The New Midwest

 By Mark Athitakis

A sleek volume that expands our understanding of the Midwest through the writers who have portrayed it. Hailed by The Chicago Tribune for seeing the Midwest “for what it really is.”

In the public imagination, midwestern literature has not evolved far beyond stories of heartland laborers and hardscrabble immigrants from past centuries. But as the region has changed, so has its fiction. In this book, Mark Athitakis explores how shifts in work, class, place, race, and culture have been reflected or ignored by contemporary novelists and short story writers. Authors Athitakis considers include Marilynne Robinson, Toni Morrison, Jane Smiley, Leon Forrest, Aleksandar Hemon, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and Stewart O'Nan.

This book is a call to reconsider the way we think about midwestern fiction, and one that is sure to prompt some new must-have additions to your reading list.

Praise for The New Midwest

A “crisp, engaging guide.” Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

“A good work of fiction can help you see the world differently. A good work of criticism can help you see a good book differently, which, in turn, alters the world again ... Using the lens of novels and short stories published over the past 30 or so years, Athitakis seeks to illuminate the ways we still lean on literary mythology of the Midwest when it comes to defining the region."  — Chicago Tribune

"Readers may cavil with Athitakis’ choices, but they can’t question his research, erudition, and clarity of expression."  — Kirkus Reviews
"In The New Midwest, [Athitakis] attempts to illustrate the variations within the region’s literature in just under 100 pages. He delves into how writers have yet to really interrogate the region’s modern-day relationship with issues surrounding social class, place, and race."   Lit Hub

"Athitakis parses how the best Midwestern fiction punctures the region’s superficially comforting image and re-examines its past to uncover a less idyllic, more troubled history."  — Huffington Post

"[The New Midwest] rightly praises the Midwestern novels of Marilynne Robinson, Jeffrey Eugenides, Toni Morrison and Jonathan Franzen, but also points out works of comparable merit that warrant rediscovery."  — Washington Post


"[In The New Midwest] Athitakis’ selections are sharp, and his close-readings succinct, and his wrangling of these many works and many subjects into conversation is as necessary as it is daunting ... At its best, the book is an illustrative and auxiliary text to anyone seeking a better comprehension of the Midwest, its history, the ongoing cultural discourses surrounding it and, of course, the discourse surrounding the stories the region tells and the stories we tell about it."  — The New Territory

“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

“… 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

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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. 

 


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