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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Ask the Editors | Story Lengths, Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Short Short Story

Ask the Editors | Story Lengths, Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Short Short Story

What constitutes a “short story”? About how many pages does it consist of in comparison to the average work? I’m writing my second book and want it to be a short story, but I’m unsure how short that should be?



Hi Patrick,

My experience has been that a single short story wouldn’t be a book, but a collection of short stories makes a fantastic book. A few of my favorites are Some Sexual Success Stories: Plus Other Stories in Which God Might Choose to Appear by Diane Williams and Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson. Regarding word count, I’ve always found the rules to differ slightly between who is speaking, but generally, I follow these breakdowns as I’ve parsed them together between various agents, editors, and genre specifications.

Novel — Over 70,000 words

Novella — 17,500 to 70,000 words

Novelette — 7,500 to 17,500 words

Short Story — 1,000 to 7,500 words

Short Short Story — Under 1,000 words

A Note on the Novel

Some editors consider anything over 40,000 or 50,000 words to be a novel, where some consider anything less than 100,000 words to not be a novel. My experience has been that agents often like to see a novel with word count above 70,000. Some agents working in particular genres often require the word count to be 80,000 and above. Basically, it’s all very subjective and can differ widely. Best to research your target markets and determine the specifics for that market. 

A Note on the Short Short Story or Flash Fiction

I’ve found the most universally accepted word count to be 1,000; however, many editors consider anything under 1,500 to be a short short story.

Best Rule of Thumb

Always research the market, publication, editors, agents, publishing houses, and determine what their specific parameters are regarding word count after you’ve completed the work. Unless you are writing for a contest prompt, which can be fun and helpful in a craft sense, best to let the word count of the work determine itself. Then look for the publication that shares the same structural parameters.