The Business of Naming Things
(Bellevue Literary Press, Jan. 2015)
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 in the business of naming things meets a woman who may not be what she seems; a father discovers his son is suspected in an assassination attempt on the President. In each tale, Coffey’s exquisite attention to character and nuance underlies the brutally honest perspectives of his disenchanted fathers, damaged sons, and orphans left feeling perpetually disconnected.
“Riveting prose… vibrant and unsparing.” —Publishers Weekly [starred review]
Kirkus: “A clutch of well-crafted stories, thick with literary references, that turn on busted relationships between men and women and fathers and sons…. Carefully chiseled…. Sober and smart.” —Kirkus review
“Startlingly original and at times darkly funny stories that interrogate the very act of reading as well as human ambitions and the self-deception sometimes needed to realize them.” Library Journal
A Library Journal top pick for fall/winter fiction titles from independent presses
An Amazon Top 10 pick in literary fiction for the month of January.
A Kojo Nmamdi Show “Winter Reading” selection
“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 explain the strange quirks and the perfect but unaccountable details that animate these intimate portraits?” —Edmund White
“I didn’t think I would read these eight stories in a weekend, but I couldn’t stop. They absorbed me thoroughly, with their taut narratives and evocative language—the language of a poet. 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. The matter of identity looms over these narratives, giving them a kind of brooding and breeding presence, one that animates the past, makes it not only real but more than real. Coffey is a fine, witty, and vibrant writer. I recommend these stories with gratitude to the author for bringing them to light.” —Jay Parini
“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