‘Stray’ by Stephanie Danler

‘Stray’ by Stephanie Danler

WHO: Stephanie Danler

WHAT: STRAY, a memoir

WHEN: Published by Knopf May 19, 2020

WHERE: The author lives in Los Angeles.

WHY: “A rare and skillfully structured view of an artist’s love, grief, and growth.
“Early in this memoir, Stephanie Danler establishes, ‘I made up stories from the minute I could speak.’ This skill for storytelling, readers learn, would help her survive and make sense of challenging experiences, and gifts her writing with an exhilarating readability and sense of plot.
“She divides the memoir into three parts: Mother, Father, and Monster. With each short chapter labeled with its location, most in the Southern California homeland she’s just returned to following her divorce, Danler knits together the stories of her long-divorced parents and the effects of their addictions on her self-formation. She keeps a strong tie to the present throughout, and to the Monster, as she calls the married man she loves, as she anticipates the publication of her first novel, passes her days writing in her Laurel Canyon cottage, and gets to know the puzzlingly sweet Love Interest.
“Acknowledging both the tribute of memory and the mercy of forgetting with one distinctive voice, this is a rare and skillfully structured view of an artist’s love, grief, and growth.” —Annie Bostrom, BOOKLIST

“A writer’s memoir of familial dysfunction and addiction…as well-written as her novel Sweetbitter.” –KIRKUS REVIEWS

. . . . .


The list of things I thought I knew but did not know grew quickly during my first weeks back in Los Angeles. A hummingbird dropped dead: its wings stopped pounding, gravity took over, its body jumped when it hit the wooden deck. I didn’t know that the water in my bird feeder was moldy.

An omen? asks Eli, who is sunning himself in my yard, his tan a mark of leisure, unemployment, and depression. It’s 2015 and he’s living in San Francisco, his “start-up” circling the drain, his bank accounts depleted by a summer in Mykonos, Spain, Tel Aviv. But here he is, hopping commuter flights to Los Angeles based on his whims or mine, coming home at eight a.m. from an after-after-hours party (I thought you were at breakfast, I would say, already at my desk, and he’d laugh in my face before passing out in my bed fully clothed, cigarette smoke wafting up). He slept off entire days, weeks, months of his life. Oh to be Eli, was what we said behind his back. It seemed that no triviality of responsibility, debt, or consequence could ever latch on to him.

Is it possible it’s a good omen? I ask.

No, says Eli.

I stare at the bird and wonder why it chose me to witness its death. I’ve always been ashamed of the Southern California mysticism I’ve kept. But there it is, the belief in a divine pattern just outside my field of vision. It’s given me this seeking frame of mind that never resolves or rests but wants to move me closer to a fundamental truth. Mystics, I find, ask why before who what where when how, a tendency that leaves them bereft of practical knowledge. And this is Los Angeles, a town full of oracles, con men, real estate speculators, all high on self-delusion, self-gratification, marijuana, and a shitload of quartz.

Jacket photo

Media Resources:
About the book and author | Download the jacket | Download the author photo

Knopf. 240 pages. $25.95
ISBN 978-1-101-87596-4

To interview the author, contact:
Emily Reardon | 212-572-2018 | ereardon@penguinrandomhouse.com