Garth Risk Hallberg

Garth Risk Hallberg (c) Mark Vessey“Fortune,” said Mark Twain, “knocks at every man’s door once in a life, but in a good many cases the man is in a neighboring saloon and does not hear her.”

Fortunately for Garth Risk Hallberg, when fortune came knocking, he was at home with the manuscript for “City on Fire,” a 900-page novel set in 1970s punk-era New York.

Lauded by some reviewers as a contender for the next Great American Novel, “City on Fire,” six years in the making and published in October 2015, is a New York Times and international bestseller, has been translated into 17 languages, and landed on many of the “best books of 2015” lists.

The novel received high praise from the likes of The New York Times film critic, Michiko Kakutani, who called it “A symphonic epic…A big, stunning first novel and an amazing virtual reality machine….Captures the city’s dangerous, magnetic allure…A novel of head-snapping ambition and heart-stopping power — a novel that attests to its young author’s boundless and unflagging talents.”

The Washington University alumnus returned to campus on Wednesday, Sept. 28 to give an Assembly Series talk on “Organized Complexity: The Novel and the City.” The program will begin at 6 p.m. in Holmes Lounge; a book signing will follow.

Hallberg earned his bachelor’s degree from Arts & Sciences and his MFA from New York University; he now teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

Prior to this novel, Hallberg authored a novella, “A Field Guide to the North American Family.” His short stories have appeared in a number of literary publications, including the “Best New American Voices 2008.” Hallberg has also been recognized for his critical essays and reviews that have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Guardian, The Millions, and Slate, and was a two-time finalist for the National Book Critics Circle’s award for Excellence in Reviewing.

Click here for a summary of the novel.