No One You Know

THE BOOK: No One You Know: Strangers and the Stories We Tell


THE AUTHOR:  Jason Schwartzman

: Outpost19

SUMMARY: Book jacket: “During a lonely and difficult year, author Jason Schwartzman began allowing regular, everyday interactions with strangers to escalate. In NO ONE YOU KNOW, Schwartzman compiles dozens of these encounters and deftly reveals the kinship he finds there, ultimately reconsidering what it means to know someone. From taxi dispatchers to aquarium attendants, drifters to neighbors, exes to siblings, Schwartzman captures the space between people, meticulously distilling the turning point when strangers become intimates. Heartbreaking, insightful, and often profoundly funny, NO ONE YOU KNOW revels in connections, examining how we make ourselves known. A rich and beautiful debut.”

No One You Know: Strangers and the Stories We Tell by [Jason Schwartzman]

THE BACK STORY: The book started as a loose chronicling of uncanny, poetic encounters I kept having with strangers. In an era low on intimacy after a hard break-up, my relationship to strangers seemed to change in response and ensuing interactions often detoured to unexpected places. It was a different way of relating to people, and what resulted made me wonder about the nature of connection and disconnection.  

It took a year to write, then several more of submitting the manuscript and editing. From the moment I started writing to the day the book came out spanned six years!

More backstory in this interview:

WHY THIS TITLE?: I chose “No One You Know” because it can refer to two kinds of strangers — someone you haven’t met and also someone who you may no longer recognize, which was the original meaning of the word. I was going through an estrangement while having all these close-up interactions with strangers, and the resulting blur formed the core of the book. 


It’s a book that invites you to think about your own relationships … as dynamics change with family and friends and across the different levels of intimacy that flash with the mailman, or your boss, or a neighbor, or that person next to you on a plane who you chatted with for a few minutes. 

No One You Know has been cross-categorized as Essays, Sociology, Biography, Autobiography, and even Poetry. That reminds me of something someone said to me when I first started writing these stories: “I don’t know what this is, but I would read a whole book of it.”


“These slice-of-life sketches capture fleeting moments of connection, and are laced with bright aphoristic quips. This arrives right on time.” – Publishers Weekly

“In the great tradition of wayward oral historians, this compelling debut from a talented new author is a vivid and sentient portrait of everyday Americana and the nature of intimacy.” — Geoffrey Gray, author of Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper

“Schwartzman is an interlocutor, a witness, an agitator…With the moral zip of Isaac Bashevis Singer and the sharp compassion of Lydia Davis…” — Amanda Goldblatt, author of Hard Mouth

: I’m originally from New York City, and most of the book vignettes occurred there and St. Louis. For years now, I’ve been a Senior Editor with True.Ink, a revival of the old adventure magazine. Lately, I’ve been working to rediscover my backhand (sadly lost to time) and befriend the crow that likes to fly into our yard. I’m not the actor from Bored To Death (sorry!) but am a fan of his work, too.
 In the age of Covid, we’re more distanced from people than ever, so it feels timely to be thinking about how we interact with strangers. The book doesn’t have a “message” and many of the stories trace moments of disconnection but I hope ultimately that it can be a guide toward empathy.

SAMPLE: Several excerpts are available here:

LOCAL OUTLETS: No One You Know is on Bookshop: or you can request it from most independent book stores if they don’t already have it in the store.



From the Publisher:

Barnes & Noble:

PRICE: $14.50


Email: jdschwartzman [at] gmail [dot] com

Twitter: @jdschwartzman 

I’d be thrilled to Zoom in for a book club discussion! Or feel free to just say hello. I’m pretty stranger-friendly, as you might guess 🙂

Published by


Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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