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River Bend Chronicle: The Junkification of a Boyhood Idyll amid the Curious Glory of Urban Iowa

From a striking talent with keen powers of observation comes this evocation of an eccentric family’s tangled connections—between themselves, an unlikely cast of locals, and a seldom-documented urban Iowa, one not of cows and cornstalks but of thrift stores, TV dinners, and bridges spanning the muddy Mississippi River.

$17.95

Synopsis

Shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

From a striking talent with keen powers of observation comes this evocation of an eccentric family’s tangled connections—between themselves, an unlikely cast of locals, and a seldom-documented urban Iowa, one not of cows and cornstalks but of thrift stores, TV dinners, and bridges spanning the muddy sprawl of the Mississippi River.

By turns uplifting and harrowing, Ben Miller’s prose portrays a boy’s quest to make his life more than the sum of its worst moments in a chaotic household. The tableau revealed is endearingly adrift in time—an inventor’s dream of selling America on a mail-order ice rink, the neighbors whose prodigious cookouts have the gravitas of Greek drama, and the aspiring misfit writers who meet to quote The Elements of Style over Pall Malls in a riverside tenement. Through it all, Miller returns to his Virgil, neighbor Mr. Hickey, a bow-tie-clad widower who exhibits a beguiling power to bear losses without himself becoming lost. Together the unlikely duo forms an irrevocable bond, sipping Sanka and 7UP while tuning in to Muhammad Ali’s greatest matches or rooting for the beleaguered Cubs.

Miller has engulfed the reader in the saga of a family fragmenting, and in the plight of a city redefining its identity at the close of a century. As characters converge and alter each other, the narrative current sweeps us toward a reckoning with secrets guarded for far too long.

Details
ISBN: 9780984900008
Price: $17.95
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Size: 5.5 x 7.5
Pages: 460
Format: Trade paper with French flaps
Memoir

REVIEW

“Funny and beautifully crafted . . . Miller’s affecting chronicle reveals the often messy ways that families fall apart and the way that writing acts both as remembrance and redemption.”

Publishers Weekly

1/4

REVIEW

“Melvillian in its packed facts, fascinating characters, stylistic virtuosity, and deep-diving ambition to understand destructive madness . . . a work that should be the gold standard for literary memoirs in the future.”

Tom LeClair

Daily Beast

2/4

REVIEW

“What Miller presents is a kind of forgiveness, brave, heroic, and largely uncharted by male writers . . . he lends empathy and strength to a story that could otherwise be just one of victimhood.”

Foreword

3/4

REVIEW

“The author infuses the narrative fabric with a potion that elevates ordinariness to the level of Myth . . . this style, which at times has Joycean echoes, makes this memoir much more than a story of how to find the light at the end of the tunnel . . . [Miller is] one of the best contemporary American writers.”

American Book Review

4/4

About the Author

Ben Miller is the author of the debut memoir in essays River Bend Chronicle: The Junkification of a Boyhood Idyll Amid the Curious Glory of Urban Iowa. He has published in AGNI, Ecotone, the Kenyon Reviewthe Antioch Review, Raritan, Salmagundi, One Story, and other journals. His essays have been reprinted or noted six times in Best American Essays, and his awards include a fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is married to the poet Anne Pierson Wiese.

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