Melissa Malouf

Each piece is an aria – from the terrifying "Fable" to the maid in "The Golden Robe," from the storyteller in "Red Horse Running Through Water" to the exuberant, operatic Rose in "A Love Story in One Act." ... "Olé Henry!" has to be the most inspired love song to Henry James around!
—Rita Dove

The narrator in one of these stories recalls his father's advice about fishing: "Fishing is sometimes you catch, sometimes you don't. No guarantees. Just surprises." Surprises are just what's in store for readers of Melissa Malouf's daring collection.

Instead of a familiar unity of place or voice or theme, No Guarantees offers a lyrical collage of styles, tones, and characters. You'll find realism and fantasy, parody and pure dialogue, mystery and music—all on behalf of the dramatic evocation of different lives and different desires, different means of self-expression.

My first published piece of fiction was “A Love Story in One Act,” included in this collection, which I wrote during a stint at Rice University after finishing my Ph.D. at U.C. Irvine. Not long after I moved to North Carolina, the Durham Arts Council asked me to write a libretto for Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amour, set in Durham at the turn of the 20th century.

Renowned composer Robert Ward was in the audience for that opera, and later for a performance of a one-act play based on “A Love Story in One Act.” He subsequently, graciously, put me in touch with one of his graduate students in Duke’s Department of Music, James Legg. That first published story became the basis for a short chamber opera, Bellarocca: A Love Story. I wrote the libretto, Jim composed the music. Jim was living in New York and beginning to arrange for a public recital when he suddenly died. I am happy to be able to share here the music he composed for this love story.

"Each voice in this beguiling collection of stories is so different and personal that one could imagine them as written by many authors, until one feels the same mastery in all of them, the same trenchant and tender observation of the human condition of quiet, desperate, loving people. A real find!"
—Ariel Dorfman

"...a fine and daring writer. Her language power does its scarf dance with huge versatility and good humor."
—Cynthia Ozick

"These are smart, often funny, always original stories. They're from those psychic neighborhoods you don't venture into alone; Melissa [Malouf] does, because she's tough and alert. So are her stories, which demand our attention and applause."
—Frederick Busch

"[She] has that odd capacity to inhabit many worlds, many characters and their visions and voices with Buddha-like sympathy. ... I get the feeling my bones are ringing after I've read one of her fabulous tales. No Guarantees is an absolute reckless delight."
—Garrett Hongo

"[Her] stories have nerve and true zoombah!, which is the highest praise I know how to give."
—Harold Bloom

"No Guarantees displays [Malouf's] ear for dialogue, her fine observation of manners, her gift for fantasty playful and serious, her penchant for allegory and fable."
—Fred Chappell

"In any voice or style, her work amuses, mystifies, holds the reader's attention."
—Library Journal.

(No Guarantees was originally published under the name of Melissa Lentricchia.)