Paging Drew Magary: Author Will Visit Tri-C
October 01, 2015
Tough times have a way of paying off later, as author Drew Magary can attest.
Magary had just been laid off from his advertising job and had an arrest for DUI under his belt. He had some freelance writing jobs on tap, but he still had a young family to support. So he took to the keyboard and began the darkly funny, dystopian novel that would become The Postmortal.
He finished the book, found an agent who liked it and, like many a writer before him, became a collector of rejection letters from publishers. But in 2011, Penguin published The Postmortal. It did not become a New York Times best-seller, but something interesting started to happen. Colleges began launching common reading programs to foster campuswide conversations, and they were selecting The Postmortal as their book.
Sales helped Magary — a columnist and writer for GQ and Deadspin — draw publishing support for his second novel, due out next year. He also hits the road from time to time to speak about The Postmortal.
“It’s been amusing,” Magary said.
As part of the lineup of events for Tri-C’s Common Reading Program, Magary will visit Tri-C’s four campuses in October. In an interview with Tri-C Times, he said it made sense to him that the novel has done well for such projects. It begins with protagonist John Farrell, a young lawyer who gets his hands on a newly developed “cure” for aging. Those who take it can still die, but not by the inevitable afflictions of old age.
We learn about John through emails and blog posts, including one early in the novel, where one of the many ironies of the cure makes itself known:
I’m due to get the cure finished off on Monday. I should be all excited at the prospect of beginning the rest of my indefinitely elongated life, but I’ve found myself increasingly impatient as I grow closer. All I’ve done in the past few days is calculate the population figures and think about death — mine and anyone else’s. I don’t enjoy thinking about death, which is one of the reasons I wanted the cure in the first place. Now, I seem to be obsessing over it.
As time passes and more people take the cure, a host of unintended consequences grow and multiply.
“I think the book is good at fostering ethics discussions,” Magary said. “It allows for a lot of possibilities for teachers to talk about the world and society. It’s a book about the world, and so it’s applicable to pretty much everyone.”
The world with a cure for aging turns out to be an undesirable place. Still, Magary said he wouldn’t hesitate to partake of the cure if it really existed.
“Only an idiot wouldn’t take it,” he said — though in the next breath he admitted that choice comes with its perils.
Writing a novel about the indefinite postponement of death was his way of coping with death’s inevitability.
“The book is structured to be a nightmare, so when you finish, you’re like, thank goodness I’m going to die,” Magary said. “This is sort of me working through it.”
Magary lives in Maryland with his wife and three children. In Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of 21st Century Parenthood, Magary’s funny and irreverent storytelling voice shines a light on the perils and wonders of having kids.
That irreverence might make you wonder whether Magary is the kind of writer who would cock an eyebrow at his book becoming part of any college’s curriculum. Rest assured, he’s glad The Postmortal has found new audiences this way.
“To write something and have it be taught in schools is just crazy,” he said. “It’s the sort of thing every writer dreams of. I hope I never take that for granted.”