The Narcissism of Small Differences (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

What do you do when you realize you’re getting a little long in the tooth for that hipster identity you’ve been sporting your adult life? Take Ana and Joe, your average late thirtysomething thrift-shopping, pop culture ephemera-collecting couple in the inner ring suburb of Ferndale. Today’s hipster would live in an artsy neighborhood of Detroit proper while doing something artisany. Instead, she works at an ad agency while he freelances quirky pieces for the local indie newspaper. They both do a little career upgrade, her with a promotion to a woman-focused sub-agency, and him to a full-time job with benefits at another weekly, only to find that they’ve sold out more than they realized – her main client is a chain of Christian women fitness centers, while his paper is a pennysaver with a solidly unshakeable conservative base, contrary to the job recruiter’s promises. Can Ana and Joe survive this reboot? The Narcissism of Small Differences isn’t making any promises, but the journey is classic Zadoorian, filled with lots of Detroit-iana, classic asides, and two heroes you can’t help but root for.

— Daniel Goldin


A hilarious and poignant novel about growing up, buying in, selling out, and the death of irony.

The Narcissism of Small Differences is one of Zadoorian's] best. He has become an essential chronicler of the life in Detroit at the beginning of our century.
--Stateside, Michigan Public Radio

#1 Bestseller (Fiction/Paperback) at Book Soup

One of Detour Detroit's 25 Notable Detroit and Michigan Books from 2020

Like Zadoorian's earlier novels--The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit, The Leisure Seeker and Beautiful Music--this new novel brims with wit, passion and soul.
--The Millions, one of The Millions' Most Anticipated Books of 2020

If the very idea of irony were to die during the coronavirus, how would one bury it? A new book by Ferndale writer Michael Zadoorian might provide an answer.
--Lansing City Pulse

A quirky, original novel...Zadoorian deftly captures the flavor and eccentricities of life in Detroit.
--Lansing State Journal

Metro Detroit has been the setting of all four of Zadoorian's novels so far, and Narcissism...continues a career-long exploration of a place the Detroit native says has only become more 'wondrous' to him with age.
--SEEN Magazine

Landing somewhere between a pithy Joyce Carol Oates and Hunter S. Thompson's insightful revelations on American pop culture zeitgeist, Zadoorian beautifully weaves his native city and its inhabitants into a thoughtful story.
--House of Tabu

A quite wondrous, thoroughly entertaining and delightfully enthralling journey through a Detroit of 11 years ago that is, without a shadow of a doubt, a must read for any Detroit natives.
--Exclusive Magazine

Zadoorian's] message--that as we get older, it's okay to reimagine our lives and maybe even sell out a little, as long as we stay true to our authentic selves--is earnest. And a side plot that takes Joe through some grand theaters of yesteryear, now dangerously decrepit, provides moments of genuine poignancy.

Joe Keen and Ana Urbanek have been a couple for a long time, with all the requisite lulls and temptations, yet they remain unmarried and without children, contrary to their Midwestern values (and parents' wishes). Now on the cusp of forty, they are both working at jobs that they're not even sure they believe in anymore, but with significantly varying returns. Ana is successful, Joe is floundering--both in limbo, caught somewhere between mainstream and alternative culture, sincerity and irony, achievement and arrested development.

Set against the backdrop of bottomed-out 2009 Detroit, a once-great American city now in transition, part decaying and part striving to be reborn, The Narcissism of Small Differences is the story of an aging creative class, doomed to ask the questions: Is it possible to outgrow irony? Does not having children make you one? Is there even such a thing as selling out anymore?

More than a comedy of manners, The Narcissism of Small Differences is a comedy of compromise: the financial compromises we make to feed ourselves; the moral compromises that justify our questionable actions; the everyday compromises we all make just to survive in the world. Yet it's also about the consequences of those compromises--and the people we become because of them--in our quest for a life that is our own and no one else's.

About the Author

MICHAEL ZADOORIAN is the critically praised author of Beautiful Music, as well as The Leisure Seeker--the basis for the 2018 Sony Pictures Classics film starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland. Zadoorian is a recipient of a Kresge Artist Fellowship in the Literary Arts, the Columbia University Anahid Literary Award, the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, the GLIBA Great Lakes Great Reads award, and a Michigan Notable Book Award. His other books are Second Hand: A Novel, and the story collection The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit. His work has appeared in the Literary Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, American Short Fiction, Witness, Great Lakes Review, North American Review, Detroit Noir, and the Huffington Post. A lifelong resident of the Detroit area, he lives with his wife in a 1937 bungalow filled with cats and objects that used to be in the houses of other people.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781617758171
ISBN-10: 1617758175
Publisher: Akashic Books
Publication Date: May 5th, 2020
Pages: 304
Language: English