Many first-time novelists list the crap jobs they've had under their author photos, presumably to show how much they've "lived" (read: suffered) before they were touched by the hand of Random House. Not Charles Bock. The 38-year-old Las Vegasborn writer sticks with his bona fides for the jacket of Beautiful Children an M.F.A. from Bennington College and fellowships from Yaddo, Ucross, and the Vermont Studio Center. He doesn't even mention that he grew up in a family of pawnbrokers in Las Vegas and he used to hang out in the shop (the material!). Such humility is impressive, especially since there's no indication of how Bock struggled to write his book, living cheaply in New York, taking odd jobs, and basically driving himself insane with rewrites for more than ten years. What does appear are quotes like this: "near genius," "huge and exacting heart," "a masterpiece," and "one of the finest first novels I have ever read," which might seem like a lot of hype until you see the names behind the quotes: A.M. Homes, Jonathan Safran Foer, Sean Wilsey, and Alison Smith. Bock's big, tangled story features strippers, hustlers, runaways, drugged-up kids, and whatever-all else, arranged loosely around the story of a boy who disappeared into the Las Vegas desert one night. It's written in a feverish prose that used to be more like David Foster Wallace's before that decade of rewrites, according to Rick Moody, who saw an early draft of the book. Now Bock has found his own voice listen up.
Wed., Feb. 20, 7 p.m., 2008