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C is for Costello

Inspired by Stuck In a Book, I am continuing this occasional series, in which I will discuss favorite authors, alphabetically. The latest is Mark Costello.

How many books do I have by Costello?
One: The Murphy Stories (1973). That might not sound like much, but he's only published two books, so I'm very close to being a Costello completist.

How many of these have I read?
One. His other book, Middle Murphy, is high on my list. The last time I was buying something else from University of Illinois Press, the book wasn't available, and I was afraid it had gone out of print. But I was on the UIP site again recently, I saw it there, so it's still in my future.

How did I start reading Costello?
Costello was a long-time professor at U of I, where I went for both undergrad and grad school. Though I never met him in person, I did see him give an on-campus reading of one of his stories. It's not the kind of event I was ever interested in back then, but I was taking a creative writing class at the time, and my professor Dan Curley (Costello's colleague and fellow writer) compelled our entire class to attend. (If Curley did so because he was worried about there not being a crowd for the event, he shouldn't have been; the room was packed.) Costello read a very funny story that isn't in The Murphy Stories, so I assume it must be in Middle Murphy. I must have found my copy of The Murphy Stories in a used book store, sometime this century, but don't remember where.

General impressions...
Though I've read only the one Costello book, fewer than several other "C" authors (see below), I really felt the need to champion him here. Though highly regarded by his peers (very much a writer's writer), he seems to have fallen into deep obscurity, and unjustly so. The Murphy Stories is really good - a sharp collection of sometimes devastating stories that I suspect are at least autobiographical in origin. I wonder if these stories were things he needed to get off his chest, and having done so, the drive to write more faded for him after the second book. 

If you've never read Costello, then you should start with...
The Murphy Stories, obviously.

If I had to get rid of one Costello book, it would be...
Well, The Murphy Stories is the only one I own, and I'm certainly not getting rid of it. So the answer is "none."

Other "C" candidates:
Willa Cather, Raymond Chandler, Giano Cromley.

July 19, 2020 in Books | Permalink

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