A southern gothic novel for the twenty-first century. …The writing is powerful and original, but a lot like a train wreck—you don’t want to look at it, but you can’t help yourself.
John McManus writes visceral prose that explodes within the tight boundaries of the short story. These narratives possess a graceful internal logic and feature a wide range of gritty characters rebelling against an indifferent and often brutal world. McManus’s first novel, Bitter Milk, features similar writing, effortlessly sweeping the reader into the story with its highly detailed and captivating characters.
Bitter Milk will sting you like a blast of rock salt packed into a sawed-off 20-gauge. …Loren’s eccentricities are rich enough to make him nearly as compelling as Benjy in The Sound and the Fury. You’re going to read a number of comparisons to Faulkner over the coming years, maybe to Cormac McCarthy too, and if Bitter Milk has shown anything it’s that McManus has the talent and the smarts to live up to them.
Philadelphia City Paper
Here is rage on the page. …It’s a whole environment, with a new food chain, and yes, I want to know about it. McManus is all ears.
The Los Angeles Times
A phenomenal talent blazing up suddenly on the horizon. …Precise, brilliant language that evokes without ever having to explain. …His transcendent vision gives us devastating glimpses. …He may be in Denis Johnson and Thom Jones territory, but the arresting music he makes there is all his own.
Electric. …McManus has a complex and assured structural sensibility and a mastery of shifting frames of consciousness and points of view, in the manner of Faulkner and Joyce, and writing at 22 makes you wonder whether he is a naïf savant. …He has a remarkable talent, and it is difficult to imagine how far or to what place he will take it.
Vince Passaro, Madison
John McManus’s Born on a Train delivers a dozen pitch-perfect tales…all packed with yearning, dark humor, and a gorgeous poetry of love and loss.
The stories in John McManus’s Born on a Train are powered by radiant prose.
John McManus’ nervewracking prose has great pitch and daring, and
Joy Williams, author of The Quick and the Dead
Eastbound has to be one of the best, most mournful end-of-the-road stories ever written. He’s a wildly talented writer.
These are stories that hit hard enough to bloody your nose. I wish I wrote half so well.
Pinckney Benedict, author of Dogs of God