Middle Men
Simon and Schuster
Jim Gavin
Part II: Costello

“Part II: Costello” is from Jim Gavin’s debut collection, Middle Men (Simon and Schuster).  Gavin’s fiction has appeared in The New YorkerThe Paris ReviewZoetropeSliceThe Mississippi Review, and ZYZZYVA.


Gavin’s stories have earned high praise.  Sam Lipsyte said: “Jim Gavin’s stories are wise and funny and not at all afraid of the dark, or the light. Middle Men is a very powerful debut.”  Novelist Adam Haslett said: “The best debut collection of short stories I’ve read in a very long time.”


Gavin said this about his story: The first draft of “Costello” was forty-five pages long and I wrote it in a week.  I usually work incredibly slow, spending months and years on a story, but this one just seemed to pour out of me.  When I reached the end I remember getting up and walking outside. I was in a daze. I didn’t have a single thought in my head and it felt great.  For better or worse, I had crammed everything I knew and cared about into one giant, rambling, and unpublishable story about a toilet salesman. I put it in a drawer and about a year later, I cut fifteen pages and tinkered with a few little things, but for the most part it kept the same flow and structure of the first draft.


Many things went into “Costello,” but I think the energy of the story comes from the fact that, for the first time, my writing was totally animated by a sense of love and gratitude.  Costello is my dad, plain and simple.  The man has spent the last forty years driving all over Southern California, making sales calls.  Forty years on the goddamn freeway! I have no idea how he did it, but I owe my life to his willingness to keep grinding away.  Husband, father, soldier, salesman – he is, like Ulysses, a complete man.  I am not a complete man – I only worked as a plumbing salesman for two years – but fiction allows us to imagine the lives of people more heroic than ourselves.


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