- This event has passed.
- August 6, 2020
- Event Category:
- Author Events
presenting Cool for America: Stories and Fraternity: Stories
Harvard Book Store’s virtual event series welcomes acclaimed writers ANDREW MARTIN and BENJAMIN NUGENT for a discussion of their latest short story collections, Cool for Americaand Fraternity.
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About Cool for America
The collection is bookended by the misadventures of Leslie, a young woman (first introduced in Early Work) who moves from New York to Missoula, Montana to try to draw herself out of a lingering depression, and, over the course of the book, gains painful insight into herself through a series of intense friendships and relationships.
Other stories follow young men and women, alone and in couples, pushing hard against, and often crashing into, the limits of their abilities as writers and partners. In one story, two New Jersey siblings with substance-abuse problems relapse together on Christmas Eve; in another, a young couple tries to make sense of an increasingly unhinged veterinarian who seems to be tapping, deliberately or otherwise, into the unspoken troubles between them. In tales about characters as they age from punk shows and benders to book clubs and art museums, the promise of community acts—at least temporarily—as a stay against despair.
Running throughout Cool for America is the characters’ yearning for transcendence through art: the hope that, maybe, the perfect, or even just the good-enough sentence, can finally make things right.
In a Massachusetts college town stands a dilapidated colonial: Delta Zeta Chi. Here, we meet Newton, the beloved chapter president; Oprah, the sensitive reader; Petey, the treasurer, loyal to a fault; Claire, the couch-surfing dropout who hopes to sell them drugs; and a girl known, for unexpected reasons, as God. Though the living room reeks of sweat and spilled beer, the brothers know that to be inside is everything.
Fraternity celebrates the debauched kinship of boys and girls straddling adolescence and adulthood: the drunken antics, solemn confessions, and romantic encounters that mark their first years away from home. Beneath each episode lies the dread of exclusion. The closeted Oprah’s hero worship gives way to real longing. A combat veteran offers advice on hazing. An alienated young woman searches for a sanctuary. And the shadow of assault hovers over every sexual encounter.
Praise for Cool for America
“[S]imultaneously sharp and self-lacerating and generous and agreeable . . . Cool for America is animated by much the same spirit as Early Work . . . You feel Martin is going somewhere, and the prospect is tantalizing.” —Matthew Schneier, The New York Times Book Review
“Andrew Martin’s Cool for America is a collection as intensely pleasurable as it is uncomfortably potent. I felt myself growing uneasy as I turned the pages—each cheerfully aimless, morally compromised, defensively witty character cutting closer and closer to the bone. Martin’s stories are queasily plausible—or they would be if they weren’t also so funny and fun to read.” —Miranda Popkey, author of Topics of Conversation
“Overeducated and undermined, the women and men in Andrew Martin’s stories fortify themselves with beer, weed, intensely felt verdicts about music and literature, and messing around with people they probably shouldn’t be messing around with. Martin’s prose is as melancholy and ruthless as Raymond Carver’s, and his wit is as dark and sharp as Mary Robison’s or Donald Antrim’s.” —Caleb Crain, author of Overthrow and Necessary Errors
Praise for Fraternity
“Reading Benjamin Nugent’s stories doesn’t resemble any other experience I can think of―the paragraphs of Fraternity pivot easily from mantra to gut punch to slapstick to heartbreak, sometimes swelling into tenderness so acute it makes me avert my eyes, it feels so private and human and true.” —Leslie Jamison, author of The Recovering
“Disarmingly lovely . . . Fraternities may be collegiate America’s biggest shame, but Fraternity is a revelation.” —Bobby Finger, The New York Times Book Review
“From the already legendary opening story, Fraternity only deepens on every front: humor, compassion, syntactical intensity, observational brilliance, and satirical vision. Benjamin Nugent has bided his time, and the wait was worth it. This moving, daring and frequently astonishing debut will be remembered—and emulated—for many years to come.” —Sam Lipsyte, author of Hark and The Ask
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