Krist, Gary (Michael) 1957-
KRIST, Gary (Michael) 1957-
PERSONAL: Born May 23, 1957, in Jersey City, NJ; son of Harold Charles (in business) and Winifred Joyce (a secretary) Krist; married Elizabeth Yen-Tsen Cheng (a photo editor), October 2, 1983; children: Anna Chang-Yi. Education: Princeton University, A.B. (comparative literature; magna cum laude), 1979; attended University of Konstanz, West Germany, 1979-80.
CAREER: Writer. Writer-in-residence at Millay Colony for the Arts, Austerlitz, NY, 1985; Advisory editor, Hudson Review, New York, NY, 1990—. Judged the Bennett Awards in Literature.
MEMBER: National Book Critics Circle, PEN.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright scholar, 1979-80; National Endowment for the Arts fiction fellowship, 1989; Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, 1989, for The Garden State; Creative Writing fellow, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, 1989; Stephen Crane award, 2000. New Jersey Council for the Arts fellowship.
The Garden State (short stories; includes "Layover" and "Tribes of Northern New Jersey"), Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1988.
Bone by Bone: Stories, Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1994.
Bad Chemistry: A Novel, Random House (New York, NY), 1998.
Chaos Theory: A Novel, Random House (New York, NY), 2000.
Extravagance: A Novel, Broadway Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including GQ, Boulevard, Playboy, Gulf Coast, Tikkun, Quarterly, Hudson Review, Threepenny Review, Epoch, and Confrontation. Contributor to other periodicals and newspapers, including New York Times Book Review, New York Times, Washington Post Book World, New Republic, Hudson Review, Chicago Review, San Francisco Review of Books, American Book Review, Quarterly, National Geographic Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Gentleman's Quarterly, Playboy, Esquire, Modern Maturity, Islands, and Newsday. His short stories have been included in anthologies, including Men Seeking Women, Writers' Harvest 2, and Best American Mystery Stories.
Krist's work has been translated into Dutch, German, French, and Japanese.
SIDELIGHTS: Gary Krist, author of novels, novellas, and short stories, first considered becoming a writer when he was in high school. The desire persisted through college, but found little expression until his year as a Fulbright scholar in West Germany. While abroad, he traveled and penned short stories rather than studying literary criticism. After returning to the United States and marrying his college sweetheart, he went to New York City where he wrote standardized tests as a logic coordinator. Not until the 1980s did he become serious about his fiction writing.
In his first collection, The Garden State, so titled because all the stories are set in New Jersey, Krist challenges the carefully structured world of his characters in an attempt to broaden their view of reality. In "Lay-over," a woman is stranded in an airport with her father, with whom she has not been alone for fifteen years. Despite learning that he was unfaithful to his former and his present wives, she gains a new, more complex understanding of him. In "Tribes of Northern New Jersey," a teenager finds himself forced to choose between his father and his mother's second husband, an immigrant auto mechanic. Krist's collection of eight stories earned many positive reviews from critics. "Krist succeeds remarkably in demonstrating that where there is life there is art," wrote Los Angeles Times reviewer Richard Eder. Elizabeth Gleick in the New York Times Book Review commended Krist's ability to establish confrontational situations and depict moments of insight "with such attention to detail and with such obvious affection for his characters that we get momentarily caught up in new, somewhat absurdist worlds."
While continuing his job in educational book publishing on a part-time basis, reviewing books, and writing travel articles, Krist worked on his second book, Bone by Bone. Michael Trussler commented in Studies in Short Fiction that the book "offers the short story enthusiast a special delight … Krist's eye for the nuanced detail underscores one of the pleasures of reading contemporary writing; such fiction sometimes reminds us of how it is that we actually live….Ineffect, Krist develops a realism of the uncanny; what we recognize in the book places us both closer to and further from our memories of ourselves."
Gary Krist once told CA: "My work so far has been essentially comic. The comedy stems from the characters' attempts to engage a world that refuses to be controlled or even understood. I hope it's a serious kind of comedy.
"I think that literary fiction should be, on one level or another, subversive. Good books exist to question the status quo—to undermine complacency, received wisdom, and the easy moral stance. But I don't think you can subvert anything if you simply alienate your reader, which is why I tend not to write overly experimental, inaccessible fiction. I'm a great believer in using plot and character to involve a reader, so that the subversion can happen—subtly—while nobody's looking."
When Krist's wife began working for National Geographic in 1994, the couple moved to Washington, D.C., and Krist decided to switch genres. His third and fourth books, Bad Chemistry and Chaos Theory, are thrillers that received numerous positive reviews. In the first book, Krist revisits the theme of suburban desperation that runs through his two earlier collections. The protagonist, Kate Theodorus-Baker, is an ex-cop from Chicago who marries an affluent exhippie, and lives and works in Washington, D.C. as a social worker. All seems well with her secure, suburban lifestyle until her husband goes missing after a falling out with his business partner, who turns up dead. Kate falls back on her policing expertise and finds herself embroiled in the deadly world of designer drugs. "The mystery will be revealed, and at its heart will lie the basest of human motives: greed," a reviewer wrote on the Curled Up with A Good Book Web site, commenting that Krist "provides a neat twist at the end that sets the story just enough above others of its ilk." Clay Reynolds wrote for the Houston Chronicle, "In his first novelistic effort, this accomplished short-story writer shows how easy it is for a competent storyteller to dip his virtual pen into the inkwell of category fiction and complete all the requirements of the form." According to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, Krist "turns in a handsomely crafted, character-driven thriller … Unexpected twists, violent confrontations and modest suspense ensue." Alec Foege commented in People Weekly that Krist "weaves a strand of hip, trenchant social commentary—and thus a cleverly entertaining element—into what is essentially a tried-and-true formula."
Chaos Theory finds two affluent classmates, one white and one black, venturing into a seedy neighborhood in Washington, D.C., in search of drugs only to become suspects in the murder of an undercover cop. "Krist turns in a little romance and some well-intentioned perspectives on angst-ridden teen-parent relationships," wrote Stephanie Zvirin for Booklist. A critic for Publishers Weekly commented, "Spinning a plausible situation into an extraordinary story while training a marksman's eye on character, Krist has conceived a sleek and thoughtful thriller." And, while Jonathan Miles commented in his review for Salon that "Krist's efforts are too often betrayed by sentences that fall thuddingly flat," he concluded, "But then, with sentences flying by so quickly in a plot-throttled blur, you don't especially care—it's a thriller and it's thrilling, a rocketing and relentless literary carnival ride."
In Extravagance, Krist offers a unique narrative structure by placing his protagonist, Will Merrick, in the 1690s and the 1990s. Merrick in both eras is trying to capitalize on the respective markets so he can achieve wealth and security. The tale begins in seventeenth-century London where Merrick steps into a hackney coach on Change Alley and the coach suddenly becomes a New York taxi on twentieth-century Wall Street. For a romantic twist, Merrick's love interest in both times is also the same woman. In this morality tale of greed and betrayal, Krist successfully weaves Merrick between the centuries and "provides the reader with a painless lesson that entertains as well as informs," commented Rebecca Stuhr in Library Journal. In Kirkus Reviews, a critic wrote that Extravagance, "reminds us that there have been other New Economies as [Krist] blends his ambitious hero's adventures in 1690s London with similar events in New York from September 1999 to March 2000." Another critic wrote in Publishers Weekly that the London portion of the book "fades" as the story progresses, and that Merrick's love affair with a wealthy and strong-willed woman who wants to be a restaurateur is "competent but rarely compelling." The reviewer continued, however, that "Krist's ambition is laudable, and the novel is a worthwhile read."
Krist told CA: "My work since The Garden State has taken several different directions. Bone by Bone was another story collection, but generally a darker, less sanguine book, reflecting my own sharper sense of the moral and physical peril at large in the world. In my novels (Bad Chemistry and Chaos Theory) I've tried to bring the same literary sensibility to a more popular genre. Both books are thrillers, though I'd like to think that they're thrillers with a lot on their minds.
"No matter what or how I write, though, I find that the same basic concerns keep worming their way into my work—in particular, my fascination with the questions of why it is so difficult for ordinary Americans to contrive happy, meaningful, ethical lives, even though we live in history's most prosperous society, sheltered from most of the world's worst atrocities."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 1994, Alice Joyce, review of Bone by Bone, p. 994; December 15, 1997, Eric Robbins, review of Bad Chemistry, p. 683; October 11, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Chaos Theory, p. 51.
Chicago Tribune, July 27, 1989.
Economist, August 31, 2002, "The Amorous Effects of Cash; Novels of Finance," review of Extravagance. Houston Chronicle, March 1, 1998, Clay Reynolds, "Bad Chemistry Mixes Drugs, Crime in Solid Fiction," review of Bad Chemistry, p. 27.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2002, review of Extravagance, p. 982.
Library Journal, October 1, 1999, Lawrence Rungren, review of Chaos Theory, p. 134; August 2002, Rebecca Stuhr, review of Extravagance, p. 143.
Los Angeles Times, October 20, 1988, Richard Eder, review of The Garden State. New York Times Book Review, November 6, 1988.
People Weekly, February 2, 1998, Alec Foege, review of Bad Chemistry, p. 29.
Ploughshares, fall, 1994, Jessica Treadway, review of Bone by Bone, p. 245.
Publishers Weekly, March 7, 1994, review of Bone by Bone, p. 53; November 17, 1997, review of Bad Chemistry, p. 52; October 11, 1999, review of Chaos Theory, p. 51; July 15, 2002, review of Extravagance, p. 52.
Studies in Short Fiction, spring, 1996, Michael Trussler, review of Bone by Bone, p. 284.
Curled U with A Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (October 9, 2002), review of Bad Chemistry.
Salon,http://www.salon.com/ (October 9, 2002), Jonathan Miles, review of Chaos Theory.