This Friday and every Friday for the next several months I'll be featuring a book in the Harper Perennial Imprint. Some were recently published, some will be released later this year, all are worth a closer look.
Today's book is a little difficult to categorize. What He's Poised to Do is a collection of stories in which Ben Greenman explores the epistolary form by using written correspondence as a linking style. This is the summary from the publisher's website:
Ben Greenman is a writer of virtuosic range and uncanny emotional insight. . . . The stories in this new collection, What He's Poised to Do, showcase his wide range, yet are united by a shared sense of yearning, a concern with connections missed and lost, and a poignant attention to how we try to preserve and maintain those connections through the written word.The focus on relationships is what first drew me to this collection, but when I realized that Greenman was using letters as the major form of communication among characters, I knew I had to look closer. When I started reading reviews, here is what I found:
From a portrait of an unfaithful man contemplating his own free will to the saga of a young Cuban man's quixotic devotion to a woman he may never have met; and from a nineteenth-century weapons inventor's letter to his young daughter to an aging man's wistful memory of a summer love affair in a law office—each of these stories demonstrates Greenman's maturity as a chronicler of romantic angst both contemporary and timeless, and as an explorer of the ways our yearning for connection informs our selves and our souls.
- From the LA Times: "Greenman long has displayed a dazzling command of the language and a boundless imagination. . . . This slender volume is astonishing precisely for its depth of emotional engagement."
- From The Literary Lotus: "[Greenman's] stories are at once weighty and genuine and light and breezy, as he subtly nudges hefty themes of permanence and transience, meaning, isolation and connection."
- From Pop Matters: "[T]hese stories are, on the whole, so playfully inventive and they so accurately encapsulate the gulf that exists in male-female interaction, that I want to run out onto the balcony of my apartment and yell from there how snazzerific, how terrificadelic, how übertastic this book is to the people gathered below."
Currently there are 210 letters written to characters who have appeared across a broad range of genres and time periods. Take a look and think about participating.
Ben Greenman also has a personal website where you can learn more about him and his other books.
This book was featured as part of my Spotlight on the Harper Perennial imprint. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. See the alphabetized review index to see what others are saying. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.