Review of West of Sunset from USA Today; Interview in Boston Globe; 1/26/2015 7pm, Books Inc. @ Alameda, CA

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By Kevin Nance , Special for USA TODAY

Is anything more poignant than genius in decline? It’s hard to imagine after reading West of Sunset, Stewart O’Nan’s almost unbearably bittersweet portrait of the once-great novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald’s sad yet darkly glittering final years in Hollywood.

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Stewart O’Nan read everything F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, including his love letters to his wife, Zelda, for his new novel based on the writer’s last few years. “We think of Fitzgerald as a tragic writer, but he’s very ironic and wry,” he says. O’Nan was in town last week to read from his new novel, “West of Sunset.”

BOOKS: What are you reading currently?

O’NAN: I’m reading “The Most of It” by the poet Mary Ruefle. This book is sort of prose poetry. She writes like Lydia Davis: skewed, small short stories. I’m a big Davis fan. I love Russell Edson, too, a prose poet guy in the ’70s, who’s kind of absurdist. I always go back to the surrealists, too. I like anyone who’s making something goofy and whacky.

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Stewart will be at Books Inc. tonight in Alameda, CA!

AL-STEWART-O'NAN

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.