“It’s exciting to meet an author who’s unafraid of heights.”
So writes one New York Times reviewer of Alex Shakar, a 1994 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin Department of English graduate program in creative writing and former Michener Fellow. Shakar, whose newest book “Luminarium” was released from Soho Press last month to critical praise, will be in Austin this week to read and sign at Austin’s BookPeople. Friends and fans will get a chance to hear new work from a writer who is establishing himself as one of the most daring and inventive social critics of his generation.
Shakar’s debut short fiction collection, “City in Love,” published shortly after his graduation, won the 1996 FC2 National Fiction Competition. A reimagining of Ovid’s “Metamorphosis” set in an anachronistic New York City of 1 B.C., the stories draw on classical myths to depict isolated urbanites searching for love, artistic expression and meaning in a hard urban landscape. They range in style from the traditionally narrative to the experimental, and in the title story, Shakar employs a prototypical form of hypertext that references links within the story to a secret embedded narrative thread, foreshadowing by some years the ways in which technology alters and informs our reading experiences today.
“City in Love” was followed in 2001 by “The Savage Girl,” in which Shakar again creates a mythical city, built on the slopes of a volcano, where advertising and consumerism rule and trendspotters hungrily troll for the Next Big Thing. The cultural landscape into which the novel was released in September 2001 was quickly changed by the events of 9/11. “The age of cynicism and anomie that is captured here may have ended in a flash,” a New York Times review said, “but . . . Mr. Shakar preserves them here with a scathing intelligence that transcends the trendiness of any particular moment.”
After ten years during which Shakar completed a doctorate at University of Illinois at Chicago and joined the fiction faculty at Urbana-Champaign, where he is now associate professor, he has published his second novel, “Luminarium.” This time his razor-sharp eye and wit are trained on the shaky shared ground of technology and spirituality in our cyber age. “Science fiction without the Frankenstein scars,” a Time Out Chicago reviewer notes of Shakar’s genre-bending style. “Part Philip K. Dick, part Jonathan Franzen, this radiant work leads you from the unreal to the real so convincingly that you begin to let go of the distinction,” notes a recent starred Publishers Weekly review.
The reading and booksigning begin at 7 pm on Thursday, September 8, 2011. Bookpeople is located on the corner of West 6th and North Lamar Blvd. Shakar will also meet with students earlier in the afternoon, at 3 p.m., at the Michener Center’s Dobie House seminar room; call 512-471-8444 to reserve a seat.