Paperback eBook


PAGES: 224

TRIM SIZE: 5.5 x 8.25

ISBN: 978-1-56512-930-6

LIST PRICE: $16.95


ISBN: 978-1-61620-930-6

LIST PRICE: $16.95

“Like a literary Louis CK — Skibell is not shy about exposing the foibles of the man he has become, or his clumsy pursuits of happiness.” —Bret Wood, writer/director

Did Joseph Skibell’s father trick him when he offered his beautiful guitar and then delivered a not-so-beautiful one? Can it be that the telemarketer calling at dinnertime is a thoughtful, sensitive person also looking for a Utopian world? Can a father have any control over his teenage daughter’s sex life? Can a son have control over his father’s expectations? The award-winning writer ponders these and other bewildering questions in his first nonfiction book.

Joseph Skibell is a dreamer, an innocent. He sees things in a sometimes odd way. The “imaginary things” in his title refers to all those things he observes that are supposed to work, supposed to happen, supposed to make sense. But, like much of life, it doesn’t always work out that way.

As a professor, he may spend time on Big Thoughts, but it’s the small moments in life that he addresses in these essays. With disarming honesty, he gives us an intimate glimpse into his life and is unafraid to depict himself in a less than flattering light. True, some of these incidents might make him look like a fool, but that only serves to make him more human. The pleasure in these pieces is accepting, with Skibell, that life is made up of little annoyances, fantasies, imaginings, and delusions—and these are what make us who we are.

Because Skibell is a brilliant writer, he makes us think, make us laugh, as he offers up the world through his quirky lens.


“[ Joseph Skibell is] a bit of a wise shaman sharing his gently amusing, offbeat life lessons. There’s something unusually endearing and sweet about the 16 “true stories” in My Father's Guitar and Other Imaginary Things.”—

“It’s easy to see why a writer blurbing this book describes [Skibell] as a ‘literary Louis CK.’ These shards of life have the feel of the standup performances you might here at New York’s The Moth.”—Toronto Star

“[Joseph Skibell] manages to find humor and self-effacing wit even while contemplating his own mortality and possibly defective memory. Skibell discovers that even when writing so-called ‘true’ stories, all lives are filled with imaginary things.”—Atlanta Journal Constitution

“This book was like candy to me, the best candy, the kind you find yourself tiptoeing into the kitchen for all night long, trying to sneak one more piece before you're ordered to bed . . . The voice is so beguiling, the tone so sweet and hilarious, you quickly realize that you are in the hands of a master . . . Mr. I. B. Singer, meet Mr. Twain. This is a book to be prized in the way readers prize the work of Charles Portis.” —James Magnuson, author of Famous Writers I Have Known

“Humorous and heartfelt . . . Whether the stories are mere snapshots or more extended, [Skibell] writes with a humor that flies under the radar until a joke pops up with a well-timed zing. The emotional core of the stories, though, revolves largely around Skibell’s choppy relationship with his strict father. Skibell looks back on their differences with the emotional maturity that comes with time and distance, and his recollections, both funny and somber, resound with feeling.”—Booklist

“Colorful and endearing, the book will appeal to readers who appreciate Augusten Burroughs-style, real-life anecdotal ponderings focused on familial ties and how life's eternal cycle of enchantment and disillusionment somehow sustains us. A memoir/essay collection of consistently heartfelt and enlightening morsels of humanity.”—Kirkus Reviews

“When [Skibell] turns quietly to the spaces we occupy in real life . . . a wink of illusion and philosophy can be expected . . . Skibell writes with the insight of a philosopher, conveying his ideas with the beauty of a craftsman.”—

“Stories? These wise and humane offerings aren’t stories; they’re musical notes, from a master composer. And they swirl and swell and come together and echo one another to create a concerto of love and sadness and warmth and humor that will linger in your memory long after reading, as the best music always does.” —Jeremy Dauber, author of The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem

Meet the author

Photo Credit: Kay Hinton

Possessing “a gifted, committed imagination” (New York Times), Joseph Skibell is the author of three novels, A Blessing on the Moon, The English Disease, and A Curable Romantic, and the forthcoming collection of nonfiction stories, My Father’s Guitar and Other Imaginary Things. He has received numerous awards, including the Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the Sami Rohr Award in Jewish Literature, and Story magazine’s Short Short-Story Prize.

As director of the Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature from 2008 to 2015, he sang and played guitar onstage with both Margaret Atwood and Paul Simon. A professor at Emory University, Skibell has also taught at the University of Wisconsin and the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas, and is currently a senior fellow at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry.