The N Train

Yusuf Hawkins was killed twenty-five years ago in Bensonhurst. “The N Train,” an essay I wrote about discovering evil through that tragedy, is up today at TROP.

yusuf

And, on a not altogether unrelated note,  my review of Willy Vlautin’s The Free, a beautiful novel that tries to make sense of injustice, is up at Los Angeles Review of Books.

Buy a signed/personalized copy of The Free here.

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Goddamn Good Days

1. Thanks to Will Byrnes for this kind & thoughtful review of GRAVESEND. Made my day.

Especially appreciated this part:
“While the bulk of the story is dark, there are some rays of light. Good can be found, although more in thought than deed. Hope digs its way back up to the surface, allowing for some second chances. Alessandra’s affection for a particular painting at the Met can be seen both as an artistic inspiration and an omen. Her participation in various forms of Manhattan life lifts her spirits. After all, she did manage to make it out to the west coast. But hope had better move quickly before another body lands on it.”

(And thanks so much to everyone who has taken time to write a review.)

2. My favorite writer in the world, Willy Vlautin, read here in Oxford on Thursday night. Got to meet him finally – I’ve been a huge fan since I found The Motel Life and Northline at a bookstore in the Bronx in 2008, and we’ve e-mailed back and forth over the last few years, ever since I interviewed him for the Yalobusha Review. Goddamn, he’s the greatest guy I ever met, and I was trying not to geek out on him too much. He read on Thacker Mountain Radio, which was great, but I selfishly wish he’d done a solo reading, so he could’ve read longer and played a few songs and done a Q&A. But he read one of my favorite scenes from The Free, Jo opening up to Pauline in the hospital, and he played “The Kid from Belmont Street,” (the first song he plays here), which is about Jo. (Also check out “43”and “A Letter to the Patron Saint of Nurses” from We Used to Think the Freeway Sounded Like a River, songs that reveal where ideas for The Free originated.) We hung out after the reading at City Grocery with Willy – pals Tom & Beth Ann, Jimmy, Andy, Brendan, Cody were there too – and then a few of us went to dinner at Bouré. Man, what a great night. We talked about Jim Thompson and David Goodis and Charles Willeford and Ann Patchett and Pink Floyd and Tom Petty and The Motel Life movie and so mu ch great stuff it’s hard to call it all back up.  Jimmy, Andy, Brendan and I walked Willy back to his hotel around midnight, and one of my favorite things was Jimmy asking Willy if Jo was alright. “No, man,” Willy said. “I don’t think she is.  I’m sorry.”

Here’s a picture that Jimmy snapped at Bouré of Willy, Brendan, and me:

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3. I read at the public library here in Oxford on Thursday. Thanks to Laura Beth, Sarah, Andy, and everyone who came out – I had such a great time. I was nervous as hell about doing my first Q&A, but I think it went pretty well. Here are some pictures the library posted (my son, Eamon, was the real attraction as usual.)

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4. I made a soundtrack for Gravesend on Spotify a while ago. You can find it here.

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The Free

The FreeThe Free by Willy Vlautin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I give a lot of books that I really like five stars on Goodreads, but I don’t mean it the way I mean it with Willy Vlautin’s books. He’s the patron saint of the sick and the sad, and this is another damn beautiful novel. He tears you down and builds you back up the way only he can. I broke down crying at least ten times but walked away from the book feeling happy to be alive.

View all my reviews

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