- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (April 1, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670030724
- ISBN-13: 978-0670030729
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 32 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,860,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Emporium: Stories Hardcover – April 1, 2002
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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
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.
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One consistency that comes through loud and clear in a story collection but would imperceptible had you read each of these over a period of years in various literary periodicals is that the narrator of every story has essentially the same voice, Johnson's own elegant, observant one, be that narrator a horny teenager, a grounded pilot, a sniper, a physicist, a bricklayer, an office clerk, whatever. Is this a flaw? I compare Johnson to, say, literary shapeshifter David Mitchell, who gives unique voices, phrasing, idiosyncrasies to his unusual characters. But this is Johnson's first collection, and his own voice - uniquely powerful, uncommonly inventive, dryly funny, humor that pops up, almost invariably by surpise, in odd places and circumstances, a sad yet tenderly resigned sensibility - is captivating. Moreover, all but one of these stories resists closure: think of a typical New Yorker story, whose conventional critics - particularly in the 1970s-1980s - made the complaint that they read as through the concluding paragraph had been struck out. But Johnson never panders. He challenges his readers to think, as would a strong contemporary poet. The last paragraph may be for the reader to write.
Add that's how Johnson's story structure and style work for me: very like poetry, and not only because his sentences are poetically beautiful. The stories make me pause throughout, and then at their conclusion, to think, relatively hard, with pages flipped back to and reread, about what I just experienced. This is apart from an odd sense of dislocation, but in a place with many familiar elements and motives. I could not go from one story directly to the next. I read the book over a period of some two weeks and found, for the most part, each story to be vaguely unsettling, and something I had to ponder, to satisfying, rewarding effect (There is one exception, "The Canadanaut," the only tale that comes to a conventional close and that is only unsettling until you grasp Johnson's project. Readers with a youthful addiction to Tom Swift, Jr. books will understand.)
In any event, I'm most definitely a fan and believe, very emphatically, that Adam Johnson is a great voice in American fiction who should be read by anyone who loves great, imaginative writing.
After a lifetime writing for newspapers, I can’t decide if the drawbacks of the hard-boiled lifestyle outweigh the benefits of getting closer to the truth of things. In “After Visiting Friends” Michael Hainey approaches this conundrum by investigating the mysterious death of his journalist father decades earlier. Fearing what he might discover, he delays his inquiry until he is about the same age, 35, as his father was when he died “after visiting friends,” according to his obituary in the Chicago papers where he worked as a chief copy editor (slotman). Digging after the lapse of so many years to find out what really happened, Hainey goes through his family memories, resurrecting such long-distant characters as his quirky grandmother and reconnecting in a more intimate way with his mother. Hainey loved his father, whom he lost while in grade school, and he learns why so many others also loved him, and why they shielded his family from the details of his death.
The stories are a bit longer than average (10 stories, 246 pages), but well-paced and written.
A couple of the story lines seem to have similar "details" maybe reflecting autobiographical issues, but overall quite good.
Pity it's not on kindle.
I've ordered two of his other works (for my Kindle)