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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Starred Review. The best kind of satire: barbed and hilarious, but suffused with compassion.
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.
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.
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 Hollywood novels seem to agree on this point: that the industry, for all its glamour and appeal and mythology, is little more than an exercise in smoke and mirrors. (And alcohol. And drugs.)
A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about the interplay of time and music, about survival, about the stirrings and transformations set inexorably in motion by even the most passing conjunction of our fates. Sly, startling, exhilarating work from one of our boldest writers.
Like the work of Cormac McCarthy, Denis Johnson, Richard Ford, and Annie Proulx, Battleborn represents a near-perfect confluence of sensibility and setting, and the introduction of an exceptionally powerful and original literary voice.
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