Joseph Mackin

Pretend All Your Life Front Cover

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Lon Kirschner
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05/05/2010: Reuters "Book Talk" Interviews Joe Mackin about Pretend All Your Life

A CRITICAL ESSAY on Pretend All Your Life by Peter Damian Bellis

"At their best, novels ensnare the reader with a powerful story, make us care about the characters, and illustrate greater truths about of the world around us. Pretend All Your Life does all of this. For readers looking for a good story, this is a clever little book with a thriller-paced plot. For readers looking to understand the problems in America's big cities, this is a close-to-the-bone examination of the chasms that exist within densely-packed Manhattan. Not since Sherman Alexie's Indian Killer has this reviewer come across a novel that meets the needs of both kinds of readers so well, and not since Don DeLillo's Falling Man has an author so successfully used the 9/11 catastrophe as a narrative device for probing the good, the bad, and ugly of Manhattan. This is a very satisfying book."

"The setting places Pretend All Your Life in the company of other post-9/11 meditations like Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Don DeLillo's Falling Man, and Spike Lee's 25th Hour. What sets Mackin's novel apart from these other titles, however, is its distance from the events. Mackin assesses the events and their fallout with a degree of intellectual clarity that's lacking in Safran Foer and emotional intensity that's missing in DeLillo. Pretend All Your Life presents the best of both worlds; it is as smart as it is heartfelt and thus, to my mind, the best reflection on post-9/11 America written to date. It is, in short, a powerful and moving book on what may well be the most difficult of subjects for Americans to ponder."

"Pretend All Your Life is beautifully written, eloquent, emotional, passionate, beautiful. Every character unfolds through Mackin's elegant use of the English language, his words a dance of intuitive sentiment, threaded with excitement, surprise and inner dialogue so sententious and persuasive that the reader can't help but relate to each character despite their flaws and subterfuges.

"I was absolutely riveted. The omniscient third-person voice—which has both a magical shape-shifting virtuosity and a vertiginous momentum—is astonishingly metaphoric, constantly resonating with allusive echoes that give the story of Gallin's metamorphosis (and that of the other characters, as well—especially Bernardo and Miguel) a sense of deep and far-reaching significance."

"Traces six disastrous days in the life of Dr. Richard Gallin, a plastic surgeon living in post-9/11 New York City. Gallin is besieged on all fronts: his practice is hemorrhaging money, his personal life is in shambles, he is the subject of an upcoming exposť for his decision to fire an HIV-positive assistant, and his case of middle-aged ennui is compounded by the death of his son, Bernardo, who worked in one of the twin towers... secondary characters are reliably excellent and provide the book's best moments... By the end, old sorrows will be aired again and combined with fresh disasters as the troupe of damaged New Yorkers stumble toward the tragic conclusion."

excerpt from Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly Spring 2010 Hardcovers: Fiction/First Novels & Collections

(Pretend All Your Life is one of only 25 books mentioned for Spring)

five star book review "This tight-knit, closed-within-itself piece brims over with moral questions Life and death flow through and around our protagonist. An extremely memorable fictional invention, Dr. Gallin struggles in the end to find the righ t way, to give of himself so that others may live a better life. The characters' personal internal processes convince and compel, they lift us up and take us along, as we feel the pain and doubt. My congratulations to Mr. Mackin. I recommend this unreservedly. How is it that a debut piece can be so polished, deep, and effective?"

excerpt from Luke's review at

five star book review "The images Mackin presents are striking and original, and will linger in your mind long after you've finished the novel. (It) reads like a Dostoevsky introduction to Robert Franks' snapshots of that great American sadness that we have never been able to distinguish from wealth. It is relentless but never tiring, it thinks without being meditative, and speaks, but never louder than truth is spoken. It should not be missed."

excerpt from Oscar Moore's review at

five star book review "This wonderfully written novel tells the story of the insight Richard (Gallin) gains from several characters experiencing similar struggles with personal choices in a world that changed completely in a single day. This is an excellent story, unsettling to readers who have repressed the emotions they experienced in the time after 9/11 or some other life changing incident."

excerpt from Gary Severance's review at

Four Star Book Review "This book combines suspense and a strong plot with an introspective quality that is a rare treat. Each of the featured characters is engaged in a search for something bigger and more meaningful in their lives, and each deeply flawed but relatable character attempts to reach a higher, more mindful plane of existence in a variety of ways ranging from total disengagement from their previous life to murder to blackmail. The combination of gripping events like these and the real feeling of yearning sewn into the fabric of the plot makes this book a complex and rich look at how a single event can cause many people to willfully change the course of their lives."