Bad Boy Books

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By Helen Kossler

Reading Between the Lines

There is apparently a genre of books that celebrates bad-boy behavior. I spent a Wednesday evening at Centuries and Sleuths book store and listened to three Chicago authors talk about their work.

The writers, Ben Tanzer, Victor David Giron, and Mark R. Brand are friends. They are all in their late 30s to early 40’s and their novels involve nostalgic looks at drinking, partying, carousing, doing drugs and having sex in their teens and 20s. They seem to have problems with the idea of growing up. They’ve managed to do it, but they wonder if the price is too high.

It was a door into another kind of reality for me—my sons are just at the point of actually becoming responsible adults (as opposed to the legal definition of that) and haven’t hit the regrets stage yet. Or maybe they just don’t talk about it with their mother.

All three of these guys have intense day jobs and personal commitments with wives and children but they long for the days when they were footloose and fancy free. Their longing seems almost comical to someone old enough to be their mother.  I mean I want to shake them and say, “Welcome to the rest of your life! Responsibility isn’t glamorous but it beats the alternative, which is to be a slacker forever.” These are the literary equivalents of Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Matthew McConaughey.  Charming but still wondering if Peter Pan had it right.

The opportunity for a wide ranging discussion with three up-and-coming writers was interesting too for the insights into the difficulty of being seen by readers and reviewers when you are published by a small press. They talked about using Twitter and Facebook both to interface with potential readers and to connect with other writers. They also spend time going to readings at bars and clubs, do blogs and hawk their books at independent book stores. Every sale they make is labor intensive but they were full of optimism about both their writing and book sales.

They all touched on the dilemma of working full time, having a wife or significant other and raising children while writing regularly. They all admitted to being sleep deprived much of the time and in fact, Mark Brand has written a new book called, Life After Sleep, which deals with this very issue in a science fiction universe.

One of the things that Augie Alesky, owner of Centuries & Sleuths, brought up was whether a regular “reading night” for authors would fly in the burbs.  There certainly are many local authors to draw from but how to get a regular following of readers to the events was an unresolved issue.

It would be great if one of the local book stores or coffee shops or bars, for that matter, set up an open mic for authors on a regular basis. Could the much more staid and less eclectic western suburbs support such a venture? I wish someone would try to find out.

Check with Centuries & Sleuths for the availability of You Can Make Him Like You, by Ben Tanzer, Sophomoric Philosophy by Victor Giron and Red Ivy Afternoon by Mark Brand.

Reader Comments

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Giron from Chicago  

Posted: April 11th, 2011 4:00 PM

Hi Helen, Thank you so much for spending time with us and posting this write-up. I enjoyed reading it. Regarding the part about us authors longing for the days when we were young and free-spirited, for me personally, I don't necessarily yearn to have these days back. I'm comfortable with my adult responsibilities now, including those as a father and husband--I would never trade what I have now. But I do cherish those times, and write about them, more to remember a part of what I am.

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