"When Yellow Leaves" Review - James Reiss, Poet and Novelist, Old Hand Gets New Start

By the age of 75 many folks are retired, living quieter lives than in their heydays. Not so for septuagenarian novelist James Reiss—it rhymes with “peace”—whose first novel will be published in September 2016.


New York Is Reiss


“It’s like starting a new career,” Reiss said, seated on a blue sofa that offset his green T-shirt and orange running shoes. “My new book—my ‘debut novel’—is called When Yellow Leaves. I’d been working on this book for much too long when I got an offer from Spuyten Duyvil (pronounced ‘Spy-tin Dive-ill’ as a translation of the Dutch words for ‘spitting devil.’) Because I grew up in northern Manhattan’s Washington Heights just down from the Bronx neighborhood Spuyten Duyvil, I felt at home with this odd-sounding publishing house. Suddenly I’m a novelist.”


Book Reading at Printer's Row


The back of the novel cover offers a hint about its contents: “James Reiss’s madcap miscellany of Americana features a young photographer’s wide-angle view of his family versus the camera-shy tyranny of a dictator known as Guv’na Brush. Reiss’s panoramic view of the Wild West is as far out as a battle scene between men on mopeds and horsepeople with a taste for freedom and fine wine. Sentence by sentence, this is more than a lively read; it could be the story of our lives.”




Reiss is the author of several poetry books, including The Breathers, Ten Thousand Good Mornings, and Riff on Six: New and Selected Poems. His work has appeared in such places as The Atlantic, Esquire, The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Paris Review, Poetry, Slate, and Virginia Quarterly Review. As Professor Emeritus of English at Miami University, he is Founding Editor of Miami University Press in Oxford, Ohio. He lives near Chicago.


A novel by James Reiss


Reiss’s work has been widely acclaimed:

“In Reiss. . .memories are like pictures cut out of magazines, inertia and insomnia are the two forms of life. Pursued by the same phantoms, which reappear on the telephone, in sequential rooms, in snapshots, in slides, Reiss writes them down in an accomplished plain style.”

 —The New York Times Book Review


“All in all, this is an impressive. . .book, solid rather than flashy; [it does] not make grand pronouncements [but has]. . .what Howard Nemerov called ‘great primary human drama.’”

—The New Republic


Reiss and a very cute little one

Relaxed on his sofa, Reiss reaches for a water glass. “I live an ordinary life, except for my book fetish; I’m always reading a novel. I’ve written fiction on and off but never took it seriously. In the wake of a life-threatening health problem more than a decade ago, out of gratitude at having survived I cranked out five manuscripts in two years. The poems have been published in a book, ironically titled The Novel. It feels strange to be coming out with a real novel, not a phony one, a poetry book! What’s more, in 2017 Spuyten Duyvil will publish my second novel, Façade for a Penny Arcade.



     Order Jim’s book from Amazon


      Photos: Courtesy of Jim Reiss

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