The Book Cellar
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Join us at The Book Cellar to hear Brandon S. Graham, author of two new books, Missing People and Good for Nothing, in conversation with Audrey Niffenegger.
About Brandon S. Graham:
An unrepentant Southerner by birth, Brandon Graham has lived in eight states and four countries, receiving three university degrees. He worked as a commercial pressman and an adjunct professor in Missouri and as a gallery director in Nebraska. He studied in Budapest, Hungary and Dijon, France, with a summer spent as a barman in Chilham, England. He eventually settled near Chicago where he studied visual and written narrative at Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts, graduating with his MFA in 2008.
About Missing People:
Six years after the traumatic disappearance of Etta Messenger, it’s clear that none of the members of her middle-class family have finished mourning. Gaping emotional wounds have been poorly addressed. Etta’s mother, Meg, anxious to find closure and make what she can of the rest of her life, has organized a memorial service to mark the painful anniversary. Newton, Etta’s erstwhile high school sweetheart, a disabled Afghanistan veteran with anger issues, uses the impending anniversary as a convenient excuse to spin out of control. Charlie, Etta’s earnest blue-collar father, takes stock of his life and is reminded how he failed to protect his daughter. Her younger brother, Townes, who was the last of them to see Etta and is convinced his emotional outburst drove his sister away, has his fragile hermetic cocoon threatened by the heightened emotions of the day. On the day of the memorial, a snowstorm threatens the city, and a chance observation on a commuter train entangles Townes in a dangerous situation that recall the events surrounding Etta’s loss.
The characters are shaken from their mournful routines by an unrelenting chain of events, including Newton’s arrest, Townes’ dangerous heroics, Charlie’s recognition of his own shortcomings, and Meg’s shocking discovery. The action moves from the seemingly serene suburbs to the heart of a dangerous Chicago neighborhood. Will this ensemble of damaged characters pull themselves together in time, or will new stresses rip their tattered lives to shreds…
About Good for Nothing:
Good For Nothing follows the episodic escapades of Flip Mellis, an unemployed, newly obese and suicidal family man, who is reaching the apex of a middle-age tantrum. Exacerbated by plentiful personal flaws, including a self-fulfilling fatalism, and coinciding with a national economic crisis, Flip’s good intentions are tainted by his poor life skills and questionable rationalizations. The result of which is a darkly humorous social satire that explores men’s attitudes toward work, love, family, women, sex, and consumer culture. Tone, approachable language, pace, and absurd juxtapositions drive the story. Below the surface, an earnest exploration of the American male, his strengths and shortcomings, his inflated self-concept and his ignorant, self-hating abusiveness gives weight to the playfully circuitous and subversive story arc. The question is: are Flip’s best efforts enough to lead him to personal redemption and grace or will they merely lead to a futile, purely graceless and quixotic death spasm.
About Audrey Niffenegger:
Audrey Niffenegger is a writer and an artist. She is also a professor in the MFA Creative Writing Program at Columbia College Chicago. Niffenegger's debut novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, was a national bestseller. Her Fearful Symmetry, her second novel, is set in London's Highgate Cemetery where, during research for the book, she acted as a tour guide. Niffenegger has also published graphic and illustrated novels including: The Adventuress, The Three Incestuous Sisters, The Night Bookmobile, and Raven Girl. Raven Girl was adapted into a ballet by Resident Choreographer Wayne McGregor and the Royal Opera House Ballet (London) in 2013. A mid-career retrospective entitled "Awake in the Dream World: The Art of Audrey Niffenegger," was presented by the National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington D.C.) in 2013. An accompanying exhibition catalogue examines several themes in Niffenegger's visual art including her explorations of life, mortality, and magic.