The Business of Naming Things

208 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $15.95
ISBN: 9781934137864


ISBN: 9781934137871

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“Superb. . . . Startlingly original and at times darkly funny. . . . [Coffey’s] characters are as flawed and complicated as they are recognizable and sympathetic; all fiction readers can enjoy.”

Library Journal (starred review)

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“Riveting. . . . Coffey brilliantly examines the efforts of a mother to cope with her son’s death in ‘Moon Over Quabbin’; he uses the J.F.K. assassination as a backdrop to a tale about a sinful priest in ‘Inn of the Nations’; and, in ‘Sons,’ he explores a difficult father-son relationship in the context of a possible Obama assassination attempt. . . . Vibrant and unsparing.”

Publishers Weekly (starred and boxed review)

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“Well-crafted stories, thick with literary references. . . . Carefully chiseled. . . Sober and smart writing that evokes the more mannered American stylists of the 1960s and ’70s.”

Kirkus Reviews

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“Michael Coffey is a writer who revels in language and in storytelling. In this group of beguiling short stories, the writing is rich, subtle, and often surprising.”

Bellevue Literary Review

“Coffey name-drops some serious literary heavyweights in the pages of his stories. Harold Brodkey, J.F. Powers, Henrik Ibsen and James Joyce all make an appearance. But that doesn’t mean that these stories are only for ‘pointy-headed’ literary types. Coffey’s writing hearkens back to stylists of 40 or 50 years ago and his subject matter is ‘meat and potatoes’ basic: the relationships between men and women and fathers and sons.”

Wayne Roylance, New York Public Library

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“Once I started reading these stories, I couldn’t stop. They absorbed me thoroughly, with their taut narratives and evocative language—the language of a poet. The matter of identity looms over them, giving them a kind of brooding and breeding presence, one that animates the past, makes it not only real, but more than real. Michael Coffey has reached deep into his own past here, but that reality has been magically transformed, transmogrified, as the work of fiction does its job. Coffey is a fine, witty, and vibrant writer. I recommend The Business of Naming Things with gratitude to the author.”

Jay Parini, author of Jesus: The Human Face of God and The Last Station

“Sherwood Anderson would recognize this world of lonely, longing characters, whose surface lives Coffey tenderly plumbs. These beautiful stories—spare, rich, wise and compelling—go to the heart.”

Frederic Tuten, author of Self Portraits: Fictions and Tintin in the New World

“Michael Coffey brings us so close to his subjects it is almost embarrassing. Whether he’s writing about a sinning priest or a man who’s made a career out of branding or about himself, we can smell Coffey’s protagonists and feel their breath on our cheek. Like Chekhov, he must be a notebook writer; how else to explain the strange quirks and the perfect but unaccountable details that animate these intimate portraits?”

Edmund White, author of Inside a Pearl and A Boy’s Own Story

Among these eight stories, a fan of writer (and fellow adoptee) Harold Brodkey gains an audience with him at his life’s end, two pals take a Joycean sojourn, a man whose business is naming things meets a woman who may not be what she seems, and a father discovers his son is a suspect in an assassination attempt on the president. In each tale, Michael Coffey’s exquisite attention to character underlies the brutally honest perspectives of his disenchanted fathers, damaged sons, and orphans left feeling perpetually disconnected.

WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show “Winter Reading” selection

North County Public Radio (NCPR) “Winter Reading and Holiday Giving” selection

Spartanburg Herald-Journal “Adult Book Pick”

Publishers Weekly “Big Indie Book” & “Best Book of the Week”

Library Journal “Key Indie Fiction”

Tattered Cover Book Store “Fresh Ink: Spotlight on Debut Books” selection “Best Books of the Month: Literature & Fiction”

Excerpt from The Business of Naming Things

Michael Coffey talks about The Business of Naming Things on NCPR News and Library Journal’s Barbara Hoffert tells Kojo Nnamdi Show listeners why the short story collection should be on everyone’s reading list.

Michael Coffey discusses how writing poetry led him to fiction and explains the autobiographical roots of The Business of Naming Things on Late Night Library’s “Late Night Conversation” podcast and with Kirkus Reviews, Shelf Unbound (p. 44), Book Q&As, and in two interviews with Publishers Weekly.

Read more from Michael Coffey about the search for his biological parents and the way that journey informed the stories within The Business of Naming Things on his website.

Read an excerpt from The Business of Naming Things in BOMB magazine.

Michael Coffey, author of The Business of Naming Things, shares advice for writers at TSP: The official blog of The Story Prize.