Peter Bognanni and Joshua Ferris, two promising young novelists highly skilled in making the most of unconventional plot premises, meet up at Magers & Quinn for a public conversation about their work. Iowa native Bognanni, currently a creative writing professor at St. Paul's Macalester College, takes the crackpot theories of 1930s inventor and "futurist" Buckminster Fuller and turns them into fodder for a poignant examination of fluid adolescent identities and the transformative power of punk rock in The House of Tomorrow (Putnam), his widely praised debut. Erstwhile Midwesterner and current New Yorker Ferris ups the eccentricity factor even further in his sophomore novel from 2009, The Unnamed (Little Brown & Co.), in which protagonist Tim Farnsworth sees his comfortable suburban life collapse due to the recurrence of a mysterious illness that forces him to spontaneously break into a brisk walk that he can't halt. Ferris uses the baffling illness and the attendant havoc it wreaks upon Farnsworth and his family to posit shrewd commentary on marital devotion and suburban malaise. While the modern fiction landscape isn't exactly at a loss for wacky narrative concepts, Ferris and Bognanni make their quirk work by keeping the characters in their tales grounded and fully realized individuals, the perfect ballast for their high-concept plot scenarios.
Sun., Sept. 26, 4 p.m., 2010