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Book Review

‘Middle Men’

4/17/2013

book17Courtesy of Beaverdale Books

Review by Cathryn Lang

Simon and Schuster

2/19/13

$23

240 pp.

“Middle Men” is a collection of short stories about those ordinary men who fade into the background. These are not those men who are the successful movers and shakers. These are those men who are struggling with love, ambitions and just trying to figure out where they fit into the world. Jim Gavin writes for The New Yorker, The Paris Review and other prestigious publications. Yet, by his own admission, he was one of these men. His short stories begin with Pat, a 16-year-old looking for acceptance by his teammates on the basketball team and end with Marty Costello, a widower, at the end of his career still looking for validation of his worth.

The basic premise of the short stories may sound depressing, but it does not read that way. I found myself cheering, laughing and sympathizing with these men. Gavin has created characters you really care about as he writes with wit and insight. Most of his characters live in the areas of Los Angeles that are less than glamorous and populated by the working class. As a former Californian who regularly worked in those areas described in the book, I can testify that he nailed it. I could see the deserted industrial warehouses and railroads in the City of Commerce and the cinder-block walls separating homes in Anaheim. I could smell the diesel fumes as salesmen Matt and Larry travel over the freeways. You are indeed there.

This debut collection of short stories has earned rave reviews. It portrays that slice of life that is not so pretty, but you are drawn into the lives of these hapless men and cheering for them. Expect a winner here. CV

Cathryn Lang is retired (and loving it!) after many years of work as a reading specialist in California and Des Moines.

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