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Emporium: Stories Paperback – March 25, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (March 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142001953
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142001950
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A disturbing sense of paranoia drifts through the nine stories in Emporium, Adam Johnson's stunning debut. But beneath the uneasy surface of the freakishly memorable landscapes depicted in this original collection lies the familiar trappings of adolescence: strip malls and cul-de-sacs, stifling suburbs, teenage crushes and rebellions, absent parents, and a frightening, unpromising future.

In "Teen Sniper," a lonely 15-year-old LAPD marksman, whose only friend is ROMS, the squad's bomb-detecting robot, can snuff out a life in a heartbeat from 475 meters away yet can't connect with the girl of his dreams standing right in front of his nose. In this unsettling story, the sniper visualizes the impact wounds of his victims--renegade employees of Silicon Valley software companies--as beautiful floral imagery.

Duck, you fool, I can't help whispering.
The slug goes, connects--a neck shot, my trademark, the wound lapping like the tongues of orchid petals. The target's knees go out, and he falls from view, dropping into the beige of his cubicle.
A real standout in this powerful collection is "Your Own Backyard." A former police officer turned rent-a-cop works the night shift at a Phoenix zoo, where he has the undesirable job of eliminating the unwanted animals ("young ones, old ones, sick ones, extra ones"). Yellow Post-it notes stuck to the guard shack serve as death sentences, his assignments for the night. This troubled father views his unpredictable young son's increased fascination with violence as the all-too-familiar shadow of a criminal mind in the making. "Trauma Plate" features a teenager acting out against her parents--who run a bulletproof-vest rental shop in a deserted strip mall--by daring her crush to take a shot at her Kevlar covered heart; a Louisiana family counts down the hours until the ATF slams into their home in the atmospheric "The Jughead of Berlin"; and in "The Death-Dealing Cassini Satellite," a 19-year-old slacker occupies his time by driving a party bus filled with the members of his late mother's cancer support group. Despite the unusually edgy nature of the stories, at its core, Emporium is surprisingly moving--its characters aching to connect in an ominous, uncertain world. Keep Adam Johnson on your literary radar; Emporium is a searing debut from a writer to watch. --Brad Thomas Parsons --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Suburban life throbs with paranoid violence in the subtly skewed, futuristic world that Johnson envisions in this nervy debut collection of nine stories, each bristling with inventive energy. Trapped in their high-tech surroundings, his characters are unable to navigate a hazardous social maze, but unsure of how to live outside it. "Teen Sniper" depicts a sour aftermath of corporate meltdown. Fifteen-year-old Tim is the leader of a sniper squad whose targets are renegade employees. He struggles to think of flowers as he takes aim through Hewlett Packard's windows, an attempt at positive imagery that is cruelly mirrored by the sumptuous corporate flower beds below. Meanwhile, a touching tale of adolescent confusion unfolds: Tim can stop his heartbeat when he takes aim, but he still can't talk to girls. A sense of alienated adolescence pervades each of these nine stories, even those in which the characters are fully grown. Johnson conveys a powerful blend of stunted development and premature knowledge, showing emptiness and neglect in a harsh new light. In the masterful "Cliff Gods of Acapulco," the narrator recalls "the boxy loop of youth, a decade that leaves your ears ringing with television and loneliness," and Johnson seamlessly depicts the merging of teenage lethargy with adult introspection amid the havoc wreaked by a plane crash, a father lost in Africa and an assortment of vicious animals. "The Canadanaut" deals with isolation taken to a dazzling extreme: Canadian scientists live in "scientific seclusion" in the frozen wasteland of northern Canada, where they race to achieve the first moon landing. Each of these unusual, skillful stories exhibits a fierce talent, showcasing Johnson's quirky humor and slicing insight. Agent, Warren Frazier. (Apr. 1)Forecast: Johnson, whose fiction has appeared in Esquire, Harper's and the Paris Review, has already attracted a small crowd of fervent admirers who should snap up his debut collection.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Best collection by a new writer I have ever read.
Poetvet
Adam Johnson is a writer that will definitely go places, in my opinion, and I look forward to reading future works by him.
Amazon Customer
These stories are clever in their subject, pace, voice, and imagery.
WhoDat

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Elliott on April 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I thought this book of stories was about as good as it gets. The stories, which are strange as hell, were also deeply insightful. How Adam can tell a story about a ma and pop bullet proof vest shop and turn it into a story about a girl leaving home, is beyond me. But he does it. He starts with these wild premises, like a teenage sniper working for a Silicon Valley Police Department, and turns them into moral fables about the pain of growing up, of first love, the push pull of parents and their children.
In some ways he's writing about the most basic things, fathers who don't understand their sons, adolescent love stories. It's just that he's doing it all in such a new and original way. To find a comparison I would probably have to go to Kurt Vonnegut's Welcome To The Monkey House. But in technique he's much closer to Raymond Carver or Tobias Wolff and their clean, determined prose.
It's really hard to imagine a short story lover not enjoying this book. If nothing else, and if you're too poor to buy a book in hardcover, grab it off the shelf at the bookstore and read the second story, Your Own Backyard.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Make no mistake, Adam Johnson can write a mean short story, and maybe he will be the "next big thing," but the hype around this collection is perhaps more a reflection of his potential than of the stories themselves. His shtick (and I like it), is to explore very basic and universal themes, such as loneliness, coming of age, love, death, and other such favorites (often though teenage protagonists) in imaginative and slightly surreal, semi-absurd settings.
For example, in the first story we meet a teenage sniper who works for the Palo Alto police, dropping dot-com burnouts on a daily basis. While he does grapple with the issue of empathy, his more pressing concern is fitting in with the older guys and getting a date. The second story is about a night guard at a zoo who is tasked with killing certain animals each night, but the real story is about his attempt to relate to his son, who can't cope with his father no longer being a policeman. In these, and all the stories, Johnson manages to evoke of a lot of sympathy for his characters, as well as humor ranging from dark, to wry, to just plain funny. He's able to create these quirky, yet wholly believable settings (even the snowbound 1960s Canadian space research center), and populate them with characters you want to know more about All of this is accomplished with zero self-indulgence and a high level of prose.
Where the stories tend to falter a bit is the endings-they all end on pretty much the exact same note. Not quite despair, but the tangy hollowness of isolation. This wouldn't be a problem for a novel say, but when all the stories in a collection leave the same taste in the mouth at the end, it gets old. Still, Johnson is definitely a talent to watch for, and these stories do exhibit loads of promise, but they're not as completely stunning as some reviewers might lead you to believe....
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Neil Connelly on April 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Emporium delivers a vision that produces a profound and immediate sense of rightness. More than just a glimpse into the future of our baffling world, Johnson provides a preview of where fiction itself is heading. Prepare yourself for characters more real than your mother, language that demands to be read aloud, images that will delight and haunt. This book soars in the same rarified air as the best collections of our time: The Night in Question, Birds of America, Poachers, Dogfight, CivilWarland, Hotel Eden. I'll end with my own prediction; years from now, you'll be having a drink with friends arguing about who read Adam Johnson first. Count on it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jack M. Walter on May 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is an amazing collection of stories, with characters and situations that are wildly imaginative and testosterone-laden (that goes for the female characters too!). Your Own Backyard is my favorite, a frantic but insightful tale of how a father finds himself trying to connect with his adolescent son, and The Canadanaut, the most bizarre story here, is just plain laugh-out-loud funny. My only reservation is with most of the endings; the author, in attempting to show that there really is no end to the stories of our lives, has a habit of cutting the ending short, which leaves the reader puzzled and frustrated. Still, a minor complaint about the most entertaining and thoughtful prose I've read in a long time. I look forward to more by Mr. Johnson.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
this is a fine debut by a writer we're all going to have to watch closely. Most short story collections have one or two zingers, and the rest of the pieces are so-so or just plain filler. There stories crackle with wit and linguistic energy. Perhaps Mr. Johnson might come off as a bit paranoid--or at least the characters in his stories seem to be--but I'll read another collection as finely written as this in a heartbeat. Bravo.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By George Clark on May 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Adam Johnson's signature style sets his stories apart from anything that's being written today. With each piece, the reader is instantly immersed in a brilliant reality drawn with frightening clarity. The voices are distinct, memorable, impossible to forget. The language is stunning, each sentence layered with meaning. Here is a book that rewards multiple readings, that forces us to re-examine the world in which we live.
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