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Middle Men: Stories [Kindle Edition]

Jim Gavin
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $10.99
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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
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Book Description

In this widely acclaimed story collection, Jim Gavin delivers a hilarious and panoramic vision of California, in which a number of down-on-their-luck men, from young dreamers to old vets, make valiant forays into middle-class respectability. Each of the men in Gavin’s stories is stuck somewhere in the middle, caught halfway between his dreams and the often crushing reality of his life. A work of profound humanity that pairs moments of high comedy with searing truths about life’s missed opportunities, Middle Men brings to life unforgettable characters as they learn what it means to love and work and exist in the world as a man.

Hailed as a “modern-day Dubliners” (Time Out ) and “reminiscent of Tom Perotta’s best work” (The Boston Globe), this stellar debut has the Los Angeles Review of Books raving, “Middle Men deserves its hype and demonstrates a top-shelf talent. . . . A brilliant sense of humor animates each story and creates a state of near-continuous reading pleasure.”

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2013: What a stunning debut collection-- funny, sad, heartfelt, and wise. Jim Gavin, a writer for the New Yorker, has trained his keen eye on the awkward and sobering stages of manhood: the yearning in-between stages; the striving but not-quite-there stages; those aching periods of want. Yet there’s a touching lack of the pathetic in the aspirations of these characters: the self-denying basketball player, the unemployed screenwriter, the widowed plumber. In fact, I found it fascinating to recognize my sons, my father, and my brother in these pages (and, yes, myself). Gavin’s men in the middle may be lazy or naïve, they may be underemployed or a bit lost, but they’re also hopers and dreamers, seeking better, brighter days amid the hazy Southern California warmth. --Neal Thompson

From Booklist

Reading Gavin’s first story collection is like listening to a bunch of guys swapping stories in a bar. The storytellers take hard looks at themselves, softened by a small gloss of nostalgia for better times and brighter dreams. Although Gavin’s characters seem quite similar, the stories they tell, of men searching for ways to bridge where they are and where they want to be, are distinctive and powerful. These “middle men,” all living in California, as evidenced by the recurrent appearance of Del Taco, know what it means to see the goal and know that it can’t be reached. Gavin plumbs the hearts and minds of his men with laserlike accuracy, but he also brings surprising humor to the stories, especially in the relief that his characters often feel when they realize that they won’t be able to live up to their own expectations. --Bridget Thoreson

Product Details

  • File Size: 2242 KB
  • Print Length: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (February 19, 2013)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008J4I6H8
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #335,657 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was excited to find out that Jim Gavin studied under my favorite short story writer Tobias Wolff. Gavin's stories, I assumed, would be influenced by that genius. Middle Men, which deals with intelligent young men trapped in the existential vacuum, does not disappoint. The prose is exact, often deeply funny, and never pretentious. The observations, such as middle-aged men using a urinal with their arms akimbo, is perfect pitch and I was jealous at some of the passages.

What I like about these stories is that they feel autobiographical and "lived," yet they have been shaped the way a short story is shaped so there is an artistry and form as opposed to crude autobiography.

The themes and main characters in the stories are all similar. Young men are lost, saddled with spiritual depression and the lack of a moral compass. There are no role models or higher ideals to aspire to. In this regard, the collection is dark.

But the triumph of the writing is Gavin's humor and his ability to show the main characters' skepticism as they're faced with phonies, braggarts, ignoramuses, wannabe rock stars, misfits, sloths, and false prophets.

The first story "Play the Man" is about a sexually-repressed fifteen year old high school basketball player who eats Costco lasagna, listens to lame bromides from his basketball coach, and dips his acne-ridden face in his neighbor's pool so the chlorine will dry out his pimples. There are many David Sedaris moments in this story, which asks the question: What does it mean to "play the man"? What if there is no worthy model to emulate? Where do we go from there?

My favorite story, "Bermuda," is the most plot-driven.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Close, maybe too close, to real life April 17, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Men especially, but probably lady readers also, may uncomfortably find themselves in these stories. The stories are highly effective in plumbing the depths of the characters and many of us will recognize the thoughts and frustrations. This is a dark collection, and none of the characters happen to be winners in life. It's more a case of trying to make sense of life.

There's little plot in these stories, the notable exception being "Bermuda", arguably the stellar story here.

The journey in this collection is dark, but revealing, especially to those 35 and under who will be most able to use these stories to improve their paths. Nevertheless, I do recommend this to all, especially us guys and also career women.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Men on the outside, looking on... April 26, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The overwhelming lack of mainstream popular interest in short fiction is a puzzle to me...and more so in a time when we seemingly prefer our entertainment distilled into three-minute YouTube clips or other manageable chunks that the short story seems so suited for. My puzzlement deepens when presented with a compendium of short stories as strong as the ones in "Middle Men".

Collectively, the protagonists in these stories are all young adult Californians, each circling in an orbit placing them somewhere between respectability and slackerdom. Jim Gavin lays out their lives in simple and non-judgmental terms, providing illumination with humor and surrounding the narrators with entertaining foils. I stopped dogging the ears of the pages with the best lines, because there were so many of them.

All of these stories are strong, but if you so pressed for time that you can't take on all seven: then start with "Play the Man", "Bermuda" and "Illuminati". Each presents central characters at intersections, and their choices are marvelously illustrated by the author.

Good, contemporary American fiction...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, yet EmotionallyTepid April 15, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It was hard to get into the characters or under their skin in these fast-paced short stories. Characters living under the edge, cursing, drinking, doing drugs, giving up (the fire alarm at the basketball game) emotionally short changing themselves, their lives and that of others.

In all the stories, I get the sense of lives lived in "quiet desperation", a theme which runs throughout the book. Now if that was the author's aim, then it came off splendidly. In only one story was I able to connect with or empathize with any of the characters - "Bermuda" coming close to resembling a failed relationship of my youth - but even there, the narrative and dialogue came through as being flat.

So, if a flat landscape of action suffused with melancholy and depression was the author's intent, he succeeded admirably.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Seven Short Stories About Working In California March 12, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
MIDDLE MEN consists of seven short stories about men working in Southern California (wait make that six the action in one takes place in the Bay area though the main characters are SoCal natives). To some extent the stories are arranged chronologically be the age and status of the main character.

In the first story "Play the Man" we have a sixteen year old basketball player who is also starting his first job as a K Mart associate.

"Bermuda" is about a young man who works part time delivering meals for the elderly in LA, lives in a crowded apartment with aspiring band members and finds an older girlfriend who is a pianist. Said girlfriend moves to Bermuda to teach music.

ELEPHANT DOORS concerns a twenty something young man who works as an assistant on a JEOPARDY like quiz show by day and tries to make it as a comedian by night.

The main character in "ILLUMINATI" has sold his first screenplay though its production has stalled. He has an interesting relationship with his uncle who has made it big in Riverside County in the irrigation business.

A mentally unstable plumber and his female cousin who makes "six figures" working in the high tech industry are featured in "Bewildered Decisions in Times of Mercantile Terror" which is the story with the Northern California setting though the characters originated in the southern part of the state.

The title story "Middle Men" is the last and has two parts. The first is called "The Luau" and describes the life of a thirty year old man trying to make a career in the bewildering world of toilet sales. The second part "Costello" is about his sixty year old widowed father who is a "lifer" in the same field.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it
I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. My initial thought when I finished was eh, and I moved on to my next book.
Published 2 months ago by James Walsh
4.0 out of 5 stars The following lines sum up this book beautifully: "He imagined the two...
The following lines sum up this book beautifully: "He imagined the two versions of himself - the young fraud and the old pro - standing on either side of a dark chasm. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Eddie
5.0 out of 5 stars This guy is some sort of literary genius with his finger on the pulse!
Jim Gavin's stories are real and grimy and cool and fun to read. He's some sort of literary genius with his finger on the pulse. Also, funny & entertaining. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Captain Winter
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid group of stories.
This book was called to my attention by a Kindle Daily Deal. I ended up buying it in hardback as the price between the two was close. I thought it was a solid group of stories. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mad Man
2.0 out of 5 stars Depressing
I realize what this book is about, the middle men, but wow was it depressing. Anyone who wants to give up on life and just exist, then this is for you. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Dorothy C. Lewis
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, but depressing.
It was a good read but was a little depressing in spots. I think my favorite story was the one about the guy working for a television quiz show host who was all ate up about... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Depressing
I was hoping for mystery short stories and instead got a volume of depressing tales of losers at their worst. Read more
Published 12 months ago by mysteryloverpeg
4.0 out of 5 stars Stories of purgatory in LA
in his short story collection, Middle Men, Jim Gavin explores the world of men stuck somewhere between their dreams and reality. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Joe Flood
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible book
For me, up there with Wells Towers's "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" and Alice Munro's "Too Much Happiness. Read more
Published 13 months ago by John J Posey
3.0 out of 5 stars SO SO Stories
Sad to say, this book seemed without much purpose, and spent its creative capital being predictably ironic, thinly at best. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Bondalian
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