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Emporium: Stories

Emporium: Stories by Adam Johnson
22 reviews (2002) (256p) Best Books

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Book Description
Garnering advance praise from the likes of Ron Carlson, Mark Richard, and Jennifer Egan, Adam Johnson's Emporium marks the debut of a startling new voice in American fiction. Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler raves, "Adam Johnson is the most exciting young writer I've ever read. . . . He gives extraordinary fictions that are at once universal and dazzlingly original."

The voices that inhabit Adam Johnson's debut collection are all on intimate terms with loss. Their worlds are dyed by the indigo of loneliness and the invisible ink of abandonment. Yearning for connection, all of these characters seek meaning in landscapes made uncertain by the voids where parents and lovers should be: a father searches a darkened zoo for his troubled son; in a condemned Kmart, a girl bares her bulletproof vest to the aim of her boyfriend's pistol; a physicist pines for an astronaut trapped on the moon. In other stories, a cancer victim controls a satellite, a sniper trains his scope on the girl of his dreams, and a young woman waits for an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent to kick down the doors to her heart. Through thrilling prose and fearless scenes, Johnson shows that Christian power-lifters and depressed robots are no more surreal than fathers who vanish or mothers who waste away. Review
A disturbing sense of paranoia drifts through the nine stories in Emporium, Adam Johnson's stunning debut. But beneath the uneasy surface of the freakishly memorable landscapes depicted in this original collection lies the familiar trappings of adolescence: strip malls and cul-de-sacs, stifling suburbs, teenage crushes and rebellions, absent parents, and a frightening, unpromising future.

In "Teen Sniper," a lonely 15-year-old LAPD marksman, whose only friend is ROMS, the squad's bomb-detecting robot, can snuff out a life in a heartbeat from 475 meters away yet can't connect with the girl of his dreams standing right in front of his nose. In this unsettling story, the sniper visualizes the impact wounds of his victims--renegade employees of Silicon Valley software companies--as beautiful floral imagery.

Duck, you fool, I can't help whispering.
The slug goes, connects--a neck shot, my trademark, the wound lapping like the tongues of orchid petals. The target's knees go out, and he falls from view, dropping into the beige of his cubicle.
A real standout in this powerful collection is "Your Own Backyard." A former police officer turned rent-a-cop works the night shift at a Phoenix zoo, where he has the undesirable job of eliminating the unwanted animals ("young ones, old ones, sick ones, extra ones"). Yellow Post-it notes stuck to the guard shack serve as death sentences, his assignments for the night. This troubled father views his unpredictable young son's increased fascination with violence as the all-too-familiar shadow of a criminal mind in the making. "Trauma Plate" features a teenager acting out against her parents--who run a bulletproof-vest rental shop in a deserted strip mall--by daring her crush to take a shot at her Kevlar covered heart; a Louisiana family counts down the hours until the ATF slams into their home in the atmospheric "The Jughead of Berlin"; and in "The Death-Dealing Cassini Satellite," a 19-year-old slacker occupies his time by driving a party bus filled with the members of his late mother's cancer support group. Despite the unusually edgy nature of the stories, at its core, Emporium is surprisingly moving--its characters aching to connect in an ominous, uncertain world. Keep Adam Johnson on your literary radar; Emporium is a searing debut from a writer to watch. --Brad Thomas Parsons

Other Award Winning Books by Adam Johnson
Fortune Smiles: Stories by Adam Johnson
238 reviews (2015) (320p) (NYT100) (NBA) (LATimes) (ALA)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's page
The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
3136 reviews (2012) (464p) (Amazon Top10Lit) (Amazon Top100) (B&N Fiction) (PP) (NBCCA) (Amazon) (ALA)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's page

Adam Johnson Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 5  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 2  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 1 The Orphan Master's Son ·  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 1 The Orphan Master's Son ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 1 The Orphan Master's Son ·  
National Book Award Wins 1 Fortune Smiles: Stories ·  
National Book Award Nominations 1 Fortune Smiles: Stories ·  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award


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