Songs for the Deaf

this time I won't let go

black banks of night's angry castoffs


trajectories of death

ain't ruby slippers

these used to exist

people danced here

some grace to it

heat-seeking vitrol


please dim the lights


the unlovely clatter of the everyday

it's a girl

so it goes

i love you back

generally engaged

i am not completed yet


little pieces of fate

blue jays and sparrows

a breathy prayer to the God of the Unnoticed

Songs for the Deaf

A little desert town gets a sexual charge from a crash-landed alien. A dysfunctional family tries to summit Everest with “discount Sherpas” and yakloads of emotional baggage. A teen messiah emerges from a game of 3-on-3. The stories in John Henry Fleming’s Songs for the Deaf, the first story collection by the “marvelously inventive” and “winningly satiric” author of The Legend of the Barefoot Mailman, put an intimate and modern spin on the American tall tale.

Stories in the collection have appeared in McSweeney’s, North American Review, Atticus Review, 100% Pure Florida Fiction, and elsewhere.

This Week's Dedication

Ethan Fleming

"Half a solution is no solution," I tell her.
--from "Weighing of the Heart" p. 59

Ethan Fleming (Tampa, FL)


Songs for the Deaf is a joyful, deranged, endlessly surprising book of stories that defy easy categorization. Fleming’s prose is glorious music; his rhythms will get into your bloodstream, and his images will sink into your dreams. Thank you, Burrow Press, for bringing John Fleming’s radioactively imaginative stories to us.
~Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove

The range of characters and their concerns is matched by the tonal range, which shifts with aplomb from a certain canny comic zing to simple old sincerity. These stories somehow stay firmly on their tracks through wonderful narrative hairpin turns, the sentences sure in their gait, the language neither timid nor showy, and as with most satisfying stories, it’s hard to tell whether the characters have guided themselves to the serendipitous endings they find, or whether they’ve been secretly dragged there by the superb skill of the storyteller.
~John Brandon, author of A Million Heavens and Citrus County

All music worth playing is worth playing loud, and the volume on Songs for the Deaf should be turned all the way up. John Henry Fleming riffs on renegade cloud readers, drifters seeking out their long-lost midwives, and random floating girls. In one sublime lick he intones a high-school basketball game as the Lord’s Prayer. I’ve long admired his work, and this new collection—perfectly in touch with our fantastic times—is well worth blowing out a speaker or two.
~Jeff Parker, author of Ovenman and The Taste of Penny

The way Fleming juxtaposes humor with affliction is part of what makes Songs for the Deaf so enjoyable. Rather than detracting from one another, the comedy and tragedy are amplified. This happens within stories, but also through the collection’s arrangement, with heartbreaking stories standing side-by-side with laugh fests.
~Thomas Michael Duncan, for PANK

Traumatic events in their lives lead some characters to redemption, others to extinction. Skillful choice of language, dark humor, and the occasional integration of fantastic elements ensure enjoyment. These strong stories will appeal to fans of literary writing and short stories.
~Ellen Loughran, for Booklist

Where Fleming truly excels is in the briefest story, “A Charmed Life,” which traces a lovable loser protagonist’s travels with straight-faced sincerity, showing what a skilled writer can accomplish in just a few short pages.
~Publishers Weekly

The range of characters—aliens, bigfoot look-alikes, cloud readers, floating girls—lends itself to satire, creating a new mythology out of crises of faith. Most importantly, though, these stories are fun.
~Brenna Dixon, for Ploughshares blog

The extent of Dr. John Henry Fleming’s literary range is unmistakable…a highly commendable collection of literary short fiction.
~Karen Winters Schwartz for New York Journal of Books

Fans of George Saunders or Donald Barthelme will (not might;will) enjoy John Henry Fleming’s Songs for the Deaf….  Story by story, Fleming presents 11 miniature worlds, none linked to the other by anything but the assuredness of his telling.
~Jessica Bryce Young for Orlando Weekly

The eleven short stories in Songs for the Deaf … will take you on a journey of emotionally stimulating events.
~Jim Liston for San Francisco Book Review and Tulsa Book Review

Like the cloud reader, Fleming tells stories with the clarity and deference of a skilled interpreter, a fluent conduit for what the disenfranchised characters have to say for themselves. His stories read like modern-day folk tales that have only now been discovered and transcribed. At its offbeat heart, this is a collection of stories about convictions. Certainty, especially in one’s exceptional self, is a rare but priceless currency. “The world has unlimited powers to conceal and confuse,” observes the cloud reader. But refreshingly, there are things that the characters in Fleming’s stories find more valuable than ordinary acceptance. And there are stories, like “Songs for the Deaf,” that help ordinary people like us find them too.
~Sarah Suksiri for Necessary Fiction

There is something here for everyone. Fleming’s characters vary in scope from celestial beings with curious quirks or powers, to humans navigating their own relatable travails.
~Vicki Entreken for Prick of the Spindle

These modern stories seem to come alive on the page through the scribe of a forgotten race. Through Fleming’s mastery of storytelling and poetic prose style, the reader is immersed in a wonderful world of wit and imagination straddling misfortune and comedy….  With each story, a reader begins to feel a thread that binds them all together in a marvelous tapestry of hope, love, and the human spirit.
~B.A. Varghese for Prick of the Spindle

Fleming is a whimsical, imaginative, often funny writer, but even his most outlandish stories can sneak up on you with insight into the human condition.
~Colette Bancroft for The Tampa Bay Times

A strong absurdist streak runs throughout the book, but the 11 stories presented here are never silly, trite or formulaic.  Instead, Fleming approaches his topics with an eye toward the modern fable, crafting tales that resonate with the mythic quality of stories passed on from generation to generation….  Fleming’s unpretentious, fluid prose offers much to admire.  His nimble wordplay, sharp dialogue and just-right metaphors are a few of the obvious pleasures; however, careful readers will appreciate the subtle symbolic choices the author makes, often framing diametric opposites in ways that give his stories extra resonance….  Fleming’s profoundly sympathetic characters may exist on the fringe of the everyday, but he never marginalizes or reduces them to two-dimensional stereotypes.  They are us, with all our flaws and foibles, and then some.
~Mike Winter for The Tampa Tribune

Fleming’s fanciful works read like campfire tales from the state’s coolest scout leader.
~Jake Cline for The Sun Sentinel

Fleming’s mastery makes believers of us.
~Beatriz Terrazas for Carve Magazine