When Yellow Leaves

James Reiss


ISBN 978-1-941550-89-2         $16.00        328 pages

"Guv’na Brush. . .in his ten-gallon hat and leather chaps, with a bullwhip in one hand and a large black Bible in the other. . .seemed to be caught in the middle of a smile or a sneer—no one could tell."


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 picture of the Wild West is as far out as his 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.

Hints are scattered throughout as to how the present day gave way to this more catastrophic landscape; the ways in which dates have given way to a system based on a cult of personality suggest a more authoritarian version of the calendar found in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.

     Kirkus Reviews

Praise for James Reiss


“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 writes with urgency and zing. He travels through time and distance, using brand names and the heroes of pop culture as touchstones of American life: Uneeda Biscuits, Groucho Marx, Jay Silverheels, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Life Savers. . . .There isn’t a dull page in the book.”

      —Library Journal


“Filled with the unpredictable details that fill city life, Reiss. . .carries the reader along, like fellow passengers in the express subway car, traveling through familiar (sometimes not so friendly) locales while following the poet’s train of thought. . . .Whatever slice of life he chooses, Reiss’s typical American experiences come through: fresh, affectionately direct, touchingly true.”



“Joining in the spicy and sensual. . .Reiss spans Mexico, Israel, ancient Rome and Central Park, traveling through real and imagined time. The common thread is characters with balls and spirit, raging against natural and emotional disaster.”

      —St. Petersburg Times


“Reiss has always been a committed story-teller (from his first book, The Breathers) and as he admits, without fanfare here: ‘I write to slow things down.’ The conceit of lowered velocity, of slow going, works well here . . . . Reiss has acquired, over years, a gleaming lens—one of highly-perfected observation and carefully-adjusted speed. We recall Issa: ‘Climb Mt. Fuji: but slowly, slowly.’”

      —The Huffington Post



James Reiss grew up in New York City and northern New Jersey. For many years he was Professor of English at Miami University in Ohio, as well as Founding Editor of Miami University Press. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including The Breathers, Riff on Six: New and Selected Poems, and The Novel, as well as the editor of Self-Interviews: James Dickey. His work has appeared in such places as The Atlantic, Esquire, The Hudson Review, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Paris Review, Poetry, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Slate. His surname rhymes with “peace.” He lives near Chicago. This is his first novel.