Further into the Wisconsin Book Festival

I had the opportunity to hear John Brandon read from his short story collection Further Joy last Saturday at the Bubbler in Madison’s Central Library.

The Wisconsin Book Festival is an aspiring writer’s wet dream. Not only is it free, but it went for four days. I considered going to a similar festival sponsored by a literary magazine in New York City, but it would have set me back about $400, and it only went for two days. Give it to Madison to open something like this up to the public.

My third event at the book festival was writer John Brandon reading from his short story collection, Further Joy. The first thing I have to admit is that I’d never heard of John Brandon before last Saturday. The second thing I’ll admit is that I plan to start reading him. Not only was the story that he read interesting, but it broached a topic that bordered on controversial. The audience asked John some difficult and very personal questions, but he maintained his composure and came across as an approachable, down-to-earth guy.

In case you’re wondering what the semi-controversial (or at least discussion provoking) title story was about, it chronicled the tension between, and the secrets among, a group of fathers and their teenage daughters. One of the motifs running through the story was unresolved desire. Neither were the characters nor the suburb the story takes place in named, and the reader feels as though a layer is being peeled back to reveal the secrets below the surface of suburban America.  John said the story “Further Joy” wasn’t representative of the collection – that it was more abstract and maintained a greater distance from the characters than the others.

Though it weighs in at a hefty $24 (!), I’d recommend picking up John’s book. Here’s a free excerpt from the collection.


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