Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Middle Men by Jim Gavin

A friend recommended this debut collection of short stories. They are wonderful. Buy the book and read it.

I could stop writing now because anything else I have to say about Jim Gavin and the book is simply a gloss on the paragraph above. Middle Men—as the flap copy says—find themselves stuck somewhere in the middle, caught halfway between their dreams and the often crushing reality of their lives.

We read about a high school boy dreaming of a basketball scholarship, a young man who falls in love with an unsuitable woman, a game show production assistant dreaming of being a standup comedian, and a middle-aged plumbing supplies salesman coming to terms with the death of his wife. The stories are set in Los Angeles, mostly an industrial, lower-middle class, blighted Los Angeles. And while some of the descriptions of the stories sound grim, Gavin is too good a writer to let them be grim only. Here, for example, is a sample of the routine the aspiring standup tries at an open mic:

"I finally found the self-help book that's going to unlock my potential. It's called Mein Kampf . . . I've got the audiobook on my iPod and it really gets me going when I'm doing hills on the elliptical. . . Fine. Let's have some fun. We'll play the dozens. Here we go. You mama so fat…she died of complications from diabetes . . . More? Sure. You mama so stupid…she was declared legally retarded and made a ward of the state. Her kids are now in foster care. It's a vicious cycle people . . ."

It says volumes about a character who believes a routine with this material will lead to a career as a performing comedian.

One more sample. This is the head of marketing for a software company motivating his troops:

"I know things are a little…right now. But still. We're trying to create a go-forward scenario, so we have to get out in front on this. We need confirmation on how our brand is being structured. And if we're serious about sustaining an effective solution environment, then we need to create a strategy for platform leveraging that prioritizes integration. That's the reality."

The reality is that these are wonderful stories.

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