Joe Meno Critic's Choice Member Picks Recommended

When: Thu., Sept. 25, 7 p.m. 2008

The 20 clever and sometimes surreal stories in Joe Meno’s new collection, Demons in the Spring (Akashic), reveal the workings of a curious and inventive mind. The pieces are diverse in style and setting, but for the most part their characters are all trying to navigate a world that’s at best indifferent and more often bewildering or downright cruel. In “Miniature Elephants Are Popular” a widower purchases a tiny pet elephant to relieve his loneliness. But on their walks together the little creature is intensely attuned to the misfortunes of others—it grieves when passing a butcher shop and eventually sacrifices itself to save a lost little girl. “The Unabomber and My Brother” examines filial responsibility via a younger brother’s feelings toward his older, bipolar sibling. “Art School Is Boring So . . . ” is a very funny piece about an art school girl who despite being completely self-obsessed still arouses sympathy. (Meno, by the way, teaches at Columbia College.) If there’s a single theme that ties all the stories together, it’s voiced by a character in “Oceanland,” in which a CPA returns home to work at his family’s failing marine park: “So you have to be happy in a world that isn’t as good as you think it should be.” Each story is poignantly illustrated by a different artist; contributors include locals Ivan Brunetti, Nick Butcher, Paul Hornschemeier, Cody Hudson, Anders Nilsen, Archer Prewitt, Jon Resh, and Jay Ryan. A portion of proceeds from sales of Demons goes to benefit the nonprofit writing and tutoring center 826CHI. This is a joint appearance with a fellow Akashic author, novelist Arthur Nersesian (The Sacrificial Circumcision of the Bronx), and graphic novelist Anders Nilsen. —Jerome Ludwig

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