Agitprop for Bedtime Cover

A portable collection of polemical bedtime stories for adults, addressing such timely topics as: erectile dysfunction during the national anthem, what happens when Nancy Pelosi comes calling, and what Model A Fords say under certain conditions.

Read tantalizing excerpts at Heavy Feather Review and Vol1 Brooklyn, and an interview with the author about the book in Big Other.

The author has devised an accompanying playlist for the book, with commentary, which can be read and heard at Largehearted Boy.


“Don’t be fooled by the slimness of this volume of genre-bending short prose works; the surprises to be found herein abound. The meeting of the dark and the ticklish in these pieces conjures for me a Kafka doppelganger holding forth at the Algonquin roundtable, cackling mischievously all the while. This book is a trip.”

—Peter Cherches, author of Whistler’s Mother’s Son (and Other Curiosities)

“Holdefer’s Agitprop for Bedtime is a taut, fast-paced collection of short stories that explore what it is to be as American as the (seeming) collapse of our civilization. Ribald, intelligent, and timely, this book of political bedtime stories explores our social woes in a way that is funny but will also keep you up at night.”

—Jesi Buell, author of The Book of the Last Word

“Holdefer, with Agitprop, coincidentally timed as it is with a viral apocalypse, reveals a cultural psyche ripe for revelation, a world populated by the mentally doomed.”

—Chuck Richardson, author of Iterations of Lilith and Adam: An Alien’s Memoir

“The fictions in Charles Holdefer’s inciteful and insightful ‘pamphlet’ stake a new claim in literary performance art, issuing from Dadaists and Surrealists whose socio-political messages were very much located in the Real. We watch—amused, horrified, titillated, unable to look away as Agitprop for Bedtime satisfyingly flays the skin off our increasingly Unreal culture. A perfect and vital read—with rereads demanded.”

—Debra Di Blasi, author of Selling the Farm: Descants from a Recollected Past

“Funny, creepy, and disorienting in all the best ways, Charles Holdefer’s Agitprop for Bedtime is a highly enjoyable, singular read!”

—David Leo Rice, author of Angel House

“Charles Holdefer is an alchemist, transforming our national and human shortcomings into satiric gold. Agitprop for Bedtime is darkly funny and inventive and just the book for this moment.”

—Elizabeth McKenzie, author of The Portable Veblen

“Charles Holdefer has done the impossible and the wonderful. He’s taken bullshit American exceptionalism, and turned it into a short collection of British comedy vignettes that aren’t cheap caricatures, but honest haymakers at how insane this country actually is. Agitprop for Bedtime reads like Roald Dahl meets Monty Python, but decked out in blue jeans and cowboy boots. It’s biting, funny, and doesn’t hold back, which in this political climate, is exactly the cultural salve we crave.”

—Robert Dean, author of The Red Seven

“Charles Holdefer picks apart contemporary Western society and holds up its foibles, hypocrisy, and downright weirdness to a carnival house mirror. At times pointedly irreverent, the seventeen short pieces in this collection will either cause you to fall over laughing or make you reach for the Xanax…. Agitprop for Bedtime combines erudition with a zany sense of humor that harkens back to a kinder, gentler era of skewering humanity.”

—Jonathan Harrington, in Rain Taxi

“[A] jolly, twisted, phantasmagorical romp through the American psyche. As with Holdefer’s Dick Cheney in Shorts, this latest collection has a decidedly political edge, with a wide range of targets that include gun rights, healthcare, for-profit prisons and blind patriotism…. It’s a weirdly bleak vision of a nation divided, but a hilarious one as well…. The funhouse-mirror version of America that Holdefer depicts is one that implicates us all…. Our ignorance, it turns out, is as purposeful as it is central to our continued comfort.”

—Marc Schuster, in Small Press Reviews

“Although Agitprop is relatively short at around 100 pages total, the collection takes a few reads to truly appreciate because of Holdefer’s abstract and experimental style of writing. Some stories and themes are clearer than others, but the collection as a whole is quite the undertaking. Agitprop is intended for the politically-aware and educated reader, and highlights and critiques various elements of American culture… Ultimately, Agitprop for Bedtime is a series of well-composed contradictions. The collection is both lighthearted and vicious, zany and realistic, whimsical and grounded, political and apolitical. Agitprop takes its subject matter seriously but doesn’t take itself seriously at all.”

—Keerthana Manoj, in Call Me [Brackets]

Charles Holdefer grew up in Iowa and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Sorbonne. He currently teaches at the University of Poitiers, France.

His short fiction has appeared in many magazines, including the New England Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, North American Review, Los Angeles Review, Slice and Yellow Silk. His story “The Raptor” won a Pushcart Prize.

He also writes essays and reviews which have appeared in The Antioch Review, World Literature Today, New England Review, The Dactyl Review, The Collagist, l’Oeil du Spectateur, New York Journal of Books, Journal of the Short Story in English and elsewhere.

pub date: 2020-10-15
isbn: 978-1-944697-99-0 (paperback)
Cover design by Royce M. Becker