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Beautiful Children by Charles Bock

On January 7, 2008, in Art Events, by squirt

chucksperry-2008bockThis book release poster was commissioned by Random House at the request of Charles Bock for his debut novel “Beautiful Children,” and will be available on his book release tour of the US.

One Saturday night in Las Vegas, twelve-year-old Newell Ewing goes out with a friend and doesn’t come home. In the aftermath of his disappearance, his mother, Lorraine, makes daily pilgrimages to her son’s room and tortures herself with memories. Equally distraught, the boy’s father, Lincoln, finds himself wanting to comfort his wife even as he yearns for solace, a loving touch, any kind of intimacy.

As the Ewings navigate the mystery of what’s become of their son, the circumstances surrounding Newell’s vanishing and other events on that same night reverberate through the lives of seemingly disconnected strangers: a comic book illustrator in town for a weekend of debauchery; a painfully shy and possibly disturbed young artist; a stripper who imagines moments from her life as if they were movie scenes; a bubbly teenage wiccan anarchist; a dangerous and scheming gutter punk; a band of misfit runaways. The people of Beautiful Children are “urban nomads,” each with a past to hide and a pain to nurture, every one of them searching for salvation and barreling toward destruction, weaving their way through a neon underworld of sex, drugs, and the spinning wheels of chance.

In this masterly debut novel, Charles Bock mixes incandescent prose with devious humor to capture Las Vegas with unprecedented scope and nuance and to provide a glimpse into a microcosm of modern America. Beautiful Children is an odyssey of heartache and redemption – heralding the arrival of a major new writer.

Bock was born and raised in Las Vegas, which served as the setting for Beautiful Children. He comes from a family of pawnbrokers who’ve operated pawn shops in downtown Las Vegas for more than thirty years. On his website, he reflects upon his upbringing as a source of inspiration for the novel:

“Sometimes, when my siblings and I were little, my parents, for various reasons, used to have us stay in the back of the shop. This would be after school or during summer vacation, when there wasn’t summer camp, or they didn’t have anybody to watch over us and we were too small to be alone. We’d occupy our time with sodas from a nearby casino’s gift shop, comic books, and a television that got wavy reception, and we’d do small chores, rolling coins or filing the previous day’s pawn tickets. The store often had a line of people waiting to pawn their goods, local customers who worked in casinos and also spent all their spare time playing blackjack and slot machines, and also tourists who had blown all their cash, and maybe their plane tickets home, and now were desperate, and hung over, and needed loans on their wedding rings, so they could go back into the casinos and win back their money. I’d sometimes stare out of the back of the store and watch the people in line and take in their faces. Lots of times my parents would be put in the position of having to tell these people that their wedding ring was only worth a fraction of what they’d paid for it, or that, say, the diamonds in that ring were brown and flawed. From the back of the store, I’d watch as the customers exploded and called my parents dirty Jews and cursed at them and threatened them at the top of their lungs. It’s impossible in situations like that not to feel for everybody involved – to be horrified, sure, but more than that, to be saddened by the spectacle, to want so much more than that out of life for everyone.”

Bock earned a Master’s of Fine Arts in fiction and literature from Bennington College and has taught fiction at the Gotham Writers Workshop in New York City. His short fiction has been published in Esquire Magazine.

1/23/2008
Happy Endings Reading Series
302 Broome Street (between Forsyth and Eldridge)
New York, NY 10010
8 pm

2/6/2008
Clark County Library
1401 East Flamingo Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89119
702-507-3459
7 pm

2/12/2008
Three Lives Books
154 W. 10th Street
New York, NY 10014
212-741-2069
7 pm

2/18/2008
Powell’s Books on Hawthorne
3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR 97214
503-238-1668
7:30 pm

2/19/2008
Elliott Bay Book Co.
101 S. Main Street
Seattle, WA 98104
206-624-6600
7:30 pm

2/20/2008
Booksmith
1644 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
415-863-8688
7 pm

2/22/2008
Vroman’s Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91101
626-449-5320
7 pm

2/28/2008
Brookline Booksmith
279 Harvard Street
Brookline, MA 02446
617-566-6660
7 pm

Links:
Beautiful Children
Girl with Shaved Head
Random House

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