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Great time last night at the Center for Fiction. Thanks to Jaime Clarke and Charles Bock, who made a bunch of rain-soaked New Yorkers glad they had braved the elements. The two writers discussed Clarke’s new novel VERNON DOWNS, which I thought was such an important new work of fiction that I assigned it to my fiction students for their final craft analysis, and assigned it, as well, for review at The Brooklyn Rail. Bock asked Clarke exactly the kinds of questions my students have been asking in class, and he did so with humor, generosity, and grace. Clarke discussed not only the novel, but also his time in college and grad school, his memories of being a young writer in NYC during the 90s, his recollections of the writer Bret Ellis, the growing importance of Ellis’s AMERICAN PSYCHO and LESS THAN ZERO, and all the work that went into writing the new book. Afterward, Jaime Clarke generously chatted alone with my class, answering their questions and responding to comments. They loved him. And I also got to meet a hero of mine, Charles Bock, whose novel BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN has been a favorite of mine since it came out. A really special night. Thanks to Jaime and Charles, and to The Center for Fiction for their warm welcome.

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