What to Read? Alex Gilvarry Recommends…

Dear Reader,

The Discover selection committee readers took immediately to Alex Gilvarry’s outrageously funny debut novel, the biting political satire From the Memoirs of a Non-enemy Combatant — which reminds us of Philip Roth’s Our Gang. (Daniel Asa Rose calls out Gilvarry’s “Bellowesque brio” in the NYTBR). 

Boyat Hernandez arrives in America planning to become a legendary fashion designer — but instead finds himself a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. A furious mix of high and low culture inform Boy’s worldview, which he pours into his “story of unrequited love.”  

We asked Alex to tell us about 3 books he frequently recommends, and this is what he said:

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (also The Collected Stories)

By Grace Paley

“I took a fiction workshop in college taught by a young writer named Gary Shteyngart who had just published his first book, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (a favorite I’m taking to the grave). Our young professor assigned a short story called “Wants”, by Grace Paley, and it ended up becoming one of the defining moments of my life as a writer. It’s only three pages, set on the steps of a New York Public library. A woman runs into her ex-husband. But that Paley voice, with it’s intonations of Yiddish, humor, and the Bronx — there was nothing precious about it. I met Grace only once before she passed away. Another teacher of mine brought me to one of Grace’s readings at a church in Greenwich Village where she used to aide men avoiding the draft in the late sixties. When my teacher introduced me as ‘a writer, too,’ that became the second defining moment of my life in this business.”

[The Russian Debutante's Handbook was a Discover pick in 2002. -Ed.]

End Zone

By Don DeLillo

“I’ve read End Zone three times, the last two I just dipped in for fun, and gladly surrendered to DeLillo’s settling language, humor, and his unforgettable narrator, Gary Harkness, a college football player fascinated by nuclear warfare. Believe me when I tell you that football in West Texas, too, can be a subject for high art. And you don’t even have to like the game. This is a comedic novel about college sport, complete with the ‘big game,’ the campus crush, and characters so alive they’ll have you wishing you were back living in your dorm room. And it’s a nice counterpoint if you’ve read Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding this year, and are craving more.”

The Dead Fish Museum

By Charles D’Ambrosio

“Charles D’Ambrosio is the modern master of the short story, hands down. Most of these originally appeared in The New Yorker — an orphan son confronts his father’s madness, a screenwriter stuck in a psych ward falls in love with a ballerina. Each story feels as if we’ve wandered into someone else’s complicated anxiety dream. This book never leaves my nightstand.”

You can also find Alex over at The Tottenville Review, which has a great interview with Justin Torres, author of Fall 2011 Discover pick, We the Animals up now.

Cheers, Miwa


Miwa Messer

Miwa Messer is the Director of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program, which was established in 1990 to highlight works of exceptional literary quality that might otherwise be overlooked in a crowded book marketplace. Titles chosen for the program are handpicked by a select group of our booksellers four times a year. Click here for submission guidelines.

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