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"Kitchens of the Great Midwest" by J. Ryan Stradal
Check out this summer's most hotly-anticipated debut, about a once-in-a-generation palate and the iconic chef behind the country's most coveted dinner reservation.
"[Jessica Lott’s] precision of language . . . makes this novella work. The sentences are clean and direct and active and with them she slowly builds a world of complex characters who are struggling, in real ways, to figure out how to connect." Aimee Bender, author, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt
About the Author
Jessica Lott won Low Fidelity Press' biannual novella award in 2006. She lives in New York City.
When we first meet Osin, he is red-eyed and unshaven, wearing pants that are fraying at the bottoms, and visiting old haunts in search of his second wife Merrill, who has left him for a younger man. Recently retired from his position as executive editor of a publishing house, Osin suddenly finds himself with all the time in the world. Accordingly, at two o'clock each afternoon he climbs into his car and sets out in search of Merrill. That Osin is more pathetic than creepy is due to Lott's light touch and Osin's own recognition of the absurdity of his situation. On the day on which the novella opens, we learn that he wants a "showdown" with Merrill---an early and telling detail about the way in which he responds to conflict---but upon finding her car in the parking lot of a fitness club and glimpsing his reflection in the rear mirror, he elects to confront her another day. Instead he drives to the house in which he and his first wife, Rosanna, had lived; the house, still occupied by Rosanna, initially provides him with the comfort that comes from familiarity. Within minutes, however, he discovers that the largely unaltered house only further depresses him. What he wants is sympathy (and maybe sex): what he gets is a knowing laugh and dismissal.
Osin is not an admirable character, but he is a sympathetic one. He has a remarkable ability to turn any situation in which he is the offender into one in which he is the victim. At one point in the novella, when several of Osin's past indiscretions surface, Rosanna aptly remarks, "He does stupid things, but he's not malicious." Osin's estranged son and cryptic daughter-in-law stand in need of evidence as to the truth of this statement, however; they are not convinced that he is anything more than an opportunist.Read more ›
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We meet Osin, the self-sabotaging protagonist of Jessica Lott's novella, newly retired in San Francisco and in the process of becoming unmoored by the break-up with his second wife, Merrill. Almost as if by instinct, he forces himself (quite literally) back into his old life - with his first wife, Rosanna, in the house the two of them shared as a young married couple a lifetime ago. As his feelings for Merrill shift with the time and distance he gains by crashing on Rosanna's couch, what starts out as an escape from the dismal reality of the Merrill situation soon becomes, under Rosanna's influence and presence and a fitful reacquaintance with his grown son, something more ... something else.
The domestic plot here could easily fall flat on the page and succumb to its own ordinariness were it not for Lott's ability to capture the vivid flux of finely variegated feelings submerged just beneath the surface of everyday life. _Osin_ has the psychological heft of a novel tempered by the light touch and tight prose we expect from the expertly crafted short story. More important, Lott writes men masterfully, writes them as well as Charles Baxter writes women. Lott's depiction of Osin is perfectly poised, capturing the way confrontation for some men can be both a challenge and a plea, a threat and an invitation. Osin loves to pick fights with people - his ex wife, his estranged son, his soon-to-be second ex-wife, his daughter-in-law ... even his young grandson on occasion - and then takes umbrage whenever anyone rises to the bait. He's aggressively affronted, and yet there's a strange intimacy Osin associates with sparring. Love, Lott suggests in _Osin_, is when it's worth picking a fight over.Read more ›
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