Check out this Pitt News Article about Michael Thomas’ Visit!


Noted novelist visits Pitt

By: Tegan Hanlon / Staff Writer for Pitt News

Posted on 11. Nov, 2010 in News

A group of adolescent boys sit in a car in Brooklyn, tripping on acid and drinking beer. They label themselves as “underage and chemically dependent.” They discuss love.

The boys entertain the idea that society has managed to package sex and sell it, as they watch a prostitute work an alley from the car window.

Novelist Michael Thomas recounted this scene and others from his debut novel “Man Gone Down” at the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium last night. A short question-and-answer session followed the reading, as part of the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series.

Pitt’s Book Center, University of Pittsburgh Press and Pitt’s English Department sponsored the event.

For an hour, the scene resembled the same “story time” most experience in their childhood. Thomas altered his voice to represent each character as he read to an audience of more than 150 students and Pittsburgh residents who periodically erupted into laughter, as if on cue.

“These characters do no represent anything. I see things. I hear things. I come up with lines, and I turn them loose. After they are on the page and doing things I see their likeness to other people. And what I do after is I allude to something, some archetype,” Thomas said.

An audience member commented that Thomas’ work reads almost as poetry.

“I think any novelist is a failed poet — forget about all of the poets in the room,” he said in response. “They’re all full of themselves.”

“Man Gone Down” has received much recognition since its publication in 2006. Thomas received the 2010-11 Fred R. Brown Literary Award and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2009.

“People say the IMPAC Dublin Award is the largest and most international literary prize in the world, after the Nobel,” said Lynn Emanuel, director of the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series.

The novel was named a Notable Book by both The New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle and was selected as one of the top-five novels of 2007 by The New York Times.

Thomas said Dr. Seuss’ work has influenced him.

“He writes nonsense that makes sense,” he said. “Others are Ellison, Eliot, Baldwin, Bob Dylan, Marley — there are so many things. They know how to evoke something. I want to mimic that.”

The organizers hoped that Thomas’ work would inspire writers in the audience and that hearing the novel read aloud would be an enjoyable experience for all, said Eryn Morgan, administrative assistant to the writers series.

“He’s young, relevant, fresh and most certainly up-and-coming,” Morgan said.

The audience seemed to relate to Thomas.

“I really enjoyed the lecture,” Pitt junior Alexandria Carbone said. “We had to read the book for my contemporary fiction class — it was one of those assignments I was supposed to read, but never really did. But after this I’m definitely going to go home and read it with his voice in mind. I love the way he read it. He was really funny.”

Thomas’ next work, “The Broken King,” is due out in 2011.

“I am currently working on what my publisher calls a ‘memoir,’” Thomas said. “I think in my good moments when I feel ambitious and optimistic about my career I call it ‘a series of linked essays.’”

A free question-and-answer lunch reception with Thomas will be held today at 12:20 p.m. at The University Club. Students and faculty are encouraged to attend.


Thanks to the Pitt News for their continued coverage of the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series!