The Paper Man



Gallagher Lawson
The Paper Man
(Unnamed Press, May 2015)

An L.A. Weekly Best Book of 2015 by L.A. Authors

A young man made of paper is an unwelcome addition to a strange, anarchic city by the sea.

Michael was only 15 when a mysterious accident changed his life forever. Left for dead, he was rebuilt out of paper by his father. Ten years have passed and Michael is now an adult, still trapped in the paper version of his teenage body. To escape the stagnant life of his inland home, he runs away to the city by the sea, which holds the promise of art, adventure, and possibility of finally fitting in. Instead, Michael discovers the city is tearing at the seams. With rumors swirling that a militarized north will annex the city, newcomer Michael has more to worry about than the unpredictable seaside weather.

After being rescued from a rainstorm by Maiko, an unemployed fur model, and falling into a life of stability and anonymity, Michael’s cruel high school sweetheart Mischa suddenly reappears. Michael becomes torn between his friendship to Maiko and Mischa’s decadent underground art world. But when he finds himself drawn to the city’s most notorious artist, David Doppelmann, Michael begins another dangerous transformation, one that will either lead to uncovering his true self, or ignite the city toward revolution and destroy him and everyone he cares about.

Part fable, part surrealistic journey, Gallagher Lawson’s impressive debut is a gripping narrative about the nature of artistic identity and its tenuous relationship to the greater good. By creating an alternate reality that nevertheless mirrors our own troubled world order, Lawson has created a visionary, allegorical novel of our time.


Praise for The Paper Man

“Beautifully written and finely wrought, this novel is a surreal coming-of-age story that considers the boundaries between art and life….[A] strange and brilliant debut novel.”
Publishers Weekly

“Part Frankenstein, part Pinocchio, attracting comparisons to Kafka’s Metamorphosis… [The Paper Man] is a compelling story that sticks with the reader, examining art and its creation from a dizzying variety of angles and raising fascinating questions about ownership, celebrity, autonomy, the limits of self, and the essence of our humanity.”
—Nancy McCabe, Ploughshares

“This bizarre, compelling debut combines the darkness and political intrigue of Kafka with the eerie hyperrealism of a Magritte painting. Michael, the Paper Man, is a highly unconventional and persuasive hero, and David Doppelman among the strangest—arch nemeses? father figures? manifestations of the self?—I’ve ever seen in a novel. Gallagher Lawson is a weird and wonderful writer.”
—J. Robert Lennon, author of Familiar and See You In Paradise

“THE PAPER MAN is one of the most inspiring and original books I’ve read in years. Gallagher Lawson has written a lustrous fable comprised of loneliness, blood, and love. The Wizard of Oz on laudanum, a Bjork musical in letters, this devastatingly powerful debut challenges us to imagine what it would be like to be made of nothing more than paper, to live in a world where mermaids are murdered and art is the only path to actualization, a world, in many ways, not unlike our fragile own.”
—Samuel Sattin, author of League of Somebodies and the forthcoming The Silent End

“Only in the purity of paper, in its essence of nothingness, is it possible to create a truly literary character.”
—Mario Bellatin, author of Beauty Salon and Shiki Nagaoka: A Nose for Fiction

“Gallagher Lawson belongs to the new wave of writers using fantastical elements to mine deeper into realist territory. A strong debut from a promising writer of agile talents.”
—Shane Jones, author of Light Boxes and Crystal Eaters

“Imagine André Breton and Stephen Chbosky dreaming up a novel over some beers. Imagine The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but with the characters actually being literal flowers growing out of the walls….I won’t reveal much about the plot of THE PAPER MAN, except to say that it descends from the best of twentieth century surrealism, which is to say it’s funny, intellectual, and weirdly touching.”
—Benjamin Rybeck, Brazos Bookstore feature article

“Gallagher Lawson’s startlingly original novel ​​THE PAPER MAN is a fantastic debut in every sense, a bold exploration of identity and art.”
—David Gutowski, ​​Largehearted Boy

“In the book’s subtle allusiveness you can catch glimpses of the Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, David Lynch films, Miyazaki’s anime fairytales, The Velveteen Rabbit, Eyes Wide Shut, and Jose Saramago’s fables…Days after reading it, certain deeply weird scenes, erotic scenes and destructive scenes featuring paper, are still playing in my mind, still worming through my subconscious, like a waking dream…the book is a haunting debut, a children’s fable for adults that palpably captures what it might mean to hide behind a paper mask, and a social persona as well.”
—Anita Felicelli, The Rumpus

“Gallagher Lawson​’s THE PAPER MAN is a rare narrative, announcing the arrival of an outstanding new voice that comfortably inhabits the strange place where literary fiction, surrealism, and gritty fantasy converge.”
—Gabino Iglesias, Electric Literature

​”​M​agical…a work sensitive to the dark currents of creativity and the surreal work of self-creation​.”​
—Mindy Farabee​, L.A. Weekly (Best Books of 2015, L.A. Authors list)​


Read Gallagher Lawson’s interview about The Paper Man in the Los Angeles Times

Read the Ploughshares review of The Paper Man

Read Gallagher Lawson’s interview in Electric Literature

Read the Brazos Bookstore feature article on The Paper Man

Read about the music playlist Gallagher Lawson made for The Paper Man on Largehearted Boy

Read The Rumpus review of The Paper Man

Read the Publishers Weekly review of The Paper Man

Read Gabino Iglesias’s review of The Paper Man in Electric Literature​​

Read Gallagher Lawson’s self-interview for The Nervous Breakdown

Read an excerpt from The Paper Man on The Nervous Breakdown

Read about The Paper Man in the L.A. Weekly‘s Best of 2015 listing


Gallagher Lawson is a graduate of U.C. Riverside’s Palm Desert M.F.A. program. He has worked as a travel writer and technical writer, and plays classical piano. He lives in Los Angeles.