The goal of this collection of essays from some of America's younger or emerging novelists is to disprove the dire warnings regarding the disappearance of a reading public. Smokler, a book critic and commentator, passionately sets the tone when he assails the sense of impending catastrophe that has gripped the literati since the 2004 publication of the NEA report Reading at Risk,
which he accuses of double-talk. He brings together writers who, faced with other choices—careers in film, video production, the vast landscape of Internet possibilities—still opted to pursue writing as a career. This is a varied bunch, from Christian Bauman, who tells of discovering Hemingway as a soldier in Somalia untutored in literature, to Paul Flores, a Latino spoken-word artist who began writing in response to California's Proposition 187, which denied public education to immigrants. These writers have used all available avenues—MFA programs, stints as journalists, blogs, exposure to other countries and cultures—to find their subject matter and voices, whether lyrical, such as bestselling author Tracy Chevalier, or satirical, as in Robert Lanham's The Hipster Handbook
. In addition to showcasing individual talents, the book illustrates a generational posture: these writers are relaxed and confident in their audience. Most write with ease and immediacy, as if the space between writer and reader has grown measurably closer. (June)
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