In Middle Men, Stegner Fellow and New Yorker contributor Jim Gavin delivers a hilarious and panoramic vision of California, portraying a group of men, from young dreamers to old vets, as they make valiant forays into middle-class respectability. In “Play the Man” a high-school basketball player aspires to a college scholarship, in “Elephant Doors”, a production assistant on a game show moonlights as a stand-up comedian, and in the collection’s last story, the immensely moving “Costello”, a middle-aged plumbing supplies salesman comes to terms with the death of his wife. The men in Gavin’s stories all find themselves stuck somewhere in the middle, caught half way between their dreams and the often crushing reality of their lives. A work of profound humanity that pairs moments of high comedy with searing truths about life’s missed opportunities, Middle Men brings to life a series of unforgettable characters learning what it means to love and work and be in the world as a man, and it offers our first look at a gifted writer who has just begun teaching us the tools of his trade.
About the Author
Jim Gavin’s fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Zoetrope, ZYZZYVA, and Slice magazine. He lives in Los Angeles.
Praise for Middle Men: Stories…
“The stories in Mr. Gavin's first collection are carved from the follies and frustrated longings of modern manhood….[He] strikes a fine balance in each tale, wielding a sharp sense of humor but never losing sight of people's dignity.”
"Gavin's debut short-story collection reads like a modern-day Dubliners. . . . Middle Men finds wonder in the most ordinary places and, even in bleak situations, it elevates the everyday doldrums in a way that's closer to comedy than tragedy."
“Who is Jim Gavin? The second coming of Denis Johnson if his debut collection is any indication. These sad, funny stories about nowhere men—some young, some bent-backed, all pained and searching for something they’ll never find—knocked me out….These short stories will transport you, will educate you, will entertain you, will fill you with fear and laughter and sadness.”
"Jim Gavin's Middle Men is perfectly titled -- these are characters gloriously unaware of how adrift they are. Gnostic high school basketballers, romantic pursuers, open mic comedians -- I've rarely seen such a keen depiction of souls so out of focus. These stories -- especially "Elephant Doors" -- brought back some hilarious, uncomfortable memories for me. Immerse yourself! Immerse!"
"The best debut collection of short stories I've read in a very long time."
“Jim Gavin’s stories are wise and funny and not at all afraid of the dark, or the light. Middle Men is a very powerful debut.”
“With its sharply drawn characters, its humor and affection and melancholy, its deep wisdom of the ways we live and cope and endure, and its panoramic and precise vision of California, Middle Men is a phenomenal story collection, and Jim Gavin an extravagantly talented writer. I could not put this book down. Gavin brings the California and SoCal I know and love to the page with searing intelligence, beauty, and an emotive force, making Middle Men one of the finest and most unusual fictions I’ve read in years.”
“Like the heroes of this stunning collection, Jim Gavin’s stories negotiate and illuminate the gray, authentic middle, bridging the divide that exists between California’s—and indeed, America’s—golden mythology and her starker realities. There is deep truth, beauty, and humor to be found in this territory, and in Gavin we have found the ultimate emissary. This book is an absolute triumph of sympathy and revelation.”
“I love the wit and intelligence and rigor with which Jim Gavin renders characters who find themselves spiraling down the water column. Middle Men is peerless in its portraits of American males dimly coming to appreciate the disastrous convergence of their own fecklessness and feelings of entitlement with the increasingly unforgiving hard times bearing down on them, and on most of the rest of us as well.”
“Gavin's exceptional debut collection, set mainly in southern California, harkens to an earlier literary Los Angeles…[Middle Men is] the best kind of satire: barbed and hilarious, but suffused with compassion.”