"In an age of serial relationships, how well do we really know our partners? When they die, how much of them do we keep? Offered the range of sexual desires, which ones are our own? And how messed up are psychiatrists? Passive Intruder is the work of a dexterous, intelligent literary imagination, a sensibility more intrigued with questions than answers. Upchurch is at home with uncertainty; he finds our phantoms delectable.”
—Ted Conover, The Routes of Man
“Michael Upchurch’s Passive Intruder is an intelligent and subtle grappling with the pervasive influence of death on the living, and of the distancing efforts of art. Its ghost stories are the mesmerizing obsessions of our era. This is mature and challenging work made completely engaging by the richly defined character of the psychotherapist Plume and his probing involvement with his clients.”
—Katherine Dunn, Geek Love
“Skillfully spun … this eerie and erotic story of love and loss can truly be described as haunting.”
—Pam Lambert, People Magazine
“Michael Upchurch … is a stylist who works best with the smoke and mirrors of the human psyche. In his latest work, relationships are often oblique; logic is unimportant. Mr. Upchurch is that rarest of ghost story writers, one who doesn’t seem the least bit interested in making physical settings themselves seem ghostly. To him, everything is in the mind or the memory – or on a badly developed roll of film. But then, of course, Passive Intruder is not really a ghost story at all, but a surprisingly seductive meditation on mourning.”
—David Willis McCullough, The New York Times Book Review
“Upchurch’s novel belies his theme—the impossibility of capturing the living, or even the dead, to any degree of representational accuracy. His considerable achievement is that he does justice to mutability itself by freezing it on the pages of a book. The enchantment of Passive Intruder lies in its lyrical rendering of something that is as fluid as quicksilver and as ambivalent as the ghosts that haunt it.”
—Evelin Sullivan, San Francisco Chronicle
The Flame Forest
“This unnerving novel deftly portrays a dysfunctional family whose violence and insanity are barely repressed … a powerful treatment of the eruption of derangement into tragedy.”
“Upchurch poses a number of difficulties for himself and handles them with great skill. … His delicate tracing of an adolescent’s brush with madness takes on the quality of a fable or fairy tale. … A novel to be read and admired.”
—Mark Childress, San Francisco Chronicle
“This is skillful, confident storytelling. … One of the wonders of “The Flame Forest” is the way Upchurch combines his characters through shifting situations. They form pairs, trios, quartets – then back to solos in unpredictable sequences that are like experiments in the chemistry of souls.”
—Richard Wakefield, Seattle Times
"It’s the long-ago winter of 1978-1979, time of Jimmy Carter, Jonestown, and revolution in Iran. Arriving in Washington and going to work in the library of a scientific publisher is a strange young North Carolina girl named Arleen—she’s a drifting 18-year-old whose lack of affect is absolutely unsettling to the people she meets. … [Upchurch is] an impressive writer with a sensitive eye and ear, and he has captured—brilliantly and almost photographically—a period in recent history, the pause before Reagan, which seems much longer ago than it really was.”
“A very strange and in some ways very subtle book. Upchurch has selected his details carefully in order to create a consistent mood of claustrophobia, unreality and unaccountable anxiety. … Upchurch’s style is unique, his characters are bizarre and the mood he manages to sustain through the novel is intriguing. His presentation of a nation moving toward the right will interest the historical and political minded (especially those on the left) who have taste for more than textbook history.”
—Beth Cooley, Spectator (NC)
During a visit by Boy Scout Troop 431 to a Jersey shore campsite, we meet the cast: men and boys, fathers and sons. Tension heightens when Jim wanders on a beach and drinks red wine, and Chris and the Bray twins inspected an abandoned bunker. The immediate time span is brief, but the characters have both mobility and roots. There is a nice play of anger, indifference and humor. A handsome debut.”
—Malcolm Boyd, Los Angeles Times
“It is not hard to spot, in Upchurch’s spare and remarkably acute sketches of the jamboree, a central concern with war, and the way its memory and specter washes over generations and spills into civilian life.”
—Charles Trueheart, Washington Post Book World
Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love
An anthology of essays edited by Anne Fadiman and first published in American Scholar, including Sven Birkets on Knut Hamsun, Vivian Gornick on Colette, Pico Iyer on D.H. Lawrence and yours truly on Christina Stead.
"The best of these entries—Arthur Krystal's return to H.C. Witwer's boxing novel, The Leather Pushers ; Dianna Kappel-Smith's assessment of the field guide that stirred an interest in the natural world; Michael Upchurch's consideration of Christina Stead's fictional financial world—are written by masters of the essay form, revealing themselves at the different phases of their lives through the act of reading."
"Jamboree, a story about Boy Scouts and their fathers, opens on such a disarmingly simple note that a grownup reader may think he has strayed into the young-adult section of his bookstore. ... But do not be deceived. Michael Upchurch, in his first novel, swiftly makes a claim on the most sophisticated of readers. ... It is not hard to spot, in Upchurch's spare and remarkably acute sketches of [a] jamboree, a central concern with war, and the way its memory and specter washes over generations and spills into civilian life."
--Charles Trueheart, Washington Post Book World
Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love
edited by Anne Fadiman
"The best of these entries—Arthur Krystal's return to H.C. Witwer's boxing novel, The Leather Pushers; Dianna Kappel-Smith's assessment of the field guide that stirred an interest in the natural world; Michael Upchurch's consideration of Christina Stead's fictional financial world—are written by masters of the essay form, revealing themselves at the different phases of their lives through the act of reading."