Joe Meno is an accomplished young writer and playwright from Chicago. A winner of the Nelson Algren Literary Award, he is the author of four novels and two story collections. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s and broadcast on NPR, and he was a longtime contributing editor to Punk Planet magazine. Time Out Chicago recently called him one of their “cultural heroes,” and in a recent feature on Chicago, GQ wrote that Joe is “the closest thing we’ve got to a literary ambassador.” And now, in his latest novel a soft cover version of THE GREAT PERHAPS (W. W. Norton) Meno returns to that Chicago landscape to introduce five characters searching for simple ways to understand the world’s big questions–Professor Jonathan Casper, his wife, two daughters, and father.
Madeline, Jonathan’s wife, is an animal behaviorist tracking the aggressive behavior of pigeons. The study is compromised, though, by Madeline’s inability to remain an observer; instead she finds herself consistently interceding in her subjects’ cages, trying to save the submissive creatures from the forceful ones. When she’s home from the lab, Madeline feels compelled to watch the news coverage of the ground war in Iraq. This fascination is often counterbalanced by a flood of anxiety that takes over every time she tries to understand the human aggression splashed across the TV screen.
Jonathan is also a scientist struggling with his work. A paleontologist who has devoted his entire life to finding a giant, prehistoric squid, Jonathan is on the verge of being beaten to the discovery of the elusive creature by the young, talented, and highly respected Dr. Jacques Albert. To Jonathan, this creature is the imperative missing piece that will confirm evolution as the indisputable force propelling animal life, providing the scientific community with the necessary tools to truly understand where humans have come from.
The stress of these pursuits takes its toll on Jonathan and Madeline’s marriage, and the two find themselves looking into the realms that their subjects inhabit. Jonathan daydreams about the depths in which his muse swims while gazing at maps of the ocean, and Madeline looks to the sky for comfort, company and rejuvenation.
Also joining the bill is: Jon Resh, author of Amped, Gretchen Kalwinski, of literago.org fame, Patrick Somerville, author of Trouble (Vintage) and The Cradle (Little, Brown), and folks from Knee-Jerk Magazine.