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If You’re Southern and You Write Short Stories, I Like You!

April 27, 2012

That’s what Adam Levin said when asked which short story writers he liked. He also named George Saunders, David Foster Wallace and J. D. Salinger.

Levin was at Powell’s reading from his highly-anticipated new book, Hot Pink, a collection of ten short stories. For any of you who were intimidated by the size of his first effort, The Instructions, which is his 1,030 page novel published in 2010, Hot Pink could be your gateway drug into the heart and soul of one of today’s most agile and clever writers.

Hot Pink’s varied characters live in Chicagoland where Levin lives and teaches creative writing at the School of the Art Institute. (Glen Ellyn, my home town, is the backdrop of one story called Hot Pink. It rarely gets a shout-out in the lit world so – Yay!). Some of the stories were written while he was struggling with The Instructions as a kind of antidote to the nine-year drawn-out process involved in producing it. Levin commented, “I certainly didn’t think I was going to write a 1,000 page book.” When he turned it in, it was a whopping 425,000 words.

Levin, who is wrapping up the Hot Pink book tour, knew the ropes and said, “I’m supposed to stand up here someone told me, and, like, make some noise, and say some useless things for a little bit, so you can get used to me. Because you were expecting someone shorter. Less obscenely handsome.” Audience warmed up, laughing, and already a little bit in love with him – check.

He read from Frankenwittgenstein, one of my favorites from the collection,  which was originally published in our local Tin House lit mag. Then he answered questions and listened to adoring praise. Fans spoke about how The Instructions made them feel “elated,” was “one of the best books ever,” and that even though it was over a thousand pages, “it was a quick read.” I think that made him happy – he was smiling.

Some words of advice he follows when facing writer’s block: “When you hit a wall, it means you’re about to turn a corner.” He closed by saying, “I would like, because I haven’t done it yet, to write a short novel.”

Like Levin himself, Hot Pink is rife with dark humor, damaged characters, love, tragedy, and beauty. It’s a must read!

  McSweeney’s, 2012

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One Comment
  1. Great post — I’m interested in him now.
    PS. I’m from Arlington Heights…wonder if there have been any lit shout-outs for it…)

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