Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Signed Encounters of the Firsts Kind: Charles Yu in New York City, July 31, 2012

Charles Yu first came on my radar when he was named a National Book Foundation Five Under 35 winner for his first book, Third Class Superhero (Harvest, 2006). Since then, I have read and enjoyed his fiction and was excited to see his return to the story form after his first novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (Pantheon, 2010).

Last night at McNally Jackson books Yu read from his new collection of stories, Sorry, Please, Thank You (Pantheon, 2012) which takes now familiar elements (zombies, big box stores) as backdrops for insightful explorations of our silly society. Yu's characters navigate both clever senarios and their own low self esteem. I don't really think of Yu as a science fiction author confined to genre, as his playful, compelling, often sad stories certainly qualify as literary. But if you're into that kind of thing, you're in for a metascience fictional treat.

Yu is another one of these authors you root for, and is a pleasure to see in person. He is funny, depreciating and even seems to be making an effort to learn the names of the audience members. That those audiences seem increasingly full of nerds with strange questions/agendas is part of his success I guess. Last night we learned that Yu's favorite writers include Jonathan Lethem and George Saunders and his favorite comicbook was Fantastic Four (all good choices). What is really incredible is that Yu writes while holding down a day job as a lawyer and raising two kids. Below is his signature, obtained at last night's event: