Jessi Jezewska Stevens

Ghost Pains

With her novel The Visitors, Jessi Jezewska Stevens has proven herself as our preeminent purveyor of comical, techno-millenarian unease. Now, with this first collection of her acclaimed short fiction – originally appearing in such venues as The Paris Review and Harper’s – some of her very best work is at last readily available to readers.

Stevens’s women throw disastrous parties in the post-party era, flirt through landscapes of terror and war, and find themselves unrecognisable after waking up with old flames in new cities. They navigate the labyrinths of history, love, and ethics in a fractured American present, seeing first-hand how history influences the ways in which we care for – or neglect – one another.

With each story exemplifying Stevens’s ability to examine the big questions through the microscope of a shambolic human perspective, Ghost Pains is a triumphant statement of purpose from one of our greatest young writer-thinkers.

Read an Excerpt
EBook: £11.99

About the Book

Ghost Pains has been selected by Lit Hub, and i-D as one of the most anticipated books of 2024:

Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Books of 2024


More Info

  • Jessi Jezewska Stevens spoke to The Creative Independent about her writing – you can read the interview here.
  • You can read Jessi Jezewska Stevens’ short story ‘Rumpel’ in The Baffler.
  • You can also read another of the short stories included in Ghost Pains, ‘Gettysburg’, in Granta, available online here.
  • A discussion between Jessi Jezewska Stevens and Joshua Cohen about The Visitors is available to watch on Third Place Books’ YouTube channel, here.
Print status: Available
Original language: English
Format: Ebook
Publication date: 5 March 2024
ISBN: 9781913505844
Ebook ISBN: 9781913505851
Availability: World English
Number of pages: 192


Megan Gibson
New Statesman

‘There’s an atmosphere of late-capitalism dread looming over everything... Stevens’ writing is so witty and startling that Ghost Pains feels entirely unique.’

Lee Langley
The Spectator

‘A collection of 11 stories, sardonic and elegant, imbued with a sense of isolation and self awareness... Stevens has fun with fantasy... All our paranoid techno-dread is here: be careful what you wish for.’

Peter Whittaker
New Internationalist

‘Displaying an admirable range of tone and subject matter, these 11 stories constantly circle back to illuminate the human condition with wit and insight. Ghost Pains skewers the discomforts and disappointments of millennial life.’

Charlie Hope-D'Anieri
Los Angeles Review of Books

‘There’s a fragility to the worlds constructed in this collection, an inescapable feeling that, narratively and aesthetically speaking, the rules aren’t set.’

Regan Mies
Chicago Review of Books

‘The stories in Ghost Pains build upon one another to ask incisive questions about how we live today: interpersonally, economically and politically, and morally.’

Terri Jane-Dow

‘These tightly crafted stories are captivating and sophisticated, giving a sense that every word has been carefully chosen; the language is as important as the actions it portrays.’

Dominique Sisley

‘All of these are wry, mischievous takes on late-capitalist living, suffused with all its dread, and mark Stevens as one of the sharpest, most playful young prose writers working today.’

Jack Hansen

‘The humour is deep enough to coexist with the heartbreak; together, they form a life-affirming whole. There’s fun throughout Ghost Pains, but there is also an ambient dread that never quite goes away. The point, which builds in clarity and intensity from a dizzying array of angles throughout the collection, seems rather that whatever these forces of destruction are, the ones that we begin to hear through the din of the party, the chatter at the bar, the static of the screen, they will not be content to go unnamed for much longer.’

Jeremy Davies
Electric Literature

‘Though no one’s work could be less a blunt object, there’s something about Stevens’ writing that tempts me toward the grand statement. It makes me want to issue unpleasant and no doubt blinkered generalizations about the State of Contemporary Fiction. I want to hold Stevens’ work up as an antidote to this or that literary malaise. My tone becomes oracular, apocalyptic, even when the register of the text in question – as in ‘A New Book of Grotesques’ from her collection Ghost Pains – would seem to be anything but.’

Lithub, Most Anticipated of 2024 list

‘Another book making the case for 2024 being a banger of a year for short fiction, Ghost Pains collects Stevens’ fiction from The Baffler, Harpers, The Paris Review and elsewhere into a “shambolic” journey. (I’m in.) Fans of The Exhibition of Persephone Q and slightly hallucinatory The Visitors will be excited to see where she takes them next.’

Kirkus Reviews

‘Stevens’ impeccable artistry manages to overlay the gauzy romance of the stranger in a strange land atop the grim economic and interpersonal realities that so often accompany relative youth, relative freedom, and relative love. Erudite, eloquent, and bittersweet – these stories are like chewing on the orange rind for a last bitter taste of the drink.’

Publishers Weekly

‘Stevens returns with a skillful and expansive collection ranging from Nabokovian confessions to fabulist sketches. Stevens remains a distinctive prose stylist with a wry sense of humour and an inventive approach to plot. Readers will enjoy visiting Stevens’s delightfully weird world.’

Nell Zink

‘Ghost Pains is a brilliant, sophisticated collection. Jessi Jezewska Stevens is one of the rare writers capable of taking both life and literature seriously while giving you reasons to laugh.’

Sam Lipsyte

‘Jessi Jezewska Stevens’s stories gleam with their wonderfully bleak comic swerves, keen observation and fresh syntax. The world may be a goner, but short fiction is in good hands here. Ghost Pains is alive, an invigorating pleasure.’

Amina Cain

‘I remember the first time I read Jessi Jezewska Stevens: "The Party" in the Paris Review. Immediately drawn to its strangely rhythmic sentences, its playful sense of humor, I've stayed interested in her writing ever since. There is a brilliant feeling of both absurdity and sincerity in these stories, of the time we are living through. I know I will want to read her always, not only because she takes up matters like alienation, interrelationality, and change, but for the exact way in which she writes them.’

Justin Taylor

‘Jessi Jezewska Stevens is a deft, wry stylist attuned to ‘the metaphysics of the moment’ and the machinations of late capital. These eleven rich, mysterious stories take us from Gettysburg to Berlin, from Siberia to the virtual, and always through the labyrinth of the heart. This is a happy haunting: the sharp, brainy, beautiful ache of Ghost Pains will linger long after its last page is turned.’

Lucy Ives

‘Gardens of forking paths, two-faced beauties, secret hundred-millionaires beset by digitally born imps, loads of snacks, and the city of Berlin all feature in these beguiling tales. Jessi Jezewska Stevens provides the best sort of brain massage: bittersweet, with flashes of philosophy.’

Praise for The Visitors

‘It’s as if The Big Short were set in the dreamworld of Rachel Ingalls's Mrs. Caliban . . .’ Audrey Wollen, New York Times

The Visitors addresses it subjects through a dance of symbols and signifiers.’ Wall Street Journal

‘[A] mordantly funny requiem for the early 21st century . . . The odd touch of magic does nothing to diminish the story’s uneasy relevance to the contemporary state of affairs. Fans of such paranoia masters as DeLillo and Pynchon should give this a look.’ Publishers Weekly

The Visitors is a slim book with a lot going on. . . The book accepts, and even delights in, the strenuous absurdity of its characters’ efforts to index the relationship between the virtual and the material, or to locate the source of reality in imagination.’ Daisy Hildyard, The Guardian

The Visitors is conceptually bold. Stevens threads through needles of political theory so deftly you barely feel them piercing the brain. Her work calmly suggests this: the apocalypse is coming for us all, baby – so, what are you doing about it?’ Annie Hayter, The Big Issue

‘It’s both a bold, imaginative play on very recent history and a trenchant prophecy of the terrifying times we’re collectively staring down the barrel of.’ Anna Cafolla, The Face Summer Reads 2022

Authors love The Visitors

‘Jessi Jezewska Stevens’s frighteningly brilliant new novel The Visitors is both a bold reimagining of the recent past and an all-too-likely prophecy of what's to come. Caustic, intimate, and consistently surprising, this novel cements Stevens’s place as one of the great chroniclers of our cruel and terrifying times.’ Andrew Martin

‘In Jessi Jezewska Stevens’ timeless novel, The Visitors, nothing is as it seems, everything is in motion, and progress and decay are simultaneous. Amidst credit scores and talking spectres, revolutionary impulses and the indissoluble truths found in a lifelong friendship, Stevens paints a brilliant and richly captivating portrait of an artist teetering between her own past and an American collapse happening in real time. Stevens’ intimacy with history borders on the telepathic. The Visitors is transcendent and astounding in every way.’ Michael Zapata

‘Jessi Jezewksa Stevens' scalpel-fine prose – slicing with wit and pathos – belies the bewildering scope of The Visitors, which lays bare everything from the audacity of modern finance to the visceral costs of debt, love, and success. Yet while collapse looms nigh, every page beams with defiant jubilance and gut-punch insights. Equal parts revelatory and moving, The Visitors cuts to the core of the delusion and disillusionment of our era.’ Jakob Guanzon

The Visitors is such a unique gem of a novel—an intimate and affecting character study that is somehow also a DeLillo-esque container for diamond-sharp insights into big data, eco-terrorism, and the subprime mortgage crisis – that, like the garden gnome who haunts its protagonist, I’m half-convinced it couldn’t possibly  exist. But it does, and it is dazzling, and Stevens' readers are incredibly lucky to have it.’ Adam Wilson

‘This book is a speedball, with lines as beautifully sad and weary as John Berryman's lines, and a premise as wild and lit as one of Philip K. Dick's premises. Stevens is a writer who makes you want to slow down and read each sentence carefully, even as you want to race forward and see what happens.’ Benjamin Nugent

‘One of my favorite writers has written another imaginative and attentive marvel. The Visitors is about business: the business of staying alive, the business of being with others, the business of staying sane, and the business of business.’ Rivka Galchen

‘An orgy of synaptic firing and flourish, The Visitors is a novel of longing, lostness, and late capitalism told with roving imagination and warmth.’ Tracy O’Neill

Booksellers love The Visitors

‘Jessi Jezewska Stevens has created a parallel timeline as tumultuous and dread-inducing as our own, yet somehow this distorted reality reveals more about the preoccupations of existing than it's lived counterpart ever could. Part time capsule, part user manual, and part hallucinatory malware, The Visitors will still be with you long after the lights have gone out.’ Josie Smith, Greenlight Bookstore

‘What would you do if an interrogating gnome appeared in your apartment one morning and never left? If you are C, the artist-protagonist of Jessi Jezewska Stevens’ enthralling novel, The Visitors, you constantly question whether your gnome is real or imagined, all while operating a NYC art supply store, mourning the end of your marriage and your fertility, hiding from personal bankruptcy, and longing for a romantic relationship with your oldest friend, Zo. Apart from C’s personal troubles, a terrorist group called GoodNite is destroying city power grids and staging protests around the world. Stevens fully immerses readers into C’s world, exploring the artist’s relationship to her craft, how loneliness exploits our deepest fears and vulnerabilities, the affection and jealousy between childhood girlfriends, and the permanent scar of immigrant trauma. A clever, thought-provoking novel that is as surprising as it is satisfying.’ Lori Feathers, Interabang Books

‘Stevens' writing is vicious and cerebral, an enthralling combination. she has a lovely knack of hinting and alluding to goings-on elsewhere (the best kind of narration, imho). A cynical sophomore novel that deserves all the praise it will no doubt receive.’ Doug Riggs, Bank Square Books