September 27 2019
“Just miles from the Hamptons, with Manhattan a kind of distant, belittling rumor, stories of desire and loss, crime and trouble, play out among the abandoned docks and potato barns of what had once been a quiet community. In its bleak humor, Floyd Harbor brings to mind Denis Johnson and Irvine Welsh, though it’s also as moving and ecstatic as the early songs of Bruce Springsteen. The part of eastern Long Island portrayed here is Joel Mowdy’s Yoknapatawpha—he knows it and makes us want to know it.” —Zachary Lazar, author of Vengeance Set largely in the 1990s, the twelve linked stories in Joel Mowdy’s first book take place in and around Mastic Beach, a community on New York’s Long Island that’s close to the wealthy Hamptons but afflicted by widespread poverty. Mostly in their teens and early twenties, the characters struggle to become independent in various ways, ranging from taking typical lowpaying jobs—hotel laundry, janitorial, restaurant, and landscaping work—to highly ingenious schemes, to exchanging sexual favors for a place to stay. A few make it to local community colleges; others end up in rehab or juvenile detention centers. However loving, their parents can offer little help. Those who are Vietnam veterans may suffer from PTSD; others may bear the addictions that often come with stressful lives. Neighborhoods of small bungalows—formerly vacation homes—with dilapidated boats in the driveways hint at the waterways that open up close by. The beauty of the ocean beach offer further consolation, as does the often high-spirited temperament of youth. Joel Mowdy brings to his affecting collection both personal experience and a gift for discerning and lingering on the essential moments in his characters’ stories. He intimately and vividly illuminates American lives that too seldom see the light.