Adam Ross Satisfies Mr. Peanut Fans

In a much-anticipated appearance yesterday evening -- June 29, 2010 -- Adam Ross read from his first novel, Mr. Peanut, just two days after it had received a front-cover rave from Scott Turow in the New York Times Book Review. If the young novelist's book appears on the bestseller list, he will have Mr. Turow, whose own new book, Innocent, occupies the number 10 spot on the bestseller list of the same issue, to thank, as the venerable literary suspense writer referred to Ross as "an author of prodigious talent," and concluded his review with a bold, seven-word statement: "This is a brilliant, powerful, memorable book."

Early review copies had arrived at Square Books from the publisher, Knopf, with an accompanying letter from the editor, Gary Fisketjon, calling the book a "police procedural of the soul," and hailing it "as audacious and fully realized as any first novel" he'd encountered as an editor. Several booksellers here could not stop talking about the bold and riveting novel that probes the complexities of what Mr. Turow argued is the most difficult subject a novelist can deal with -- marriage. Early reviews also began to appear, from Stephen King ("riveting"), Publishers Weekly ("stark and sublime, creepy and fearless") and Richard Russo ("as ingenuous as it is riveting"). Mr. Ross, who lives in Nashville, arrived at Off Square promptly, accompanied by his charming wife, Beth.

After signing copies of the book for some of the approximately sixty people in the audience and a number of early mail orders, Mr. Ross was introduced by Richard Howorth, who related how he and Lisa had read the book, taking turns asking each other "Can you believe this?" Taking the podium, Ross explained he wished to read a section he had not read anywhere else, and immediately went to a scene toward the middle of the book, when Sam Sheppard is recalling his first encounters with Susan Hayes. The author read with confidence, control, and force, describing in flawless detail scenes of the surgeon's encounter with the technician in carpool rides that were lively with inner thoughts but otherwise utterly silent, then in the tension of an operating room, and on to a very specific, highly descriptive sex scene -- thrice climactic.

Writers have been speaking and reading at Square Books for thirty years, and we've heard just about everything, it would seem. But we'd never heard a reading like this. When Mr. Ross finished, a stunned audience sat speechlessly, then broke into loud applause. After answering several interesting questions, one of which was fielded by Mrs. Ross, more books were signed, and the crowd filed out into summer dusk, the Square pavement still steaming from the day's heat. Today it feels, as it shall in days to come, like an "I was there" moment.


Posted June 30, 2010

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