So many events in September. How can we make each one of them stand out? Today I obsess over Jonathan Evison, who visits on Wednesday, September 12, 7 pm, at Boswell. He's the author of three published novels, starting with All About Lulu.
I haven’t read two books by the same author back-to-back in years. When I was young, I would sometimes find an author and try to read through their whole library, but nowadays, there’s always another event book, another hot upcoming release, or a book club selection that is screaming for my attention. So reading The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving and West of Here in succession was almost luxurious.
Ben Benjamin’s story has a sadness that recalls Kirk Farber’s Postcards from a Dead Girl, and Pete Nelson’s I Thought you Were Dead. I guess when you think of lovable loser cut ups, you think of Boswell, at least if you are a publicist. But I have to say, at least all their characters have homes. When we someday host an event for Mark Krieger’s novel, his characters won’t even have that.
Part I: A Conversation with Mark Krieger.
As you know, we’ve been trying to occasionally pair writers with local opening acts, folks who’ve been published, but not in book form. Some months ago I went to Evison, who was signing advance copies of his book at the Algonquin booth of Book Expo, to see if he’d be up for it. More than that, I asked if he knew someone in town who might fit the bill.
And immediately he thought of Mark Krieger. Apparently Evison told me he’s been working on a novel for years, but it’s not quite there yet. I wrote to Kreiger and asked for a little more about his work.
“My fiction has appeared in: Narrative Magazine, Tampa Review, KNOCK, and Shambhala Sun (non-fiction) and THEMA. My story Scar (which I'll be reading from that night) won first place for 2012 Danahy Award issued by Tampa Review (University of Tampa). An earlier draft was also a finalist for Narrative's 2011 Winter Story Contest. The story is forthcoming in Tampa Review. Another story Dead End was a finalist for an award and attracted the attention of the famous New York agent Nat Sobel (representing Pulitzer winner Richard Russo, James Ellroy, FX Toole) who contacted me through Tampa Review to express his admiration for the piece and asked to see my novel. Like the story Scar, the novel deals with the adventures and misadventures, the horrors, the violence and blisses of nomadic homeless youths wandering America's hard streets searching, blindly, for some sense of family and home they seem cursed never to find.”
More in Fictionaut.
Krieger’s prepared about 25 questions to keep things moving along. I’ve heard from Judy Bridges at Redbird, who spoke fondly of Mark’s work. Stacie will be hosting this, but I’m hoping to catch the tail end after our Zane event at the Milwaukee Public Library’s Centennial Hall.
Part II: The Road Novel Window
One of the things that occurred to me while I was reading The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving was how a journey of a character’s growth so often plays out in a physical journey. In Evison’s newest novel, he plays two journeys against each other—the one that led to Benjamin Benjamin’s ruin, and another that leads to his redemption. I immediately thought of Rebecca Makkai’s The Borrower, mostly because it was the last road novel for which I hosted the event. And of course Jack Kerouac’s On the Road came to me, mostly because there’s the film opening this fall that’s already gotten buzz from the festival circuit.
I asked the Boswellians about their favorite road novels, or at least ones they thought might be someone’s favorite, and we came up with a pretty good list, filled with classics and some recent sleepers. In fact, it was good enough to make a window, tricked out with our Zoomster friction vehicles that we have been selling well in the kids’ section. Here’s our list.
Along a long Road, by Frank Viva
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
Another Roadside Attraction. by Tom Robbins
The Borrower, by Rebecca Makkai
Breakfast with Buddha, by Roland Merullo
The Devil All the Time, by Donald Ray Pollock
Find Me, by Carol O'Connell
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
I Had Trouble Getting to Solla Sollew, by Dr. Seuss
The Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry
Lullaby, by Chuck Palahniuk
The Music of Chance, by Paul Auster
On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
The Leisure Seeker, by Michael Zadoorian
Practical Demonkeeping, by Christopher Moore
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, by Jonathan Evison
The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bolano
The Scenic Route, by Binnie Kirshenbaum
Thou Shalt Not Road Trip, by Anthony John
The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce
Wake Up Sir, by Jonathan Ames
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig
I didn't vet this; I'm trusting the contributors. And I'm either too lazy or too time-crunched to link all these to our book page. If I get bored, I'll do it later. But if you'd like to know more, you can cut and paste into the keyword field of our website.
Evison is the inspiration and also has the best placement. Now I just need to finish finding Hollywood novels for a window/table for Emma Straub, to complement Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures.