The Narcissism of Small Differences
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About the Author
MICHAEL ZADOORIAN is the critically praised author of Beautiful Music, as well as The Leisure Seeker--the basis for the 2018 Sony Pictures Classics film starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland. Zadoorian is a recipient of a Kresge Artist Fellowship in the Literary Arts, the Columbia University Anahid Literary Award, the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, the GLIBA Great Lakes Great Reads award, and a Michigan Notable Book Award. His other books are Second Hand: A Novel, and the story collection The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit. His work has appeared in the Literary Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, American Short Fiction, Witness, Great Lakes Review, North American Review, Detroit Noir, and the Huffington Post. A lifelong resident of the Detroit area, he lives with his wife in a 1937 bungalow filled with cats and objects that used to be in the houses of other people.
"For anyone who's ever asked themselves, 'Am I weird?' Michael Zadoorian has the answer: 'Of course you are. That's the whole idea.' While everyone is trying so hard to act normal, The Narcissism of Small Differences revels in its own weirdness."
--Ben Folds, New York Times best-selling author/singer-songwriter
"The Narcissism of Small Differences asks big questions and delivers big answers but not without wit, taste, and style. A snapshot of a modern relationship, all messiness included. There's nobody better than Michael Zadoorian at unearthing the beauty in ruins, the truth in jest, youth in aging. In a literary landscape where most are hell-bent on outplotting their peers, he has sculpted a thriller from everyday life. For this, it's my most cherished book of the year."
--Josh Malerman, author of Bird Box
"Simmering beneath the humor and irony of this story is a poignant quest for meaning and authenticity in a postmodern world that supposedly holds all the answers. Michael Zadoorian is a deft, thoughtful, and intelligent writer who has deep compassion and understanding for the human condition, and his humility and humanity infuse every page. I loved this book."
--Michael Imperioli, author of The Perfume Burned His Eyes
"Against the backdrop of a crumbling Detroit, Zadoorian's prose sparkles and shimmers, infusing this love ballad of a novel with humor and light. Zadoorian is a writer who hears music everywhere and in everything, a writer who turns the act of reading into something as lush as a concert, as intimate as a mixtape."
--Nickolas Butler, author of Shotgun Lovesongs
"A masterful storyteller and prose stylist, Michael Zadoorian doesn't disappoint with The Narcissism of Small Differences, a smart, briskly paced novel set in 2009 Detroit about an aging hipster and his more responsible mate struggling to keep their relationship from veering down the same path as their crumbling, economically wrecked city."
--Donald Ray Pollock, author of The Devil All the Time
"Michael Zadoorian writes his characters with wit, humor, and compassion--clearly, he loves them, and this warmth comes shining through."
--Mira T. Lee, author of Everything Here Is Beautiful
"It's been a while since I've read a book that nailed the mind-set of a generation like Michael Zadoorian has in The Narcissism of Small Differences. His study of an ordinary couple navigating a culture where nothing matters, to discover something that really does, is remarkable."
--Luke Sullivan, author of Hey Whipple, Squeeze This
"'You shut up and went to work because people were counting on you, ' writes Michael Zadoorian in The Narcissism of Small Differences. This is perhaps the best description ever of the Detroit attitude, exemplified by protagonists Joe and Ana, a couple at the crossroads, utterly compelling as they try to move up--and stay together--in the world's most blue-collar city. Zadoorian's glittering prose will often make you laugh, but it's his gusto and unfailing eye that pull at your heart in this fantastic novel."
--Scott Lasser, author of Say Nice Things About Detroit
"When you have spent a life living apart from the mainstream, carving out a niche of artful individualism, it's good to find that you are not alone after all. Michael Zadoorian's The Narcissism of Small Differences shows you that there are kindred souls in all the cities of the world who struggle with the same failures and successes. It's like discovering your family."
--Sven Kirsten, author of The Book of Tiki
"The Narcissism of Small Differences is at once an intimate portrait of contemporary Detroit, a comedy of manners in modern marriage, and an honest depiction of the difficult choices--professional, creative, economic--many of us make while under the vise grip of late capitalism. The novel proposes that, while stuck in the craw of late empire, the very least we can do is keep an open heart. I laughed and winced equally in recognition. Michael Zadoorian is to Detroit what Stuart Dybek is to Chicago: a seer, even when the seeing hurts."
--Sally Franson, author of A Lady's Guide to Selling Out
Critical praise for Beautiful Music
"Danny Yzemski tunes out a dysfunctional family with Frank Zappa and Iggy Pop, shaking his countercultural fist at The Man in this eight-track flashback of a novel set in 1970s Detroit."
--O, the Oprah Magazine, included in Summer Reading Picks/One of 'O's Top Books of Summer
"Beautiful Music is a sweet and endearing coming-of-age tale measured in album tracks."
--Wall Street Journal
"For Danny, cracking the seal on a fresh piece of wax and dissecting cover art and liner notes are acts of nigh religious experience that unveil to him a community of fellow rockers across Detroit...It's in these small moments--a lonely boy experiencing premature nostalgia--that Zadoorian shines."
Beautiful Music has been named a 2019 Michigan Notable Book
Adult Fiction Winner for the 2018 Great Lakes Great Reads program
One of McLean & Eakin's Favorite Michigan Books of 2018
One of the Voice news Michigan Bestsellers for 2018 in Fiction
"Garnering a litany of regional awards from the likes of Voice, McLean & Eakin, and the 2018 Great Lakes Great Reads program, Michael Zadoorian's senior novel Beautiful Music tells of one young Detroiter's transformation through music during a time of political turmoil. Laden with details of the city, the novel is uniquely Detroit. (Some of the bands the protagonist, Danny, listens to are local legends MC5 and Iggy Pop.)"
--Detroit Metro Times, included in the Michigan summer 2019 reading list
"His third novel--Beautiful Music, about a radio-loving teen's transformation through music during the early '70s in Detroit...[is] rich with Detroit details (Korvette's, Bill Bonds, Iggy Pop), [and] follows Danny through racial tensions at high school, his changing body and his imploding family life."
--Detroit Free Press
"[Zadoorian's] new novel speaks of death, race, music and youth in a voice that has been compared to Nick Hornby and Tobias Wolff. It is set in 1970's Detroit at the cusp of punk, and centers around high school loner and music fanatic Danny Yzemski. One to look forward to for fans of rock music and sad, funny writing."
--Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Zadoorian takes us back to Detroit in the 1970s, which was still throbbing from the 1967 rebellion, and was in the throes of the energy crisis and the sexual revolution. Protagonist Danny Yzemski finds that growing up in such times can be...complicated. But with a little help from Iggy Pop, the MC5, and Led Zeppelin, he finds just the boost he needs to survive--and even grow a bit."
--Detroit Metro Times, included in Summer Reading roundup
"Beautiful Music is not only a testament to the rockin' jams that propelled Motown to become reknown as Detroit Rock City, it swells with the beautiful music of a lively soul...Beautiful Music is touching, hilarious, and heartbreaking, much like the gamut of emotions you may have felt the first time you heard your favorite song. And much like that first, mind-opening musical experience, you'll return to certain passages within this novel because like the perfect song, it hits all the right notes--something you can feel deep in your gut."
--Michigan Quarterly Review
"A fantastic book...A very compelling read."
--Stateside, Michigan NPR
"A delightful trip down a memory lane in the '60s with a soundtrack folks of a certain age will all recognize."
--Lansing City Pulse
"This is a must read for any Detroit native."
"[A] knockout...Exceptionally entertaining...If you haven't discovered Zadoorian's books, you're in for a real treat!"
--Lansing State Journal
On the Morning Sun's Best-Selling Book List by Michigan Authors, August 2018
"Zadoorian captures the inner and outer life of Danny Yzemski with perfect pitch...When Danny unwraps a new album, the reader experiences the feel and look of it, the smell of the liner, hears the hiss and pop when the needle first makes contact with vinyl...Beautiful Music is a novel that lingers."
--Santa Barbara Independent
"If you grew up in the age of slow dancing, sock hops, transistor radios, powerhouse rock stations, record stores, first love and last kisses--you will love Michael Zadoorian's new novel, Beautiful Music."
--Lansing City Pulse
"Michael Zadoorian's Beautiful Music takes us back to Detroit of the early 1970s, when 16-year-old Danny Yzemski, a relatable composite of shyness, unsureness, and anxiety, navigates his city and high school environments of elevated tensions and rapid change. When tragedy strikes, his favorite music saves his life."
"No matter your age or your generation, the music you listened to in high school claims a special place in your heart."
--Stateside, Michigan NPR
"Then there are writers and artists who journey back in time, ransack their memories of the '70s, and embellish them to create a sort of time-lapse portrait. Michael Zadoorian's fourth book, the terrific Beautiful Music, is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story."
"I read Beautiful Music compulsively until its end, captivated by the sympathetic character of Danny. I was left with the satisfying, 'Wait a minute, this wasn't really about music at all' feeling that I demand of music writing. But then I had to admit that it really was about rock, its power to heal and transcend. Zadoorian had an easy book to write. His refusal to write it the easy way makes all the difference."
"[A] raucous bildungsroman...Zadoorian touches on white flight, iconic radio stations, and the racial history of Detroit, but remains rooted in [protagonist] Danny's transition out of his shell. With its echoes of works by Nick Hornby and Stephen Chbosky, Zadoorian's ebullient novel is full of energy, pain, growth, and great music."
"This affectionate, nostalgic novel about a sometimes-troubled teen is a crossover delight with appeal to both adults and teens."
"A teenager in 1970s Detroit takes his first steps toward hard-rock rebellion about a soft-rock upbringing...[Zadoorian is] skilled t capturing the feeling of release that music can provide ('something snaps in your heart and a jolt of pure happiness shoots through you better than all the dope in the world') as well as the anxiety the novelty of that experience can produce in a sheltered kid...A likable bildungsroman that cannily evokes how music transforms teenage identity."
"An exceptional, engaging, and compelling read from first page to last."
--Midwest Book Review
"Zadoorian's new novel Beautiful Music is set in ravaged 1970s Detroit, and focuses on the healing power of music."
--Bay Area Reporter
"Set in early 1970s Detroit, a racially divided city still reeling from its violent riot of 1967, this novel is the story of a high school boy's transformation through music."
--Publishers Weekly Spring 2018 Adult Announcements, Literary Fiction
"Every once in a while, a book comes along that makes you happy as you read it. This new novel by Michael Zadoorian was that book for me."
--Girl Who Reads, One of the Best Books of 2018
"Beautiful Music reads like rock'n'roll music, and affected me deeply. Zadoorian writes a mean lyric disguised as a wonderful, emotive sentence. at the same time, Yzemski discovers how rock'n'roll music can lift one's soul."
--Stuff I Like (John Koenig Blog)
"I am such a huge fan of this book and this author. Beautiful Music, set in 1970s Detroit is just what the title states. A young Danny Yzemski is growing up chunky kid with a love of pop radio and an turbulent home life. He starts his freshman year in a new school being confronted by racial tension issues previously he only experienced through the news and his mother's snide comments. When a tragedy happens, Danny's mom becomes more and more obsessed with the world's cultural changes and tries to drive them out of her life with booze and pills. In this storm, Danny finds comfort in music. Like beautiful music, this book is permeated with the power to make you sad, lift you up, and carry you home."
--Fountain Bookstore, staff pick
"It's so many real life things all balled up that you can't help but be immersed in it. You find yourself turning the pages, nodding your head, laughing out loud, all of the emotions. I just really adored this book and it feels like a perfect summer read. Maybe pack it on your way to your outdoor music festival, what a tribute."
--Stranded in Chaos
"This is a wonderful nostalgic coming of age story--with the help of lots of music and for readers of a certain age, it will bring back plenty of memories. I highly recommend this book to any age!"
--Girl Who Reads
"How do we find soul-saving comfort in moments when deep personal loneliness coincides with a world gone increasingly mad? This question is at the heart of Beautiful Music, Michael Zadoorian's funny and melancholic novel that navigates the haunted history of the Rust Belt. Zadoorian shows how music has kept the region's heart beating--especially Detroit's--even in the most crushing and confusing of times."
--Dean Bakopoulos, author of Summerlong
"Michael Zadoorian has captured an era when Detroit simmered with anger and fear while it simultaneously reverberated with the joyous noise of rock and roll. Beautiful Music eloquently evokes the beauty, confusion, and power of that late 1960s/early 1970s milieu."
--Don Was, Grammy Award-winning producer, musician
"The story of Beautiful Music is painted with rich, exquisite detail and all the painful hyperawareness of growing up in a culture of mixed signals, confusion, and loss. Salvation comes through music. A miraculous safe place in which to belong."
--Nancy Wilson, singer/guitarist, Heart
"Like Nick Hornby or the great Nick Tosches, Michael Zadoorian is the rare novelist whose prose crackles with the energy of the best rock and roll. Beautiful Music is a beautiful bildungsroman that does the sounds and spirit of his beloved Detroit proud."
--Jim DeRogatis, author of Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs
"Popping with Detroit cultural landmarks, Beautiful Music wraps a disturbing yet humorous tale of beleaguered adolescence in 1970s Motor City around the A-list rock music that made the dingy landscape an aural playground."
--Steve Miller, author of Detroit Rock City
"Don't let anyone tell you that a novel can't have a soundtrack. Beautiful Music adds another chapter to Detroit's rock and roll mythology, every scene shaking with bass, drums, guitar riffs, and driving vocals. But beneath it all, Zadoorian expertly portrays a quiet boy who's navigating heartache at home, bullies at school, and racial tension in the air--a boy trusting in music to tell him that both he and his city will be okay in the end."
--Adam Schuitema, author of The Things We Do That Make No Sense
"Beautiful Music thrums like a guitar riff and rattles like a bass drum. This soulful, funny, transporting, and often electrifying novel will resonate with anyone who's found their true passion--or is still on the hunt. It's not just a great Detroit story and a great American story; it's also a story about what it means to be human. I loved this book! In the words of Bob Seger, all I could do was turn the page."
--Davy Rothbart, contributor to This American Life
"Like a song you can't stop playing, Beautiful Music casts a spell on your heart. With clarity and tenderness, Zadoorian sweeps us into a life that we recognize as our own. Remember when you were lonely, scared, unsure, and then somehow found your own kind of bravery and actual, genuine joy? Beautiful Music will take you there--and give you the soundtrack to get you through."
--Scott Sparling, author of Wire to Wire