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0000017c-60f7-de77-ad7e-f3f73a140000WMUK's weekly show on the literary community in Southwest Michigan. Between The Lines previously aired on Fridays during Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Between the Lines: The Standard Grand

Thisbe Nissen

Jay Baron Nicorvo admits that his debut novel, The Standard Grand (St. Martin’s Press, 2017), is not an easy read. The characters are messy and complex. But that’s the reality of an honest war story and the people who inhabit it. And people have noticed. The book has been picked for IndieBound's Indie Next List, Library Journal's Spring 2017 Debut Novels Great First Acts, and was named "New and Noteworthy" by Poets & Writers.

The Standard Grand is about a defunct Borscht-Belt resort in the Catskill Mountains of New York,” Nicorvo says. “The main character of the story finds herself there — she kind of bumbles there. Her name is Specialist Antebellum Smith. She goes AWOL, leaves an abusive husband and her post at Fort Leonard Wood.”

A conversation with Jay Baron Nicorvo

The main character, like many war veterans, suffers from PTSD and ends up joining other vets with similar experiences in the privately owned, if crumbling, resort. Nicorvo describes it as a halfway house for homeless vets that sits atop a valuable shale formation that catches the interest of a Houston-based oil company. More characters emerge in an effort to buy the resort and destroy it.

Nicorvo relates the experiences of both male and female veterans - the the issue of the glorification of war.

Credit St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Press

“I think in this country we do glorify war,” Nicorvo says. “I grew up playing with guns on a daily basis with my friends. With my family, we spent Easters at a gun club, shooting pistols and rifles and shotguns. We are a gun-obsessed culture. What’s hard for a writer like me and a novel like mine, and I know I’m not alone, is presenting war in all its complexity — they are resisted.”

Because his story is so difficult, its characters so complex, Nicorvo believes their story may struggle to find its audience, even while critics and many reviewers give it high praise. But Nicorvo says that's okay.

“For me, writing is activism,” he says. “Definitely. I’m not much of a social person, but in writing, I can reach more people with my message.”

Nicorvo taught at Western Michigan University for many years and was an advisor for the literary magazine, Third Coast. But with this debut novel, he now devotes all of his time to writing. He lives on a farm near Battle Creek with his wife, writer Thisbe Nissen, and their son, where they raise chickens (Nicorvo’s other passion).

Listen to WMUK's Between the Lines every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., 4:20 p.m.

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Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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