Empathy Towards Flawed Characters: The Rumpus Book Club Round-Up

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-The big news for Doug Dorst this week was that his new book, The Surf Guru, was reviewed in The New York Times Book Review. Writer Robin Romm extols Dorst’s ability to push limits, to stretch the conventions of what stories should like like. Plus, Romm adds of Dorst’s tales, “They’re fun-loving, testosterone-rich yarns.” Boston Globe reviewer Eric Liebetrau also praises Dorst’s new work, admiring how it combines light fantasy with gritty vignettes of reality, with stories that are “acidly funny” and revolve around characters with self-destructive tendencies. Despite their defects, there’s a sense of Dorst’s “obvious empathy toward his flawed creations” that runs through the narratives. The Daily Beast noticed The Surf Guru enough to add it their week’s “Hottest Reads” section. And most importantly, The Rumpus sat down with its own book club to have a discussion with Dorst. Read an edited version of that discussion to find out how The Surf Guru got its name, Dorst’s most treasured stories in the collection, and what books are on the author’s nightstand these days.

-You probably noticed that John Brandon’s Citrus County made the first page of the NY Times Book Review on July 18th. So did Matt Stewart, an SF local writer whose novel The French Revolution just hit shelves. Stewart tries not to get too jealous of Brandon in his sincere and heartfelt essay in The Millions about the challenges of publishing his first novel. Atlanta’s Creative Loafing Blog reviews Citrus County, calling it a “criminal bildungsroman.” And in case you want to hear the author’s inflections and intonations while you absorb the novel, tune into Square Books’s Podcast, featuring John Brandon reading from his latest book.

-In case you haven’t read about Tao Lin’s self-promoting contest, you can find out all the juicy details here. Examples of your competition, should you choose to enter? Here and here. And to read an interesting piece about Lin’s publicity methods? Turn to The Atlantic, where reviewer Hua Hsu finds Lin’s relentless narcissism somewhat admirable. All of this will help prepare you for Richard Yates, Lin’s latest book and also The Rumpus Book Club’s August pick.


Maddie Oatman has interviewed musicians and writers for The Rumpus. She's the research editor at Mother Jones, where she also writes. A Boulder transplant, she can often be found on her bike, skis, or cooking with vegetables, and she wrote her English thesis on a gay red-winged monster and Billy the Kid. Follow her on Twitter or read occasional musings on her blog Oats. More from this author →