“Riveting...it is Means’ signature talent to view the lives of his characters, and life itself, from somewhere just beyond...”
“Means is a courageous writer, intelligent and funny and humane...the pleasure in reading THE SECRET GOLDFISH is tremendous.”
Michael Faber on Assorted Fire Events
“We care for the characters as if we have known and loved and detested them forever…An exceptional book.”
“A darkly comic cache of stories . . . impressively inventive.”
“With stunning simplicity, Means offers 15 stirring portraits of tragedy, loss, and love.”
New York Times Book Review
“Vivid…Means’s last collection was a finalist for the National Book Award…the stories here are just as unsentimental and tightly wound.”
Los Angeles Times
“David Means knows his way around the English language. [The Secret Goldfish] aims toward a mythology of the modern heartland…so lovely I want to quote the whole thing.”
New York Times
Achingly intelligent....[David Means] stands among our most gifted younger writers.”
The New Yorker
Esquire on Assorted Fire Events
“A splendid short story collection...from one of the most original writers of short fiction working today
New York Times Book Review on Assorted Fire Events
“Lean, agile…There’s not a cheap emotion or a predictable conclusion to be found...humane [and] unaccountably lovely.”
The New Yorker on Assorted Fire Events
… achingly intelligent … The settings in The Secret Goldfish, mostly the Great Lakes shores of northern Michigan, have more substance than the characters do. The high winter sky arcing Arctic-wards toward Canada, the steely lake waters, the black silhouettes of ore boats gliding distantly by, the immense span of the Mackinac Bridge (one young woman plunges her car off it in a snowstorm): these seem to offer — and at the same time withhold — the reality that eludes them.
The New York Times
The characters in this imaginative and penetrating story collection-a man hounded by lightning strikes, a driver blown off the Mackinac bridge, a pianist whose fingers stop working, a woman who slaughters her boyfriend after ambiguous consultations with Jesus and the devil, a bog man roused from his shallow grave-are beset by bolts from the blue. Sometimes the victims and sometimes the perpetrators of calamity, they struggle to extract meaning-and the occasional glimpses of grace and beauty-from the chaos and brutality that disrupt their lives. Means, author of the acclaimed story collection Assorted Fire Events, probes a broad range of social registers, from junkies and criminals festering in the postindustrial decay of northern Michigan's iron range to the chilly adulteries of the artsy New York haute bourgeoisie, linking them into a bleak, sometimes apocalyptic panorama of the precariousness of life in a country that "could eat anything, absolutely anything, up." His uncompromising vision rarely indulges anything more comforting than harsh poetic epiphanies, inexplicable moments of clarity gleaned from random encounters with destruction; the story "Michigan Death Trip," a litany of demise from nonnatural causes, is emblematic of the book's sensibility. But every so often, as with the titular goldfish who endures, and even prevails, when his tank is neglected by a family in the throes of divorce, a happy ending slips through. Agent, Andrew Wylie. 5-city author tour. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
More brilliant stories from the author of Assorted Fire Events, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Fifteen stories in a third collection by the prizewinning Means (Assorted Fire Events, 2000, etc.): tales set mostly in harsh northern areas of the Midwest among people the rest of us would rather avoid. "Lightning Man" survives a series of lightning strikes that ritualize the stages of his life until he's just another old man telling his story at the barber shop, at least until the next bolt hits. In "Sault Ste. Marie," a petty thug who sees his life as little more than "a collection of raw sensations" commits casual acts of violence yet is drawn deeply into his lover's tale of desecrated beauty. Similar lowlifes commit Clockwork Orange-like mayhem in "Hunger," while the sexual predator in "Carnie" is creepy but more fleshed-out than the victim. In "Blown From the Bridge," a young girl who may have been abused by her father dies in a car accident after refusing the safe harbor of her lover X's bed. "X" is also the name of an older lover in "A Visit from Jesus," but if he's the same man he has aged badly; after a visitation from Jesus, this X's much younger girlfriend finds his stash of child pornography and kills him. Is she driven by spiritual revelation? Drugs? Religious fervor churns just below the surface in many of these pieces, mixtures of Denis Johnson and Kafka. After a farmer digs up a bog man, "Elyria Man," in his field, both turn out to have secrets. "Michigan Death Trap" is basically a catalogue of bizarre deaths. But a few of the tales, notably "Counterparts," "Petrouchka With Omissions," and the title story, which is told through the eyes of the family pet, are middle-class in orientation and focus on marital infidelity instead of violence. Though less flashy, they cut atleast as close to the bone as Means's more obvious tours de force. Black/bleak comedies of moral and spiritual breakdown. Author tour