Mark Mayer, author of the new book Aerialists: Stories, is my guest today for Episode 570.
Welcome to the sublime circus of Mark Mayer’s Michener-Copernicus-winning debut, Aerialists, a fiercely inventive collection of nine stories in which classic carnival characters become ordinary misfits seeking grandeur in a lonely world.
Under the luminous tent of Mayer’s prose, we see P.T. Barnum’s caravan remade: A young misogynist finds a confidante in a cable-TV strongwoman. A realtor for the one percent invokes his inner murder clown. A skin-and-bones mathematician and his bearded wife plot revolution. A friendless peach farmer holds a funeral for a beloved elephant. And a model-train hobbyist prepares to throw his miniature world in the trash.
The circus has always been a collection of American exaggerations-the bold, the beautiful, the freakish, the big. Aerialists finds these myths living in the everyday. Mayer’s deftly drawn characters illuminate these small-scale spectaculars, and their attempted acts of daring and feats of strength are rendered with humor, generosity, and uncommon grace.
Mark Mayer has an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was a Teaching-Writing Fellow. From 2012 to 2014, he lived at Cornell College’s Center for the Literary Arts as the Robert P. Dana Emerging Writer. His first book, AERIALISTS, won the Michener-Copernicus Prize and is forthcoming from Bloomsbury USA.