Philipp Meyer grew up in Baltimore, dropped out of high school, and got his GED when he was sixteen. After spending several years volunteering at a trauma center in downtown Baltimore, he attended Cornell University, where he studied English. Since graduating, Meyer has worked as a derivatives trader at UBS, a construction worker, and an EMT, among other jobs. His writing has been published in McSweeney's, The Iowa Review, Salon.com, and New Stories from the South. From 2005 to 2008 Meyer was a fellow at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas. He splits his time between Texas and upstate New York.
In his unrelentingly downbeat debut, Meyer offers up a character-driven near-noir set in Buell, a dying Pennsylvania steel town, where aimless friends Billy Poe and Isaac English are trapped by economic and personal circumstance. Just before their halfhearted escape to California, Isaac accidentally kills a transient who tries to rob Poe. The boys return to the crime scene the next day with plans to cover up the crime, setting the plot in motion. Poe is soon under suspicion, and Isaac, distraught after discovering Poe has been carrying on a relationship with Isaac's sister, Lee, sets off for California alone. Meanwhile, Poe's mother, Grace, mourns her own lost opportunities, broods over her son and pines for her on-again-off-again love, the local sheriff. A fully realized tragic heroine, Grace is the poignant thrust of the novel, embodying enough rural tragedy to nearly atone for the novel's weakness: a sense that some of the plot mechanics are arbitrary. Still, Meyer has a thrilling eye for failed dreams and writes uncommonly tense scenes of violence, and in the character of Grace creates a woeful heroine. Fans of Cormac McCarthy or Dennis Lehane will find in Meyer an author worth watching. (Feb.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
The dying steel towns of southwestern Pennsylvania are the somber canvas upon which Meyer paints this tale of class, crime, and circumscribed choices. Lifelong buddies Isaac and Billy find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now Isaac's on the run, Billy's taking the fall for a murder he didn't commit, and their respective families struggle to make sense of what's happened. Meyer's slow, eloquent pacing and lofty vocabulary occasionally seem at odds with the grim realities of Isaac and Billy's adventures, which include prison scenes and tales of life on the road. However, the elegant phrasing provides an ironic contrast between life as it really is and life as the characters wish it could be. Meyer's greatest strength as a novelist lies in his poignantly well-rounded characters, particularly Billy's long-suffering mother, Grace, who repeatedly sacrifices her own prospects for those of her child. A Pandora's box of debate for book clubs, this novel is an essential purchase for libraries in Pennsylvania and surrounding states and strongly recommended for all other fiction collections.--Leigh Anne Vrabel, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Praise for American Rust
"A novel as splendidly crafted and original as any written in
recent decades, American Rust is both darkly disturbing and
richly compelling. Philipp Meyer's first novel signals the arrival
of a new voice in American letters."--Patricia Cornwell, author of
"With its strong narrative engine and understated social insight, American Rust is reminiscent of the best of Robert Stone and Russell Banks. Author Philipp Meyer locates the heart of his working class characters without false sentiment or condescension, and their world is artfully described. An extraordinary, compelling novel from a major talent."--George Pelecanos, author of The Turnaround "This is strong, clean stuff. Philipp Meyer deserves to be taken seriously."--Pete Dexter, author of Paper Trails "Philipp Meyer's American Rust is written with considerable dramatic intensity and pace. It manages an emotional accuracy, a deep and detailed conviction in its depiction of character. It also captures a sense of a menacing society, a wider world in the throes of decay and self-destruction."--Colm T ib n, author of The Master
"Meyer has a thrilling eye for failed dreams and writes uncommonly tense scenes of violence . . . Fans of Cormac McCarthy or Dennis Lehane will find in Meyer an author worth watching."--Publishers Weekly