For young writers of a certain temperament―if they haven’t had such notions beaten out of them by MFA programs and the Internet―the delusion persists that great writing must be sought in what W. B. Yeats once called the “foul rag and bone shop of the heart.” That’s where Peter Cunningham has been looking for inspiration for his novel―that is, when he isn’t teaching at the local women’s prison, walking his dog, getting high, and wondering whether it’s time to tie the knot with his college girlfriend, a medical student whose night shifts have become a standing rebuke to his own lack of direction. When Peter meets Leslie, a sexual adventurer taking a break from her fiancé, he gets a glimpse of what he wishes and imagines himself to be: a writer of talent and nerve. Her rag-and-bone shop may be as squalid as his own, but at least she knows her way around the shelves. Over the course of a Virginia summer, their charged, increasingly intimate friendship opens the door to difficult questions about love and literary ambition.
Andrew Martin's stories have appeared in The Paris Review, Zyzzyva, and Tin House's Flash Fridays series. His story "Cool for America" was cited as a Notable Story in the Best American Stories of 2014. His reviews and essays have been published in The New York Times Book Review, the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, the Washington Post, VICE, and elsewhere. Early Work is his first novel. He lives in Boston with his partner Laura and their dog Bonnie.
Christine Smallwood holds a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. Her reviews and essays have been published in The New Yorker, Bookforum, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, and Harper’s Magazine, where she writes the monthly “New Books” column. Her fiction has been published in The Paris Review, n+1, and Vice.