In my life as a reader, the first significant thing I remember is sitting on my dad’s lap listening to him reading The Hobbit to me. I don’t know how old I was; I must have been preliterate or just learning to read. It was a gorgeous book, a hefty hardback bound in dimpled earth-green leather that slid out of an earth-green leather box; both the book and the box were decorated with primitive borders and gilt runic inscriptions in one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s invented languages.
I lived with my parents in Jackson Heights, Queens, and every morning, Monday through Friday, I put on a shirt and tie and rode the 7 train out to the Mid-Manhattan Library. Not the one from Ghostbusters, with the lions out front, but the other one, the smaller, grimier library across the street, where you could actually pull books off the shelves.
I feel like I’m going to talk like a TV kung fu character and say that DS’s prose contains three levels of excellence. There’s the surface brightness, a symphony of thumps, kicks and punches. Then, more interior to that, the subtle matrix of how the guys are relating to each other, and being guys, they are not going to talk about it…so Darin has to find a way to show us the reality. Last, there’s the metaphysical brightness of the text. I was tremendously moved by how Darin played this.
I am in the cat bird seat here, and feel very lucky to have this rare chance to look at these stories months before they goes on-sale. To watch Mr. Ross thread the needle with a short story, instead of the giant masterpiece that was his debut, is great fun.
Friend of the blog, Gina Frangello, tells me that LA crime writer Tod Goldberg (Fake Liar Cheat, Simplify, Other Resort Cities) is the funniest person she’s ever met, and watching this video which Goldberg made right before AWP, that’s not hard to believe. I peed my pants watching this thing. Something about the off-beat deadpan deliveries makes it even sadder and funnier.
Reimringer outdoes himself poking into the rough underside of working-class St. Paul and the Irish-German family he joined the priesthood to escape. His mother is a headcase, his father a violent bruiser, his war-hero grandfather wasting away in a nursing home, lost in his own mind. James finds himself injected back into their daily lives. As family sagas go, it’s as if Jonathan Franzen became suddenly interested in the working class.