5/2: Stewart O’Nan & Jane McCafferty @ CLP – Main

Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 6:00 PM
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main (Oakland)
4400 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Good friends and novelists Stewart O’Nan and Jane McCafferty appear together for Writers LIVE with their latest novels.

Stewart O’Nan, a Pittsburgher and self-proclaimed Pirates fan, is a nationally acclaimed author who has built a following all over the country for novels like Emily Alone and Last Night at the Lobster. Kirkus Reviews calls his latest novella The Odds “a valentine to marriage as it is actually lived in troubled times.”  The Odds follows the Fowlers to Niagara Falls on their second honeymoon where they bet their remaining life savings in hopes of saving everything else – even their crumbling marriage.  Stewart O’Nan is author of 14 novels, a screenplay, and two works of nonfiction. He says he got his first big break as a writer when he won the 1993 Drue Heinz Literature Prize for his collection of short stories, In the Walled City.

Jane McCafferty is author of the new novel First You Try Everything, and a Professor of Creative Writing at Carnegie Mellon University. Set in present-day Pittsburgh, her latest novel is about the unraveling of the marriage of Ben and Evvie Muldoone and the agonizing process of divorce. The Oprah Magazine blog, O, says that First You Try Everything is “a life-stopping novel by Jane McCafferty, a crackerjack of a writer…”. Jane McCafferty won the 1992 Drue Heinz Literature Prize for her collection of short fiction, Director of the World.

A book signing follows the program, with copies of First You Try Everything and The Odds available from the Penguin Bookshop.

For more information, contact Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures at 412-622-8866, email info@pittsburghlectures.org, or visit www.pittsburghlectures.org.

Related story at the Post-Gazette:

Authors Stewart O’Nan and Jane McCafferty tackle love and marriage

In the category of calculated risks, marriage is undoubtedly the ultimate gamble.

Art and Marion Fowler, a Cleveland couple verging on bankruptcy, roll their wedded dice one last time by returning to Niagara Falls, where they honeymooned 30 years ago. Their story unfolds in Stewart O’Nan’s 14th novel, “The Odds.”

Mr. O’Nan, who lives in Edgewood, will read from “The Odds” on Wednesday at the main Carnegie Library branch in Oakland. Joining him for the reading and a conversation will be his colleague, Carnegie Mellon University English professor Jane McCafferty. She will read from her novel “First You Try Everything,” which was published this year by HarperCollins. [See review of both books from the Jan. 29 Post-Gazette.]


More Reviews of The Odds, Plus a Q&A

Lots more great reviews of The Odds, plus a Q&A with the Savannah Book Festival.

The Christian Science Monitor: “The Odds” is a comedy, but a rueful one that anyone who’s ever stayed up late wondering how to pay the bills or if a marriage was worth saving will recognize.

USA Today: O’Nan weaves in vivid descriptions of the falls’ natural wonders and the cheesy attractions. (Art insists on touring Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, as they did on their honeymoon.) O’Nan is never condescending, ever sympathetic to his main characters.

The Globe and Mail: O’Nan’s prose is agile, light and utterly unself-conscious. Very contemporary. At the same time, his superb rendering of psychological drama recalls 19th-century novelists like George Eliot. He has good fun with this story.

Niagara Falls Review: Released late last month, The Odds is a crisp 180 pages with plenty of humour and O’Nan’s sharp dialogue (a chapter where the couple believes they see Nancy Wilson of Heart at a local restaurant shows O’Nan’s impeccable grasp of characters). But all throughout is the ominous feeling something bad is about to happen to them, which is only natural when happiness rides on red or black at the roulette table.

Q&A with the Savannah Book Festival:

DO: The central couple in your most recent novel, “The Odds,” is jobless and facing foreclosure, a scenario that no doubt rings true for many readers today. Art and Marion’s solution is to bet the little they have left at a roulette wheel – and it pays off. What’s the biggest gamble that’s paid off in your life/career?

O’Nan: No doubt, it was making the switch from aerospace engineer to writer in my late twenties.  For years I wrote stories in my basement after work, but I never thought of doing it fulltime, but my wife Trudy encouraged me to pursue it.  I can’t imagine a better job than reading and writing and talking about books.

Fired And Foreclosed: Unemployment Lit

From Maureen Corrigan of NPR Books:

Stewart O’Nan is an unfailingly smart and affecting novelist, but never more so, I think, than when he writes about the economic struggles of ordinary folks. His great 2007 novella, Last Night at the Lobster, is about the last shift at a closing seafood restaurant in a crummy New England mall. Now, O’Nan has just published a powerful new novella about the unemployed called The Odds.

Read or listen to the story
 on NPR Books.

Favorable Odds

More excellent reviews of The Odds.

The Boston Globe

What’s loveliest about this novel is its exploration of older love and the ways a marriage ebbs and flows. Art’s hips hurt, and Marion’s feet can’t bear her fancy shoes. They have episodes of queasy stomachs and not being able to handle their alcohol. There is also a hilariously wonderful Heart concert they both attend amidst a sea of middle-aged baby boomers, where they get stoned on weed and tequila, and Art begins to wonder whether he can last through it, “constrained and impatient, as if waiting to be released.’’


The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Local literary heroes Jane McCafferty and Stewart O’Nan unleash love story feasts

Mr. O’Nan masterfully plumbs the inner lives of a longtime couple — shared jokes, gastrointestinal intimacies, perfunctory lovemaking that elevates with a tequila assist. With his taut, accomplished storytelling, the tension over Art’s make-or-break strategy builds to a gripping crescendo.


The Sun Break
In Stewart O’Nan’s The Odds, the Drink is Marriage on Niagara’s Rocks

I don’t want to quote too much from The Odds, by Stewart O’Nan, because it’s a small book, about 180 pages, and his style isn’t the pyrotechnic kind that, in a paragraph, leaves you wide-eyed. I’d just end up giving things away. The Los Angeles Times called him “the spokesperson of the regular person,” and you can see what they were getting at, but O’Nan’s gift is to somehow, through building up the stream of life’s matters of fact, surmount them.


The Seattle Times
‘The Odds’: spinning the wheel of marriage

The author deftly captures Art and Marion’s genuine (if mixed) emotions. These heartfelt portraits contrast sharply with those of their tacky surroundings: the cheesy tourist traps, the artificially cheerful hotel room, the casino’s weirdly clock-free ambience. There are also cannily observed scenes of the casual affection and familiarity in long-term marriages, as well as unexpected surprises, like when Marion gets wild and crazy during a Heart concert.


The MetroWest Daily News

 And what are the odds that you’ll fight with your mate on Valentine’s Day after having read “The Odds?” My answer is 1 in 100. That’s because you may have learned something from Art and Marion.