What's Important Is Feeling: Stories


Bankers prowl Brooklyn bars on the eve of the stock market crash. A debate over Young Elvis versus Vegas Elvis turns existential. Detoxing junkies use a live lobster to spice up their love life. Students on summer break struggle to escape the orbit of a seemingly utopic communal house.

And in the title story, selected for The Best American Short Stories, two film school buddies working on a doomed project are left sizing up their own talent, ...

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What's Important Is Feeling: Stories

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Bankers prowl Brooklyn bars on the eve of the stock market crash. A debate over Young Elvis versus Vegas Elvis turns existential. Detoxing junkies use a live lobster to spice up their love life. Students on summer break struggle to escape the orbit of a seemingly utopic communal house.

And in the title story, selected for The Best American Short Stories, two film school buddies working on a doomed project are left sizing up their own talent, hoping to come out on top—but fearing they won't.

In What's Important Is Feeling, Adam Wilson follows the through-line of contemporary coming-of-age from the ravings of teenage lust to the staggering loneliness of proto-adulthood. He navigates the tough terrain of American life with a delicate balance of comedy and compassion, lyricism and unsparing straightforwardness. Wilson's characters wander through a purgatory of yearning, hope, and grief. No one emerges unscathed.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Rebecca Lee
Wilson's title brings to mind Roethke ("We think by feeling. What is there to know?"), an appropriate spirit to linger over these conversational, lyrical and erotic stories. The writing is not dark—it's hilarious—but Wilson is interested in characters who have been dealt some trauma in their past, or who have dealt it themselves…Despite its glum themes…this book is a joy ride…The buoyant comedy and insight of Wilson's prose carries these stories farther and farther past taboo, into sensitive and complicated territory.
Publishers Weekly
Wilson's (Flatscreen) collection presents the listlessness and ennui associated with the post–baby boomer generation. A twist, though, is that the narrators are Jewish (all but one are male), which puts a particular slant on the slacker attitude. Taken as a whole, the book presents a picture of the coming-of-age angst of this generation, from adolescent lust to the loneliness and failure that waits in the shadow of adulthood. While the best stories resonate, others feel out of reach for readers who can't see themselves on the page. In one of the collection's standouts, "Things I Had," a man recalls, following the breakup of his marriage, growing up Jewish in Miami and attending a Catholic school with his sister as his grandfather faded into senility. At once ironic and wistful, "Some Nights We Tase Each Other" is about four college roommates living in a "classless household" where cocaine and books by Karl Marx also make appearances. And "We Close Our Eyes" details, from the viewpoint of a teenage boy, the state of a family as the mother's cancer returns. (Mar.)
B&N Review
“Adam Wilson’s fierce tales of botched dreams, conflicted ambitions and naïve missteps make for a millennial Winesburg, Ohio, capturing all the idealism and cynicism of young cohorts facing tough realities.”
New York Times Book Review
“This book is a joy ride . . . The buoyant comedy and insight of Wilson’s prose carries these stories farther and farther past taboo, into sensitive and complicated territory.”
Vanity Fair
“The stories in Adam Wilson’s What’s Important Is Feeling blend humor with emotion.”
“Adam Wilson is one of our best young writers.”
“This book will bring you back to the wandering, blurred-together days of your early twenties, or, if you’re a younger person with creative aspirations, remind you of your very real present.”
“With its tales of young men and women who can’t quite grow-up, is about addiction, fear, sickness, self-doubt, family and love. But it asks us to respect its dark and damaged characters and to come feel what they feel, even if it’s for just a moment in time.”
“Getting laughs and pathos from the same work of fiction is a hard thing to do. Adam Wilson’s previous book, Flatscreen, did so regularly. . . . As good as that book was, his new collection What’s Important is Feeling, is even better.”
“Adam Wilson is a writer on the rise.”
Entertainment Weekly
“[A] testosterone- and coke-fueled collection. . . . Darkly funny.”
“Adam Wilson can write. . . and he does so with a certain authenticity and humor that I rarely see. . . . If you enjoy the cohesive element in collections, then I can’t recommend this book enough.”
VOX Magazine
“Those who like to sympathize or psychoanalyze should find what they’re looking for in What’s Important is Feeling: Stories. Wilson’s characters might be one, probably two, cards short of a full deck, but they are inarguably funny.”
Kirkus Reviews
Wilson (Flatscreen, 2012) delivers a 12-story collection detailing the existential struggles of modern youth. The millennial generation populates nearly every story, beginning with "Soft Thunder" and "The Long In-Between." Disaffected protagonists appear in the first—semislackers in a garage band share the same damaged girl—and in the second, where a young woman follows her female professor to New York City. (This second tale is the only one told from a female perspective, but it's a distinction difficult to discern; male or female, the collection's young protagonists always seem mired in an existential swamp.) Nevertheless, Wilson crafts artful literary phrases—"my dreams are on the surface; when I wake I only rise inches" or "music mixing with all the dust and soot in the pipes as it came up through the grates. By the time it reached me, it sounded condensed, congested." The most powerful story is "We Close Our Eyes," narrated by teenage Zach. His mother is dying of cancer; his father seems distant and disinterested; and his younger sister is seduced, then shamed by an illicit sex tape. Around this implosion hovers Father Larry, a priest whose husbandlike attention to Zach's mother befuddles the boy. "Tell Me" finds supercilious college boys conned by an addict. Wilson's stories are city stories, many seemingly set in and around Boston, but the title story takes place at a Texas movie location and is narrated by a young film school graduate. Here again, Wilson does yeoman work with characters, from Monica, a young leading lady already seduced by celebrity's seamier elements, to Felix, hypercrazed writer-producer. The remaining stories—"Sluts at Heart," "America Is Me and Andy," "The Porchies" and "Milligrams"—also speak to millennial agitation at the edge of maturity, where reality is tackled with drugs, alcohol and sardonic contempt. Bleak First-World angst, delivered with style.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062284785
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/25/2014
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 786,934
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Adam Wilson is the author of the novel Flatscreen (Harper Perennial, 2012). His fiction has appeared in many publications including The Paris Review, The Best American Short Stories, Tin House, The Literary Review, The New York Tyrant, Gigantic, and many others.

He is currently a regular contributor to both BookForum and The Paris Review Daily. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, The New York Observer, Time Out New York, and elsewhere.

Adam holds a BA from Tufts University and an MFA from Columbia University. A former employee of Brooklyn's famous BookCourt bookstore, he now teaches creative writing at NYU and The Sackett Street Writer's Workshop. He lives in Brooklyn with his cat.

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