Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ben Schrank

Ben Schrank published his first novel, Miracle Man, in 1999. The New Yorker selected it as one of six debut novels in that year’s fiction issue, saying “As the ethical lines blur, Schrank makes New York seem sharp and new.” Time Magazine called it a “brilliantly observed story about the desire to live in an egalitarian world.” In 2002 Schrank published his second novel, Consent. Leonard Michaels wrote of Consent: “It is a very serious story, and, in places, it is hilarious. As for the woman at the center, she is unforgettable.” Schrank has taught at the MFA program at Brooklyn college. He was for some years the voice of "Ben’s Life," a fictional column for Seventeen magazine.

Schrank's new novel is Love Is a Canoe.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I loved Jim Gavin’s upcoming collection Middle Men. I got the galley at the NCIBA tradeshow in Northern California when I was there promoting my own novel, Love is a Canoe, back in the fall. NCIBA hosted this year’s event at a venue out by the airport in San Francisco. After I signed my galleys at the cocktail party on that Saturday night, I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express next door and I ate a chicken quesadilla and drank beer alone at the bar at the Houlihan’s. I won’t lie. I loved meeting all those booksellers at the signing. But that Holiday Inn Express was a little bleak. So when I got back to SFO and boarded the plane to go home, I was particularly open to the kind of west coast male lostness and sadness that Jim Gavin writes about so beautifully in the stories in Middle Men. Gavin’s characters get older as the story progresses, but the Southern California backdrop stays largely the same, and by the time I was happily lost in the plumbing supply store world of the last story, "Costello," I wished my plane would circle JFK forever and I wanted those stories to never end. Gavin doesn't write perfect stories. They are all a little cracked in places and sometimes the sadness spirals into the clinical, but that’s welcome. He’s not trying to please anybody. I don't think there are enough stories like these out there right now. Jim Gavin’s Middle Men filled a need for me. When it comes out next month, I will buy the hardcover and read Gavin’s stories all over again.
Visit Ben Schrank's website.

--Marshal Zeringue