AND THESE ARE THE GOOD TIMES
New from Side Street Press!
Montaigne Medal Finalist for most thought-provoking book of 2017,
Eric Hoffer Awards.
Short story writer McNair (The Temple of Air, 2011) proves to be an irresistible personal essayist of refreshing candor, vibrant openheartedness, rueful humor, and unassuming wisdom. …vital, confiding, potent, and superbly well-crafted essays…
McNair is a Chicagoan who writes a lot about Chicago, but her experiences elsewhere—Vermont, Iowa, Prague, Cuba, Paris—give her a perspective that finds the relatable nuggets in the pan. There isn’t always an epiphany, but she explains her motivation and her constant, openhearted wonder at her place in this world in a steady, colloquial tone. Sometimes she’s drinking coffee with you, sometimes a piece is a finished travel postcard.
In the tradition of the best essayists, McNair’s writing is marked by an honest vulnerability. She’s writing into the discovery (think George Orwell, think Virginia Woolf, think Gretel Ehrlich, think James Baldwin) instead of writing to a predetermined end. She’s on a quest, a personal journey, always a personal journey, when she steps back to take in the landscape where those hard-to-pin-down universal truths reside. Through McNair’s thoroughly modern lens, the universals seem at once fresh and familiar: our hunger for love, peace, a good meal, a cool drink.
–Christine Rice, Hypertext Magazine
McNair’s essays are challenging, colloquial, and contemplative. Her work recalls Jo Ann Beard and Mary Karr in its powerful insistence and range.
—Joe Meno, author of Marvel and a Wonder and Hairstyles of the Damned
The essays in And These Are the Good Times are so arrestingly good that I had to stop several times to marvel at how keen, generous, and compassionate Patricia McNair’s writing is. She’s put her arms around the world and embraced so many of its complexities with the great heart and wondering eye of a poet.
—Christine Sneed, author of Little Known Facts and The Virginity of Famous Men
In this heartfelt collection of essays that run the gamut of emotions, Patricia Ann McNair, with her usual wit, wisdom, and unflinching honesty, articulates all manner of crucial questions–on being a daughter, a sister, a woman, an artist, an American in the here and now; the articulations diving so profoundly into the particulars of her life that we are carried, as articulation of crucial questions usually do, to all manner of universal reflection and contemplation.
—Eric Charles May, author of Bedrock Faith
“Good,” in the dexterous eyes and mind of Patty Ann McNair, lodges itself in the details. A safety-pinned button on the cuff of a Cuban valet’s fresh uniform; the cool relief of Thin Mints after the flu; Christmas interpreted by a 400-pound cab driver. These essays travel widely through time and geography, and all are places and moments you’ll count yourself lucky to have ventured with a wry, smart yet tender-hearted guide. McNair searches for home, and finds homes instead.
—Mardi Jo Link, author of Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm
Patricia Ann McNair is a brilliant essayist. Her intelligence is fierce, her prose is luminous, her storytelling is enthralling. The collection spans decades and continents and a whole spectrum of emotion; joy, rage, heat, shock, did I mention heat? At one point, while reading in a coffee shop, the person at the next table leaned over to ask if I was okay. I hadn’t realized I was crying. I hadn’t realized I was breathing. I hadn’t realized I was even in a coffee shop—I’d been in a backroom in Cuba, listening to an old man in the next room; a bar in Chicago with McNair and her brother and the gut-punch of regret; a cabin in Northern Michigan with newfound love and unspeakable loss. My God, my heart.
—Megan Stielstra, author of The Wrong Way to Save Your Life
Patricia Ann McNair adds her remarkable voice to an impressive list of Chicago nonfiction writers who have soared to national attention. Her style leaps from the page: unselfconsciously sexy, laced with the big questions, sporting a gritty wisdom. These essays are smart, sophisticated, writerly, and simultaneously intimate and familial. Add to this her range of literary interests and the breadth of her subject matter—dancing to jukeboxes, reading her father’s FBI files, running gas stations, working the Chicago Mercantile Exchange—and you have a collection that will absorb, delight, and keep you turning the pages.
—Anne-Marie Oomen, author of Love, Sex and 4-H
Reviews and honors for Patricia Ann McNair’s The Temple of Air:
Winner! The Temple of Air chosen as The Chicago Writers Association’s Book of the Year in Traditional Fiction.
Winner! The Temple of Air chosen as Devil’s Kitchen Reading Awardee in Prose, Southern Illinois University Carbondale Grassroots literary magazine and Devil’s Kitchen Fall Literary Festival 2012.
Winner! The Temple of Air selected as Society of Midland Authors 2012 Finalist Awardee in Adult Fiction.
Named as a “Don’t Miss” in October’s (2012) Best Books by Caroline Leavitt for Shoptopia.
Patricia Ann McNair named to Newcity’s Lit 50 List: Who Really Books in Chicago 2012.
Chicago Sun-Times calls The Temple of Air “violently creative”…Read the full article here.
Booklist calls The Temple of Air “strongly plotted” and “hard hitting.” “McNair’s plainspoken yet imaginative, complexly unnerving, and haunting stories raise essential questions of fate and will, appearances and truth, guilt and compassion.” Read the rest here.
The Nervous Breakdown calls it a “stunning debut” and says “the bones of the book glimmer…” Read the rest here.
“…an immersive read…”: Time Out Chicago. Read the rest here.
And from Newcity: “The stories in Patricia Ann McNair’s debut collection The Temple of Air are steeped in a particular brand of hospitality and violence. They are definitively Midwestern, navigating deftly between the everyday and the disturbing, the prosaic and the poetic.” Read the rest here.
Read what else people are saying:
“The Temple of Air is a book of unusual pleasures, each story offers the reader a small roller coaster of anticipation, fear, surprise, recognition, satisfaction. This is a beautiful book, intense and original.” – Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife
“Patricia Ann McNair’s first collection of fiction celebrates the extraordinary potential of ordinary lives in ways that will leave you breathless. The Temple of Air is bright, breezy, bold: a riveting debut.” – A. Manette Ansay, author of Blue Water and Good Things I Wish You
“The Temple of Air isn’t just a story collection. It’s a séance of dark secrets, a confessional booth, a therapist’s couch, a thin wall that I press my ear up against. It’s a collection of fever-dreams: often haunting, always beautiful. These are lyrical stories that sear themselves into the reader’s subconscious, and we are incredibly lucky that Patricia Ann McNair has written them. I can’t wait to read more.” – John McNally, author of After the Workshop and The Creative Writer’s Survival Guide
“Patricia Ann McNair’s stories in Temple of Air ring like a bell with hard truth told well, told in such a way that you love the sound even as it breaks your heart. It’s a rare collection that combines power and tonal authority. ‘Gritty’ is not the right word, though there is plenty of grit in the old sense of the word. Rather, these narratives are fierce, fearless, brave, as stylistically pure as Ray Carver, as hard hitting as Mary Gaitskill, as lyrically impassioned as Stu Dybek. Still, Patty Ann McNair is an original, a straight shooter with poise; a writer who writes hard stuff with grace. Even when her characters miss their good chances or hurt what they love, we feel compassion, we hear the pure note of human pathos. You won’t be able to stop; you won’t be able to put these stories down.” – Anne-Marie Oomen, author of Uncoded Woman and An American Map
“These stories speak to us in voices that are clear, urgent, tough, and shockingly wise. Patricia Ann McNair’s The Temple of Air is about the spiritual resilience of endangered children, the survival methods of battered adults, and the presence of grace even in our ruined century.” – David Huddle, author of La Tour Dreams of the Wolf Girl and The Writing Habit
“It dawned on me, midway through The Temple of Air, that I was reading. I’d forgotten. The voices of Patricia Ann McNair’s characters whisper directly into your ear, inhabiting their stories so completely that the author herself becomes invisible, and the stories simply flow, looping gracefully backward and forward, encircling and encompassing one another like an ancient Celtic etching. And what tales these characters tell—of broken homes and broken bodies, broken hearts and dreams,but they tell them with such pathos and compassion that it also began to dawn on me why they had come to live where they do, in a place called New Hope. The Temple of Air is a wise and masterful book.”– Dennis McFadden, author of Hart’s Grove
From babysitter to bus ticket salesman, construction worker to cult leader, the residents of New Hope chase their dreams and suffer their disappointments against the subtle backdrop of a Midwestern landscape. In the manner of the Pulitzer Prize winning Olive Kitteridge, and the iconic Winesburg, Ohio, Patricia Ann McNair’s debut story collectionThe Temple of Air links the lives and stories of a place and its people through tragedy and consequence, blind faith and redemption. Unapologetically in your face, these tales dig into your subconscious and leave you haunted.
The Temple of Air: Order now from Elephant Rock Books
In other news: “Things You Know But Would Rather Not,” a new story by Patricia Ann McNair, has been named a finalist for the American Fiction Prize! 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes will be announced soon. All finalists will be published in American Fiction vol. 13: Best Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers.
AND: “Things You Know But Would Rather Not” received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s Family Matters Contest.