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."
"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."
"[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.
Zadoorian (The Leisure Seeker) serves up a wry, unflinching tale of an underachieving couple in midlife crisis mode as the recession grips the industrial Midwest. Joe and Ana live in Ferndale, Mich., a mile outside Detroit, where they've been shacked up (but not married) for 15 years. Joe's a freelance journalist just getting by, while Ana, once an aspiring documentary filmmaker, works in advertising and has become the breadwinner. Despite their cramped living quarters, they live in separate spheres. While Ana befriends and fantasizes over a coworker, Joe stays out late drinking and, while home, develops a heavy porn habit. After Ana catches Joe at the screen, she expresses doubts about their relationship and ongoing living situation. Things don't get any easier at work. Ana questions how far she's willing to stray from her progressive values to serve a Christian client, and Joe is reduced to a "telemarketing Willie Loman," selling ads for a newspaper. Zadoorian's comedy of contemporary manners resonates by virtue of its introspective characters and depictions of the small moments in life that, taken together, have great significance. Piquantly titled chapters ("Out Come the Freaks") provide additional comic snap. Zadoorian's subtle, timely story hits the mark.