The New Midwest: A Guide To Contemporary Fiction of the Great Lakes, Great Plains, and Rust Belt
By Mark Athitakis
February 6, 2017
A “crisp, engaging guide.” — Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
“… dives deep into Midwestern literature, unpacking the mythology of the region and how today’s writers are complicating our simple idea of the Heartland.” — The Huffington Post
“In vigorous, supple, and readable prose, Mark Athitakis surveys the 21st century cultural landscape of a Midwest not defined by old pieties or prejudices, or its past canonical literary expression. Most importantly, perhaps, the scope of this survey will leave its readers hungry rather than sated, anxious to read about a region that might once have seemed familiar, even routine, but can be understood in new and different ways.” –-Bill Savage, Northwestern University
“The very best criticism delights as it elucidates. Athitakis does both with his dead-on look at the fiction of the Midwest, from Cather to Franzen, and Midwesterners’ eternal conflict between person and place. I loved this book.” — Robert Goolrick, author of A Reliable Wife
“Mark Athitakis is among the greatest of the new critics: the wit of his perception is perfectly matched by the elegance of his expression. He does the thing you need: tells what you need to read, and why. And reminds us why we read — because his stuff is such thrilling, brain-enhancing fun.” —David Lipsky, author of Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace
In the public imagination, Midwestern literature hasn’t evolved far beyond heartland laborers and hardscrabble immigrants of a century past. But as the region has changed, so, in many ways, has its fiction. In “The New Midwest,” Mark Athitakis explores how shifts in work, class, place, race, and culture has been reflected — or ignored — by novelists and short story writers. From Marilynne Robinson to Leon Forrest, Toni Morrison to Aleksandar Hemon, Bonnie Jo Campbell to Stewart O’Nan, the book is a call to rethink the way we conceive Midwestern fiction, and one that’s sure to prompt some new must-have additions to your reading list.
Mark Athitakis has written on books for many publications. He serves on the board of the National Book Critics Circle and has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Washington Post Book World, Chicago Sun-Times, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Barnes and Noble Review, and many other outlets. His Reading the Midwest column appears in Belt.Click to order!