Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"It's all trite garbage."

There's a certain kind of man, forty-ish, with too much pomade and bad black dress shoes, that tries to woo his date by scanning the fiction shelves and pretending he's read every single thing in the section. Or, at least, the stuff of real quality. By which he means nothing in the last fifty years for certain. Because, as he said two nights ago, "It's all trite garbage." And, sure, it'd be easy to laugh at that man or scorn him or hex him with voodoo. Rather, let's take a different tact.

Dear Man(in this case Barry),
I'm sorry some teacher did this to you. Taught you that nothing modern or contemporary can compare with the oldies and goodies. You know, the classics. The canon.

But we at Micawber's are here to help you help yourself. It will be easy and fun and you probably will learn something. Here's the twelve steps.

1.)I've gone mad for a Nigerian-American man named Teju Cole whose book "Open City" is a revelation. It might not change the way you think about fiction, but it did for me. His tumblr page is the finest electronic accompaniment to a book I've yet seen.
2.)Karen Russell is every bit as good as the reviews she's getting. "Swamplandia" and her book of stories give Florida a whole new vibe.
3.)From our friends to the north, we have Camilla Gibb's "The Beauty of Humanity Movement" which releases on 3/17 and made me want to eat pho morning, noon and night. Her blog is far better than the average author blog.
4.) Téa Obreht will be reading at Magers&Quinn on March 14th at 7:30 p.m. She is the latest wunderkind but don't hate because she's got talent.
5.) Algonquin Books finds hidden gems and, coming in May, Tayari Jones' "Silver Sparrow" will be a perfect summer read. She's legit.
6.) 5Chapter Books is a new press and they deserve some love for putting out a quality book that looks pretty too. Emma Straub's "Other People We Married" is short stories. Lorrie Moore and Dan Chaon like them and that should count for an awful lot.
7.) Let's segue to another fine book of short fiction. "Things We Didn't See Coming" by Steven Amsterdam is now out in paperback and while I preferred the minimalist hardcover edition, the orange cone on the paperback is snazzy. Entertaining and smart.
8.) "We, The Drowned" took all of the UK by storm and was selected by readers of a major newspaper as the best Dutch novel of the last 25 years. Carsten Jensen is the author and he's the old man of this group at fifty. Not to say that 50 is old.
9.) Another International Bestseller is "The Blindness of the Heart" by Julia Franck. It won the German Book Prize and check this out--Belarusian, Taiwanese and Galician? Holy smokes.
10.)I wish everyone would stop comparing Hannah Pittard to Jeffrey Eugenides but with the collective unnamed narrator it's going to be tough to stop. "The Fates Will Find Their Way" is breezy but I mean that in the best way possible. It makes time move quickly.
11.) It's a joy, as a bookseller, to have choices. You want great Ethiopian fiction? Okay, take your choice: Maaza Mengiste or Dinaw Mengestu. You can't go wrong. Better yet, read both with a friend. Go to Fasika on Snelling Ave and you will be pleased.
12.) No, no, no I do not get paid by Graywolf Press to say that they are the finest in the land. Alan Heathcock's "Volt" is set in Krafton, a fictional place. And these stories are hard to read because they are tough and will beat your spirit about. After I read the first story I felt like I'd been hit with a bag full of bricks. And I wanted some more.

Why not? Why not a baker's dozen of sorts. For some local talent check out Keith Hollihan, Kevin Fenton or either of the Peter's(Geye and Bognanni). They also have books out within the last year that might be a lot of things but they aren't trite and they ain't garbage.


  1. i do love the passion in this post.

  2. "trite garbage" -- good one.
    wasn't it einstein who said,
    "imagination is more important
    than knowledge" -- ?
    love the list. you and three
    lives books -- best ever!