Each day leading up to the April 16 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today, we feature 2011 Novel and Short Story finalist:
An excerpt from an interview with Matt Burgess:
“The idea was to write a book about Queens that my friends back home would want to read. And so the book is structured like a plot-driven crime novel – there are armed robberies and dead bodies and double crossings and undercover cops – but it’s equally interested in rendering the interior lives of its characters, the kind of working class people consistently underrepresented in American fiction. I have an enormous amount of affection for Queens and for the people who live there, and I wanted that to come across in the book.”
Nineteen-year-old Alfredo Batista has a lot to worry about: a pregnant girlfriend, the return of his violent brother from prison, a struggling drug dealing business and the task of stealing a pit bull for a homecoming dogfight. Set in Queens, New York, this novel establishes Matt Burgess as an exuberant new voice in contemporary literature.
Matt Burgess is a graduate of Dartmouth College and earned his MFA from the University of Minnesota’s Creative Writing program.
“Absorbing…rich…Like those before him, Burgess lives and dies by the credibility of his dialogue and details, and his portrayal is clearly the product of much close study.” – Time Out New York
“Matt Burgess serves up a savory dish with his new novel, but the meat of the story is his writing…[an] exciting and really-tough-to-put-down novel…The plot is fun, original, addictive…The landscape Burgess paints (setting: Jackson Heights, Queens) has the alluring exoticism of a Gauguin…not merely funny or incisive but also feels true, and intimately so, as if revealing to us hidden parts of a world we already know…There’s something more expansive at play here, as we watch Alfredo grapple with his conscience and fall deeper into an unknown yet eerily familiar world.” – Star Tribune
“Every once in a while you come across a book that completely captures a place. Even if you’ve never been there yourself, it’s like you can see it, smell it, taste it. There’s a new novel out that does that for New York. Specifically: the borough of Queens. Author Matt Burgess nails the place.” – NPR’s Weekend Edition
“A caustic, witty, urbane love story.” – MN Book Awards preliminary judge
Burgess returns to Jackson Heights in Queens, the neighborhood of his childhood and the setting for his new novel. ”Jackson Heights is fundamental to my personality,” Burgess says. “Before I had a plot, before I had characters, I had this neighborhood.” Burgess reveals the correct pronunciation for Roosevelt Avenue, visits the only bookstore in the neighborhood (a table outside a grocery store) and ends his walk through Jackson Heights with a stop at a Mr. Softee truck.
Award winners will be announced at the 23rd Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 16, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in downtown Saint Paul. The opening reception begins at 6:30 p.m.; followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45 and are available by clicking here or calling 651-222-3242.
Each year in the weeks leading up to the Minnesota Book Awards gala, all Minnesotans are invited to take part in voting for the Readers’ Choice Award. Vote now through the end of March. Please, only one vote per person.
Have you read Dogfight, A Love Story? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!