Zeotrope and Best American Short Stories. He lives in Nyack, New York, and teaches at Vassar College.

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