Author Stories Podcast Episode 786 | Chris McCormick Interview

Today’s author interview guest is Chris McCormick, author of The Gimmicks: A Novel.

The Gimmicks is a gorgeous epic that astounds with its scope and beauty. With empathy and humor, McCormick unravels the ties between brotherhood and betrayal, love and abandonment, and the fictions we create to live with the pain of the past. This novel will blow you away.”—Brit Bennett, New York Times bestselling author of The Mothers

Set in the waning years of the Cold War, a stunning debut novel about a trio of young Armenians that moves from the Soviet Union, across Europe, to Southern California, and at its center, one of the most tragic cataclysms in twentieth-century history—the Armenian Genocide—whose traumatic reverberations will have unexpected consequences on all three lives.

This exuberant, wholly original novel begins in Kirovakan, Armenia, in 1971. Ruben Petrosian is a serious, solitary young man who cares about two things: mastering the game of backgammon to beat his archrival, Mina, and studying the history of his ancestors. Ruben grieves the victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, a crime still denied by the descendants of its perpetrators, and dreams of vengeance.

When his orphaned cousin, Avo, comes to live with his family, Ruben’s life is transformed. Gregarious and physically enormous, with a distinct unibrow that becomes his signature, Avo is instantly beloved. He is everything Ruben is not, yet the two form a bond they swear never to break.

But their paths diverge when Ruben vanishes—drafted into an extremist group that will stop at nothing to make Turkey acknowledge the genocide. Unmoored by Ruben’s disappearance, Avo and Mina grow close in his absence. But fate brings the cousins together once more, when Ruben secretly contacts Avo, convincing him to leave Mina and join the extremists—a choice that will dramatically alter the course of their lives.

Left to unravel the threads of this story is Terry “Angel Hair” Krill, a veteran of both the US Navy and the funhouse world of professional wrestling, whose life intersects with Avo, Ruben, and Mina’s in surprising and devastating ways.

Told through alternating perspectives, The Gimmicks is a masterpiece of storytelling. Chris McCormick brilliantly illuminates the impact of history and injustice on ordinary lives and challenges us to confront the spectacle of violence and the specter of its aftermath.

Chris McCormick is the author of Desert Boys, winner of the 2017 Stonewall Book Award—Barbara Gittings Literature Award. His essays and stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Tin House, Ploughshares, and The Offing. He grew up in the Antelope Valley on the California side of the Mojave Desert, and earned his BA from the University of California, Berkeley. After teaching at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he earned his MFA and won two Hopwood Awards, he’s now an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Minnesota State University, Mankato. His second book and debut novel, The Gimmicks, is now available from Harper.

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