May 20, 2023
This week you’ll discover the latest from a Center favorite who has graced us with his presence at several past events; laughs from two essential American humorists; an irresistible early summer novel; and an Irish debut set in modern Belfast. These books will bring tears of laughter and of pathos—however disparate these characters may be, you’ll find some very relatable stories.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
The Late Americans
By Brandon Taylor
Published by Riverhead
Taylor (Booker Prize finalist, Real Life) is inarguably one of the shrewdest chroniclers of contemporary American experience. In his new novel, his intertwining characters interact in an insulated Iowa MFA program. He describes one poetry instructor as, “presid[ing] over them like a fucking youth minister.” On the cusp of their adult lives, they exist in the hothouse environment of grad school, “the zenith of their lives as artists.” Taylor expertly captures the artifice of academia, as well as the art. In this band of diverse personalities, we recognize ourselves and our friends, hurtling toward their precarious futures. Catch up with Taylor’s previous events at The Center here: September 2020; October 2021; March 2023.
Bad Summer People
By Emma Rosenblum
Published by Flatiron
The author has said she wanted to write a novel that gives its reader “a juicy candy feeling” that is both fun and distracting. Fire Island is her setting for the discovery of a mysterious dead body that turns this small seasonal community upside down. It is a heightened, satiric look at what happens when privileged Upper East Side New Yorkers are transported to this tiny, cloistered spit of land (which looks much like Saltaire) and all hell breaks loose. As we know from a recent successful TV series, rich people behaving abominably is the perfect summer escape, especially when murder is in the air..
By Steven Wright
Published by Simon & Schuster
Living in Boston in the early ’80s you couldn’t avoid the presence of stand-up comedian Steven Wright—with his dry, deadpan delivery that embodied all the social angst and existential dread of the city. His first novel is (unsurprisingly) very weird. His alter ego is a third-grade boy who we follow for one day at school, privy to his strange and hilarious thoughts. What goes through his head (oh, I forgot to say he has a rectangular hole in his head—don’t ask) are the deep musings of a child trying to make sense of the universe. It is oddly delightful.
By Samantha Irby
Published by Vintage
The always hilarious Lambda Award-winning Irby presents her fourth essay collection this week. There are seventeen new pieces here, all laced with her self-effacing brand of Midwestern humor, containing a lot of exclamation marks. The title refers to how she describes her public personality. Here she nails the sort of smug person who makes you feel bad about yourself; unapologetically extolls the virtues of Dave Matthews and her bad taste in movies; discusses disgusting bodily functions; and depicts the irascible dog she begrudgingly adopted during the pandemic. One essay is entitled “We Used to Get Dressed Up to Go to Red Lobster.” We did, too..
Close to Home
By Michael Magee
Published by FSG
Meet Sean, who managed to leave his Belfast home and get an English degree in Liverpool (he loves existential fiction), only to end up back there, living in a squat among cigarette ash, empty cans and bottles, and drugs. The city is still reeling from the recession as Sean scams the self-checkout to get groceries. Still, you’ll come to love him and empathize with his struggles. His father is absent, he’d like to avoid moving back in with his mother (a maid who loves to paint) and to stay out of jail after a street fight that threatens to upend his future. His story is tremendously poignant.