Summary and book reviews of Middle Men by Jim Gavin

Middle Men

Stories

By Jim Gavin

Middle Men
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Feb 2013,
    240 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2014,
    224 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Morgan Macgregor

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About this Book

Book Summary

In Middle Men, Stegner Fellow and New Yorker contributor Jim Gavin delivers a hilarious and panoramic vision of California, portraying a group of men, from young dreamers to old vets, as they make valiant forays into middle-class respectability.

In "Play the Man" a high-school basketball player aspires to a college scholarship, in "Elephant Doors", a production assistant on a game show moonlights as a stand-up comedian, and in the collection's last story, the immensely moving "Costello", a middle-aged plumbing supplies salesman comes to terms with the death of his wife. The men in Gavin's stories all find themselves stuck somewhere in the middle, caught half way between their dreams and the often crushing reality of their lives.

A work of profound humanity that pairs moments of high comedy with searing truths about life's missed opportunities, Middle Men brings to life a series of unforgettable characters learning what it means to love and work and be in the world as a man, and it offers our first look at a gifted writer who has just begun teaching us the tools of his trade.

Illuminati

Uncle Ray called me from the ninth hole at Canyon Crest.

"Listen, Sean," he said. "I want to do you a favor. Me and Fig, we've been talking. We've got a story for you."

It was ten o'clock on Friday morning. I got out of bed and looked out the window. The sky was still gray. I usually tried to sleep late enough for the morning fog to burn off along the coast. Sometimes this meant sleeping past noon, but I was willing to do it. I hadn't talked to Ray in over a year.

"Your mom says the studio is giving you the runaround," he said.

"You two are talking?"

"I called her yesterday to wish her happy birthday."

"Her birthday was six months ago."

"Come meet me and Fig for lunch."

"Out there?"

"We're getting steaks at the Mission."

"You're buying?"

"Sean," he said. "Get cleaned up. We're going to tell you this story. You can put it in a movie."

"You're buying, right?"

"Yeah, me and Fig."

...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

The beauty in this collection is that we meet Jim Gavin's characters not when their lives are opening up (which of course makes for a nice, if easy, story), but when they're constricting, winnowing down into themselves to find their core, however meager yet unmistakably their own that core turns out to be.   (Reviewed by Morgan Macgregor).

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Media Reviews
The Los Angeles Times

Middle Men aspires to do what ambitious fiction has always done: show the world (especially the world we think we know) in a way that's recognizable and revealing, while telling us something fundamental about where and how we live.

Booklist

Distinctive and powerful…Gavin plumbs the hearts and minds of his men with laserlike accuracy, but he also brings surprising humor to the stories, especially in the relief that his characters often feel when they realize that they won't be able to live up to their own expectations.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Sad and overtly hysterical, the stories dodge self-pity and indie quirk for pensive American tales of turn-of-the-20th century manchildren gesturing vaguely toward a future of eroded opportunity.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. The best kind of satire: barbed and hilarious, but suffused with compassion.

Library Journal

Starred Review. As the lizard at the bottom of the pool in the title story could tell you, there are no happily ever-afters in this stellar collection marked by an irreverent, deadpan humor and postmodern sensibility.

Author Blurb le Men is a very powerful debut.” -- Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask
Jim Gavin’s stories are wise and funny and not at all afraid of the dark, or the light. Middle Men is a very powerful debut.

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Notable Novels About Hollywood

In "Illuminati," one of the stories in Jim Gavin's short story collection, college dropout and writer, Sean, describes the experience of selling his first and only script. "Two years ago, all my dumb ideas and tenuous connections came together. I sold a screenplay to a finance company that was developing a project for a pair of comedians…Then nothing happened. The finance company dissolved, the production company lost their studio deal, and so forth. Nothing always happens. The literature of Hollywood is depressingly consistent on this point."

Turns out that's pretty accurate. Though different writers have taken it from different approaches, disparate perspectives and more than one distinct genre, the small but formidable canon of ...

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