Funny and trenchant, Early Work is the story of a love triangle among ambitious but lethargic aesthetes. In Andrew Martin's first novel, unpublished writers, unproduced playwrights, unemployed actors and literary hangers-on mingle in the bars and literary soirees of Charlottesville, Va. Peter narrates most of the tale. Living with his fiancée, Julia (an aspiring poet and medical student), he imagines writing a great novel while teaching at the local community college. A Ph.D. drop-out from Yale, he dawdles with drinking and smoking weed while Julia holds their household together. When he meets Leslie, an MFA graduate taking a break from her Montana fiancé, their free-spirited lust gets the best of them. More booze, more dope and lots of uninhibited sex unseat their presumptions about commitment--to their partners and to writing. Something's gotta give.
A University of Montana MFA graduate, Martin takes on the boozy world of writers with the panache of J.P. Donleavy's classic bawdy tale of intellectual debauchery The Ginger Man. Martin's characters wallow in what Leslie describes as "baseball and arrogant French New Wave movies and... I don't know, Otis Redding, too." Early Work may be mostly filtered through Peter's snarky wit and cynicism, but it is Leslie who is the no-BS voice of truth. As she tells Peter: "You should be a writer. You should f**king write something down on a piece of paper." We are lucky that the talented Martin followed her advice. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.