Usually when I want some literary inspiration, I attend a Portland State Literary Arts council event on campus, (look out for some great events this fall) but alas there’s none to be had at the moment, and I can’t wait.
The other day I said to myself, “Aaron, there are no hip young authors you like these days. Find some.” Then, as if I were walking the Miracle Mile, I received new short story anthologies by Arthur Bradford and Jonathan Ames; two hip young authors who happen to be reading, Q&A-ing and signing at Powell’s this Wednesday, Sept. 19.
The Bradford book, “Dogwalker” has a big green-eyed dog on the jacket cover. While cute as any big green-eyed dog, I figured it would be some sentimental dog love stuff, which I don’t fancy. I’m a cat man. Then I read the back jacket, which contained praises sung by David Foster Wallace, David Sedaris and Dave Eggers. They’re all hip young authors, and all named David. Peculiar, like the “Kids in The Hall” song, “These are the Dave’s I know.” Are they in some weird little Hip Young Authors Named Dave club?
The Jonathan Ames book, “What’s Not To Love?” has a cover made up of various newspaper sex ads, and is subtitled “The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer.”
Needless to say, I was sold on both books.
Here’s the skinny. Bradford won the O.Henry award for a short story included in “Dogwalker.” His stories are written in a simple, straightforward tone that make you understand, sympathize and think just enough to crave much more. I thought of Hemingway, among others. Reality is flexible and symbolic and yes there are canines, slugs and singing muskrats. “No doubt you’ll think I’m strange when I tell you I’ve been making love with my girlfriend’s dog,” one story opens.
Bradford’s praises have been sung plenty. A quotable quote from Kirkus Review: “The most eerily original American stories to come down the pike since the heyday of Flannery O’Connor.” I wish I could say stuff like that, damn.
Jonathan Ames draws men, at least, in with stories of impotence, balding, enemas, crack smoking, Oedipal complex, prostitutes and, yes, sex. I guess that stuff draws all genders in. He drops scenarios full of irony and despair, but looks on the upside. He’s not gratuitous or going for shock value. He’s telling stories you believe, chuckle at, and yes, relate too. Life is life and Ames is confessing for us all.
If I was going to be in town this Wednesday, I would go to Powell’s on Hawthorne, grab some Java, peep these books and come up with a little Q for the Q&A.