ECKLEBURG BOOK CLUB | Under the Wide and Starry Sky


Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

From Nancy Horan, New York Times bestselling author of Loving Frank, comes her much-anticipated second novel, which tells the improbable love story of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his tempestuous American wife, Fanny.
At the age of thirty-five, Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne has left her philandering husband in San Francisco to set sail for Belgium—with her three children and nanny in tow—to study art. It is a chance for this adventurous woman to start over, to make a better life for all of them, and to pursue her own desires.  Not long after her arrival, however, tragedy strikes, and Fanny and her children repair to a quiet artists’ colony in France where she can recuperate. Emerging from a deep sorrow, she meets a lively Scot, Robert Louis Stevenson, ten years her junior, who falls instantly in love with the earthy, independent, and opinionated “belle Americaine.”
Fanny does not immediately take to the slender young lawyer who longs to devote his life to writing—and who would eventually pen such classics as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In time, though, she succumbs to Stevenson’s charms, and the two begin a fierce love affair—marked by intense joy and harrowing darkness—that spans the decades and the globe. The shared life of these two strong-willed individuals unfolds into an adventure as impassioned and unpredictable as any of Stevenson’s own unforgettable tales.

“Fascinating . . . a novel that shows how love and marriage can simultaneously offer inspiration and encumbrance.”—The New York Times Book Review

“A dazzling love story that unspools across years and continents. Horan deftly brings to life a woman shamefully overlooked by history, and celebrates her contributions to the man whom history remembered.”—BookPage

Publisher: Ballantine Books; 
Price: $26.00
Pages: 496
ISBN-13: 978-0345516534
Physical Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.5 inches
On Sale Date: 1/21/2014

Nancy Horan is best known for her 2007 novel Loving Frank, which chronicles a little-known chapter in the life of legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and his client, Mamah Borthwick Cheney. Loving Frank remained on the New York Times Bestseller list for over a year. It has been translated into sixteen languages, and won the 2009 James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Best Historical Fiction, awarded by the Society of American Historians.

A native Midwesterner, Nancy Horan was a teacher and journalist before turning to fiction writing. She lived for 25 years in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, where she raised her two sons. She now lives with her husband on an island in Puget Sound.



ECKLEBURG BOOK CLUB | This Is Between Us by Kevin Sampsell



First 3 People to Answer a Discussion Question in the Comments Section Below Win a FREE eBook Edition of This Is Between Us!


For This Is Between Us by Kevin Sampsell

Chronicling five years of a troubled romance, This Is Between Us offers an intimate view of one couple’s struggle—from the illicit beginnings of sexual obsession to the fragile architecture of a pieced-together family. Full of sweet moments, emotional time bombs, unexpected humor, and blunt sexuality, the daily life of this man and woman, both recently divorced, with children and baggage in tow, emerges in all of its complexity. In this utterly engrossing debut novel, Kevin Sampsell delivers a confessional tale of love between two resilient people who have staked their hearts on each other. 

“Sampsell’s novel This Is Between Us is an excellent, very funny and very creepy story of a relationship. It’s narrated by a man who’s telling the story to his girlfriend, who the book’s about. This is the sort of book you should blank out an afternoon for, because you’ll want to read the whole thing all at once.” —The Stranger

“Sampsell moves on from the personal essays of his book A Common Pornography, and gives readers this sad and sweet tale of a love that doesn’t seem right.” —Flavorwire (picked This Is Between Us as a 10 Must-Read Books for November)

“The warmer moments in this novel have all the real-life glow of a flowering relationship. Sampsell’s crafting of these scenes is commendable. He is unafraid of the ‘unmentionables,’ and gracefully and bravely takes on these characters’ many sex scenes…” —Bustle

“It makes for a reading experience that feels both uncomfortably voyeuristic and engrossingly personal. This Is Between Us is a remarkable achievement.” —Joseph Riippi, Tweeds: Magazine of Literature and Art 

“Well written . . . . consisting of telling moments and epiphanies rendered in precise, poetic prose.” —Publishers Weekly

“Sampsell’s phrasing and imagery never fall short of wonderfully surprising or equally heartbreaking.” The Austin Review 

This Is Between Us lets the reader under the covers of what it means to be in human relationships—not the lame-o story everyone so desperately wants to smoothly fit within, but the crumpled and stained and yet still beautiful version we actually live. Kevin Sampsell has written the pieces of our glorious failures and fleeting victories with such poignancy my head and my heart are laughing, bleeding, and, above all, dreaming onward. You want this book more than facebook and chocolate. I love it with my whole body.” —Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water


For A Common Pornography by Kevin Sampsell

“Sampsell shares loneliness with such intensity that his book almost defeats it—both his and yours. Five stars.” — TIME OUT NEW YORK

“Sampsell has written a memoir almost unlike any other…a fascinating read.” — TIME OUT CHICAGO

“Its droll style and its archaeological attentiveness to the debris of American life – the remote controls, video recorders, tight ends, and one-hit wonders of yesteryear – combined with Sampsell’s talent for observing the ordinary, infuse the most ‘common’ incidents of growing up with wit and meaning.” — HARPER’S MAGAZINE

“[A] rather miraculous act of artistic self-creation…his story alone is an adequate metaphor for itself, the life it describes, and its hard-won pleasures.” — BOOKFORUM

“The material perfectly fits the form, shards of memory fused into a compelling concretion of moments. A worthy addition to the work of such contemporary memoirists as Nick Flynn, Augusten Burroughs, Dave Eggers, and Stephen Elliott” — BOOKLIST

“Embarrassing and honest, heartbreaking and hilarious. A Common Pornography is a great memoir from one of the Northwest’s best writers.” —Willy Vlautin, author of Northline and The Motel Life

“Kevin Sampsell’s stories are brief incantations, uppercuts to the gut, prose poems given over to the bloodiest realms of the self. It’s all here: the emotional squalor, the sweet bite of loneliness. Make no mistake: Sampsell can write like hell.” —Steve Almond, author of My Life in Heavy Metal

“This is a heartbreaking and magnificent book….I am reminded of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son. This is the kind of book where you want to thank the author for helping you feel less alone with being alive.” —Jonathan Ames, author of Wake Up, Sir! and The Double Life is Twice as Good

“For beauty, honesty, sheer weirdness, and a haunting evocation of place, Kevin Sampsell is my favorite Oregon writer. Ken Kesey, Chuck Palahniuk—make some room on the shelf.” —Sean Wilsey, author of Oh the Glory of it All


This Is Between Us EXCERPT on Collagist
This Is Between Us EXCERPT (animated!) at The Portland Mercury
This Is Between Us EXCERPT at Tinhouse


Publisher Information & Purchase Links

  • Tin House Books
  • Page Count: 240
  • Direct Price: 12.75
  • List Price: 15.95
  • 5 x 7 3/4
  • November 2013
  • 978-1-935639-70-1
  • E-BOOK


Discussion Questions for This Is Between Us

  1. How realistic do you think the depiction of this relationship is? Which elements are familiar, unfamiliar, on your bucket list?”
  2. How does history play a foundational role in the couple’s relationship? How do their individual histories and collective history drive their futures?

  3. If these characters were your parents, what road trip would you describe your childhood as happy or a nightmare?

  4. How does the prosaic/poetic language add to your connection with the characters?

  5. How do the “drug talks” in Sampsell’s novel reflect the same secondary setting in Johnson’s “Emergency”? 
  6. How does the entity of death take an important place within this narrative? How does it form and reform?  



Kevin Sampsell is the author of the memoir A Common Pornography (2010 Harper Perennial) and the short story collection Creamy Bullets (Chiasmus) and the editor of the anthology Portland Noir (Akashic). Sampsell is the publisher of the micropress Future Tense Books, which he started in 1990. He has worked at Powell’s Books as an events coordinator and the head of the small press section for fifteen years. His essays have appeared recently in Salon, the Faster Times, Jewcy, and the Good Men Project. His fiction has been published in McSweeney’s, Nerve, Hobart, and in several anthologies. He lives in Portland, OR, with his wife and son.


Eckleburg Book ClubEckleburg Book Club is an outreach of The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, supporting good books and talented authors/poets. Check out our other outreach projects at The Eckleburg WorkshopsThe Eckleburg Bookstore, The Eckleburg Gallery and Rue de Fleurus Salon & Reading Series in NYC, DC, Baltimore & More.

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From Three Squares a Day with Occasional Torture
Foxhead Books, 2012

Sensei Vinnie says, for fifty bucks, he’ll teach us the Way of Action, the way of kicking some ass. Ten weeks of training and a free gi.

The gi he gives us are frayed, yellowed in the pits.

These pajamas stink like piss, Gilbert says.

For that, Sensei Vinnie makes us drop and give him twenty.

Gilbert drops after five. I barely make it to nine.

Christ, Sensei Vinnie says. What a couple of pussies.


The dojo’s in the back of Sensei Vinnie’s Exotic Fish and Lizard Store. I stopped in one day on my way home from school. My Myers-Briggs suggested I’d be good at Marine Biology, but I didn’t give a shit about fish. What I really wanted was a lizard. I’d seen a guy once walking an iguana on a leash in Central Park. He looked like a total bad-ass and I was at my breaking point. If an iguana was what it took, I was ready to spend all my birthday money on a lizard. Besides, my mom had already said there was no way in hell she was going to buy me a Rottweiler or a pit.

Tank after tank of fish and not a lizard in sight.

Sunning themselves on the roof, Sensei Vinnie said.


Repo’d, more likely, Gilbert’s father said when he forked over the hundred we needed for the course. Gilbert had lied, doubled the price. He hated his father, what did he care. Me, I had a mother and a baby sister and a hamster I didn’t hate, per se, but that I really wanted to feed to a gila monster.

Gila monster? What are you some kind of Crocodile Dundee? Things did not end well for that guy, Sensei says.

You’re thinking of the Crocodile Hunter, Gilbert corrects him. Steve Irwin.

For that, Sensei Vinnie makes him drop and give him twenty.


We push up, we sit up, we run around in circles.

Pansies on parade, Sensei calls us.

He tells us we need to take it up a notch, take it to another level.

The Way of Do. For another fifty, he says he’ll teach us.

The Way of what? Gilbert says.

D-o, pronounced ‘dough.’

Sensei Vinnie’s Brooklyn accent makes it sound like ‘duh.’

Like he’s slow or something.

Too many kicks to the head, Gilbert’s father says.

Mentally challenged, Gilbert’s other father corrects.

Do can’t be explained, Sensei says, it can only be experienced.

Ancient Chinese Secret, Gilbert says, using one of his accents as he slits his eyes.

Adjust that attitude, I’ll throw in Do for free, Sensei says.

Not bloody likely, Gilbert says in that other accent, the one that’s gotten us into all this trouble in the first place.

Sensei Vinnie doesn’t even bother with push-ups.

Pathetic, he calls him.


Gifted, Gilbert’s father calls him.

Talented, Gilbert’s other father calls him.

He’s the woman, Gilbert explains.

The mother? I say.

Gilbert shakes his head. The receiver, he calls him.


Sensei Vinnie promised that in ten weeks he’d turn us into lean mean fighting machines. But we’re already five weeks into it and I have yet to shatter a pair of nuts or lay the beat-down.

It’s all in the Do, Sensei says. You can’t be a badass without it.

Can’t you just tell us what it is, Gilbert complains, his voice pitched too high.

What it is is not that, Sensei says, mimicking. Should’ve paid the extra fifty.

Asshole, Gilbert mutters.

Scam-artist, Gilbert’s fathers complain.

Male influence, my mother doesn’t say.


Through trial and error we define our Do.

Action is the Way of Do.

Push-ups are the Way of Do.

Doing what Sensei says is the Way of Do.

Acting like pussies is not the Way of Do.

Backtalk is not the Way of Do.

Bad grades, bad skin, bad language – no Do, no Do, no Do.

Do’s a bitch, Gilbert complains.

Do’s a drag, I say, agreeing.

Where the fuck is that bastard, Gilbert says. He points at the clock, the second-hand fish already at half-past.

Lateness is not the Way of Do, he says in Sensei’s Brooklyn accent.

Lateness is the Way of Sensei Vinnie, I say, agreeing.

We kill time, we drag our fingers through the tanks, trying to coax fish to attack us.

Piranhas my ass.

These fucking fish don’t even have teeth, Gilbert says, rapping the tank with his knuckles.

No knocking, I say, pointing to the sign.

The Way of the Suck-up, the Way of the BJ, Gilbert taunts. You staying or going?

He doesn’t wait for my answer. He goes.

Patience is the Way of Do.

I wait.



Sensei Vinnie shows up an hour later.

I’d like to shatter the nuts of the 4 train driver, he says.

I add vengeance to my growing list.

Sensei Vinnie wants to shatter the nuts of lots of people.

Preparation plus Opportunity, he tells me. That’s the secret.

Is that the Do? The ancient Chinese Secret? I say, serious, no accent, no slitted eyes.

What? No. Jesus, kid, why you got to be such a geek, Sensei Vinnie says, disgusted.


Ashamed, I vow to redouble my efforts.


Preparation plus Opportunity.

Seven weeks in and I finally land a kill shot.

Me – 1, Gilbert – 0

You hear that, Sensei Vinnie whoops, hand cupped to his ear. That was the sound of two nuts shattering.

Gilbert rolls on the floor, two hands cupped to his crotch, eyes screwed shut and mouth yawling. The noise he makes fills me with a regret I quickly push aside.

Pity is not the Way of Do.

And that, my friend, is the sweet sound of success, Sensei says, pointing. Shake it off kid. A warrior fights through pain.

To me, he says, Congratulations. You’ve just graduated out of pussy school.

Gilbert ignores the hand Sensei offers. Rolls to his side, works his way up, one knee at a time, winching.

What the fuck asshole, he says to me. To Sensei, he says nothing.


I’m left to sweep and mop the dojo by myself, tip flakes into the tanks, skim the shit while Sensei makes phone calls. Angelique, Monica, Sugar Tits, Sweet Lips.

Now that I’m no longer a pussy, Sensei says it’s time I start bagging some babes.

The more babes the better, he says, phone at his ear, eye winking.


Me – 0, Gilbert – 1.

Gilbert gets handjobbed by Jessica Steinmann at her bat mitzvah.

Me, all I get is a goodie bag.

Way to go. You bagged a bag, Gilbert says, punching my arm.

You don’t even like girls, I complain.

Gilbert shrugs. But I like handjobs, he says.

I guess your nuts are better now, I say.

Better than ever, Gilbert says, cupping.


For this, Gilbert earns his black belt.

The belt Sensei Vinnie gives him is brown in spots from bleach.

Cum spots, I grumble. Wanker belt.

Takes one to know one, Gilbert says, cupping.

He doesn’t even bother using one of his accents.


Me – 0, Gilbert – 5.

Keeping score is not the Way of Do, Sensei says, shrugging.

Sensei Vinnie says he gets so much, he can’t put a number on it.

When he isn’t calling it pussy, he calls it poontang.

Asian, italian, black, hispanic, all the colors of the poontang rainbow, he says.

Got the taste for tang when he was in Nam.

Nam, not bloody likely, Gilbert’s father says.

Sex tour more likely, Gilbert’s other father says.

Gilbert suggests that Sensei meet my mother’s poontang. He can say this because he has two fathers and no mother.

Sensei Vinnie says he doesn’t swing that way.

Never dip your wick where you do business, he says.

I say nothing. All I know is that at this rate, I’ll never dip my wick, I’ll never know the joys of poontang.

I bet your mother’s one sweet piece of poon, Gilbert says, taunting.

You going to just stand there, take that? Sensei says.

The Way of Do is honor. I vow to vindicate my tarnished mother.

I try for a killshot. I miss. I try again. I miss again.

Gilbert laughs and laughs.

When I look to Sensei, he looks away.



Where are you getting all of this, who are you becoming? my mother says. She grounds me for a week, but lets me off for good behavior after two hours.

Women: no Do, no discipline, Gilbert says, disgusted.

Gilbert’s different now too, ever since I shattered his nuts, ever since he started getting handjobbed. He’s shaved his hair off and breaks boards with his head, ball-point swastikas on his forearms.

But you’re Jewish, I say.

Buddhist symbol, Gilbert says, slitting his eyes.

His fathers call it acting out.

Sensei Vinnie calls it unacceptable, makes him scrub his arms with the brushes we use to clean algae from the tanks then makes him drop and give him twenty.

Gilbert drops and gives him twenty then twenty more, Sensei’s mouth popping open and shut like a stupid fucking fish.

No poker face at all on Sensei.

I am disgusted. What about me? I signed up for Action also. Where are my broken boards? Where are my handjobs? I want to argue, but the most I can manage is fifteen and even at that, I don’t finish strong.


For every ass-kicker, there’s an ass. Yin and yang, Sensei Vinnie says.

Buddhist, Gilbert says and aims a killshot right at my nuts.

Bullshit, I yell from my crouch on the floor. I am not the ass, I yell, trying not to cry, the pain radiating out like earthquake waves, my nuts the epicenter.

Jesus, kid. Sensei Vinnie shakes his head. You don’t have to be the ass, but you don’t have to be such a big pussy about it either.


After ten weeks, Sensei Vinnie says it’s time to re-up for another tour of duty.

Fuck that shit, Gilbert says.

He quits, joins MMA. Mixed Martial Arts.

Thugs, Sensei Vinnie calls them. Meatheads.

No art, he says. Just brute force.

Gilbert graduates from boards to guts, mugs, and more nuts.

He redefines the beat-down. He keeps his head shaved.

When he gets a blowjob from Tommy Baxter in the locker room, everyone’s too afraid to gossip.

That’s right, motherfuckers, Gilbert threatens us in the halls, his voice flat.

He doesn’t even bother with accents anymore.

Me, I scrub the tanks, I skim the shit, I listen in, memorizing what Vinnie says to his ladies to repeat to myself later.

It may not be Do, but at least it’s something.

The Receiver, Gilbert calls me.

He gives me his black belt when no one’s watching.

A souvenir, he says.

People change, Sensei Vinnie says.

I add this to my growing list.


Julie Innis is originally from Cincinnati and now lives in New York. Her stories and essays have appeared in Post Road, Pindeldyboz, Gargoyle, and The Long Story, among others. She holds a Master’s in English Literature from Ohio University and is currently on staff at One Story as a reader. Her story collection, Three Squares a Day with Occasional Torture, released from Foxhead Books in 2012.