The following essay is included in John Freeman’s How to Read a Novelist and reproduced here, in its entirety, in honor of the late Günter Grass, who died in the German city of Lübeck on April 13, 2015.
“Calm down,” [Dale] said. “Nobody has to go if they’d rather not. To be clear, the labyrinth is known to possess magic. Some say in the center you discover the one thing you most desire in the world. Others claim that God sits beyond the last bend. Individuals must find out for themselves. Go check out the jam contest if you’re not feeling up to it.”
Are you feeling up to it? Then start the story here and keep going.
Accompanying the piece is an interview with Gray by John McElwee, where the two cover everything from the “natural mix of horror and humor” to the power of brevity.
FIND ME doesn’t hit the shelves for another two weeks but people are already going nuts for this “unforgettable and, against all odds, unique tale.” And since we published Laura van den Berg’s last story collection, The Isle of Youth, as an FSG Original we’re going to jump right on in this parade and celebrate one of the family!
As the movie adaptation of Spare Parts opens across the country (here’s the Washington Post review of “the feel-good story…that’s also pretty darn thrilling”), Joshua Davis has published a bracing and important op-ed in The New York Times about the fundamental difference between the Hollywood version—even when it’s fairly faithful to events—and the real-life version of the story, and what that means for the people involved and, really, America itself. The piece begins:
WHEN audiences watch the movie “Spare Parts” in theaters this month, they will see the kind of Hollywood ending that has eluded the immigration debate in Congress.
The film is based on my reporting about four young immigrants who built an underwater robot. In the movie, which closely reflects the true story, the students enter the nation’s pre-eminent robotics competition, an event sponsored by NASA and the Navy. They win widespread recognition for their accomplishments and, when the movie ends in 2004, their future is bright.
Unfortunately, that’s not how the story really ends.
We won’t ruin the suspense that Josh has worked so hard to build. But the gist is that you need to know the full story, so we encourage you in the strongest possible terms to keep reading here.
On the eve of the release of the movie version of Spare Parts this Friday, the Diane Rehm Show brought together author Joshua Davis with three of the main characters from his book: Oscar Vazquez , the motivated jROTC cadet who became the de facto leader of their land-locked (in a desert!) high school’s underwater robotics team (played by Carlos PenaVega in the movie); Lorenzo Santillan, the auto shop underachiever whose ingenuity saved the day more than once as their jerry-rigged robot took on high-cost machines from team MIT and others (played by José Julián); and Fredi Lajvardi, the unorthodox high school science teacher who came up with the idea that what a group of undocumented, impoverished high school kids needed was to enter a NASA-sponsored robot-building competition (George Lopez, obviously). It’s a remarkable hour of radio. Give it a listen here.