Advance Praise for A Total Junker
A trove of accidents and serendipitous connections. – David Hamilton
Like an oddball and oddly moving index to some wondrous and elusive book I swear I’ve read before but can’t find on the shelf. – Daniel Handler
I loved this book. – Raymond Sokolov
Very touching, funny, quirky, and amazing. – Mary A. Doll
I truly couldn’t put it down! I found it so endearing and touching and artful—it really works to reverse the chronology. By the end I had tears in my eyes! – Elizabeth McKenzie
Critical Comment on An Old Junker
Philip Kobylarz writing for the Iowa Review, click here.
Phil Semier, writing for the San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review, click here.
Amanda Field, writing for The Writing Disorder, click here.
Swoonrocket, the eminent litblogger, in the year-end act of “filling in the letters J, K, and L,” took note: Blog as autobiography. Opens with a story about a fight with Stephen Elliot and then Elliot throwing a beer on Junker. Has Junker-esque figure throwing gang signs on the cover and then Junker batting in a pumpkin costume on the back cover.
HTMLGIANT: …Five years ago…Howard Junker started a blog and gave himself an assignment—to write regularly, to do the best he could in the moment. At 70, newly retired from ZYZZYVA, he set himself another task—to make the best book he could out of those artifacts. An Old Junker is the result.
What is it?
Almost the “nonfiction novel” the cover copy invokes. The “confessional” memoir of a discreet and private man. A reader’s guide—he points you to Daniel Deronda, revisits Kerouac and Sylvia Plath and shares his own thoughts about a bunch of famous writers good and less so. A collection of impious, generous and original short takes on subjects as diverse as hot chocolate, the editorial relationship of Ray Carver and Gordon Lish, white bucks, Dave Eggers’ messiah complex, the difficulties of raising money, not speaking to David Rockefeller at a NY art show, and the writers he was proud to discover in his twenty five years at ZYZZYVA.
A blog is a public diary. Consciously or not, Junker seems to have made some rules. He’s free with opinions but doesn’t violate the privacy of others. He’s willing to sting but not wound. He favors the odd, telling detail over the grand pronouncement. When he writes about Big Issues, he comes at them sideways. A boy’s wonder meets mature bemusement. Like frost on an Indian summer morning, the elegiac shimmers and disappears.
New and Collected Blog Posts is not a genre yet. The reader simply has to take these little pieces straight on. This reader of a certain age enjoyed the company of a highly cultured raconteur. Respected how much he cares. Laughed out loud and not infrequently saluted a surprising insight or well made sentence.
When I say this is the perfect bathroom book for the literati, I mean it as high praise. Dip in and out and be edified. Taken in longer drafts, An Old Junker is a little bit unsettling, both for the lack of a climax and the reminder to die.
Rio Liang reviewing on Ruelle Electrique: I was quite fascinated by Howard Junker’s An Old Junker: a senior represents. The retired ZYZZYVA editor has pieced together in not haphazard ways a nonfiction novel out of blog posts he’d written during the five-year period of 2006-2010. The end result is, at the risk of my sounding momentarily hipsterish, quite entertaining “bricolage.”Reordered into more digestible groupings–a rearrangement akin to a library classification system–Junker’s blog entries provide a “representation” of the author as a well-networked (watch for mentions of Sherman Alexie, Candice Bergen, Miranda July, and Danielle Steel, among others) and astute man of letters; a historian of sorts (he provides some interesting reminiscences on various literary figures); and of course as the no-nonsense and self-acknowledged obnoxious editor he is well-known for (he is blunt in his assessments of notable figures like Dave Eggers, Stephen Elliott, Jonathan Franzen, and Michael Pollan, to name a few).
The book is most interesting when it delves into the editor’s life and the world of literary magazine publishing. As a man who’s seen the industry evolve from drafting tables to desktop publishing, Junker offers very intriguing takes on editors-as-teachers and self-publishing editors. He bemoans the lit mag business, often in surprisingly funny ways (read his very witty “lMag“).
There are throwaway entries here and there that one might bypass; and as with diaries, the question of “Who cares?” often surfaces (for example, some of the dining-related entries feel like “fillers,” as it were). But Junker’s is a well-written “diary” and a worthwhile read, with each entry expertly written with an editor’s sharpness and concision.
In a blog post about former Paris Review editor George Plimpton, whom Junker regards as a hero, the author describes being “in favor of anything that fleshes out the editorial identity.” Junker himself has done that here, showcasing a man whose various–often strongly worded–views on art, literature, and life combine to define a singular editor.
DeWitt Henry reviewing on Amazon: Amongst the charm, the spleen, the flapdoodle and lived personal and literary insights there are two deeply moving thoughts of mortality that are worthy of standing as prose poems. The first, near the opening, is “Curtains” (“there will be some twists, some messy business, then the curtain falls”); the second, “Portrait,” closes the book (“life had taken its toll…but the eyes are resolute; you may look into them and see my unfathomable sadness and sorrow”). They frame an epigramatic collage that wittily captures an editor/writer’s personality and culture. Disclosure: I am honored to be mentioned in it as “mon semblable, mon frere.”
J.S.L. in an e-mail: ha, read the book. thanks for sending. very eccentric, idiosyncratic, and fun!
S.H. in an e-mail: Gutsy way to trace a life! Fun to read. Lists, jabs, bon mots and even touching moments.
V.K. in an e-mail: I really loved the short segments and the literary history and details about your life like the white suit at Canterbury. I hope you sent Barack Obama the fictional letter you wrote about his daughter in the war and you keep sending it everyday. Your book kinda reminded of Zyzzyva: honest without being predictable, visually appealing (love the back photo), thoughtful and iconic. Hope you use retirement to pen “an older junker.”
D.H. in an e-mail: only on page 33. and laughed out loud twice.
K.K. on Facebook: I’m in a swoon over my favorite old Junker.
L.G.: in an e-mail: I am loving your book. Great job… They really hang together and I’m reading each entry as a kind of short story.
J.K. in a handwritten letter: Reading it was a lot like popping corn—one of my favorite pastimes. & I entirely enjoyed it. What’s most remarkable is how you catch the voice of…well…you. Plus, there’s a ton of interesting information.
C.K.W. in an e-mail: …your marvelous collection of ideas and factoids is not only useful, but refreshing and just zany enough to keep me smiling each time I recall an entry….there were sweet, tender moments as well….I too would have wanted a cup of lemonade from your young neighbor. Honestly, that brought a tear to my eye (however, it is allergy season, so it was not a difficult tear to produce). And Howard, I share in your sadness about not fitting into the coffee generation….it’s tea or cocoa for me as well. I will use your art entries time and again, for easy reference in my struggle to become astute in this area. But, most of all, as a writer, I’ve continued to appreciate your candor with all of us…what really goes down behind the editor’s door…I laughed out loud (at two in the morning) about letting manuscripts ‘age’ so writers felt you had considered their work for a time…you are sweet after all. And since I was a reader at Zoetrope, I enjoyed your poke at their slush pile, which really is ridiculous and completely unnecessary… Keep taking your walk-abouts and ranting and pushing us all to think. You are a true original, brilliant and silly…two of my favorite words.
M. Lucey Bowen reviewing on Amazon: Howard has done it again. He’s his own Boswell. He has also demonstrated how books and blogs should co-exist. The movie-reel feel of Junker’s blog becomes in book form something ordered, something that can be consulted for the Junker take on personalities and events. Wicked fun stuff!
Janine Smith reviewing on Amazon: From the title, I thought this might be Junker’s musings on growing older. Not at all, it’s about everything. Memories, criticisms, commentary–every entry is different and they’re all interesting. Sometimes funny, sometimes not, but always thought-provoking.
J.F. in an e-mail: reading over a messy burrito in the backroom of the gallery i chuckled over your story of Zero de SF……..somehow a perfect Junker moment……
K.G.S. on FB: The section on Twitter cracked me up.
T.I. in an e-mail: … read almost non-stop with enormous pleasure! Engaging and illuminating—what a life! Thank you for sharing your adventures.