June 27th, 2007


Austin Grossman Reading: Soon I Will Be Invincible

Yesterday evening, I went to the Harvard Coop to hear one of my college classmates, Austin Grossman, read from his first novel, Soon I Will Be Invincible.

I didn't actually know Grossman in college, but I spent freshman year in the same entry with his twin brother Lev. I did meet Grossman once, at one of our reunions, but it was by accident. I thought he was his brother, and I greeted him as such. He corrected me, and told me that Lev wasn't actually at the reunion. I apologized for the mistake, and moved on.

A few weeks ago, I heard about Grossman's first novel, and from the description it sounded like he had written it specifically for me to enjoy. The novel is set in a world of super-powered beings, and it focuses on the evil and brilliant Doctor Impossible and the good and powerful cyborg Fatale. Doctor Impossible has come up with another scheme to take over the world, and Fatale has to learn how to become a superhero. The book has a fully-realized set of superbeings, and from the description it feels influenced by Kurt Busiek's Astro City and Brad Bird's The Incredibles.

So when I discovered that Grossman's book tour was taking him back to Cambridge, I decided to attend. The bookseller who organized the reading gave Grossman a flattering introduction, and then Grossman began to read.

Austin Grossman Reads From His Book
Austin Grossman Reads From His Book
Grossman reads from his novel (June 26, 2007). Photo copyright ©2007 by Michael A. Burstein.

Grossman is a very funny reader. He doesn't read from his book like an author, but he doesn't do it like an actor, either. The book is written in first-person, and Grossman takes on the persona of Doctor Impossible as he reads, all the while still managing to keep an ironic detachment, as if to reassure the audience that he really is a nice guy. (And, no, I don't understand what I mean by this either.) I laughed quite a few times, as did others in the audience.

After his reading, Grossman called for questions. I asked about his comic book influences, and I wasn't surprised to hear that Grossman has been a comic book reader from way back. If I recall correctly, he said that he started reading comics with the Claremont run on X-Men. He also named some of the usual current writers as people whose work he enjoys. (Oddly, even though Grossman and Busiek went to the same high school, I had to prompt Grossman to mention Astro City.)

Only one other person asked a question, so Grossman began signing books quite early on. Since I had sat in the front row, I was the first person to get my copy signed. I thanked him for writing a book that appeals to me perfectly, which I think amused him. At the very least, he was willing to pose for a picture, even after I told him it would be going up on my blog:

Austin Grossman and His First Novel
Austin Grossman and His First Novel
Grossman poses with his novel (June 26, 2007). Photo copyright ©2007 by Michael A. Burstein.

Obviously, I haven't read the book yet, but if you're a fan of comic book superheroes, you ought to check it out. And the website for the book is a hoot.

Copyright © Michael A. Burstein