Join us on Friday, January 31st for an evening with novelist and Orlando native Nathan Holic, in conversation with historian James C. Clark! Nathan is the author of the new novel Bright Lights, Medium-Sized City, a 600-page adventure that covers nearly every neighborhood in the area.
The novel is set amid Orlando’s 2009 housing crisis. As the Orlando Magic race toward the NBA finals, hapless house-flipper Marc Turner’s dreams of conquering the city are falling apart. He finds himself all alone in a giant McMansion in Maitland. His fiancée has left, and his business partner has disappeared, but not before selling off all the staging furniture and saddling Marc with a mountain of decrepit properties. Though the novel draws inspiration from its city novel predecessors, particularly Tom Wolfe, Holic takes readers all over Orlando through a series of formally inventive chapters interspersed with comic panels and full-page watercolor illustrations –– from Beefy King to the Bithlo school bus races to a wild night at Wall Street Plaza to a raucous wedding at the Orange County Regional History Center, and even into the city’s haunted past of alleged namesakes and failed conquerors. As Marc tries to get his life back on track, readers follow him through a choose-your-own-adventure story, a real estate tour, and a final exam.
“One thing that Orlando has sorely lacked in the past is an authentic vision of itself on the page,” says Holic. “Literature is a way of seeing the world, and it’s a way of making sense of the world, and it’s a way of changing the world…but also (most relevant here) it’s a way of recording the world, recording who we once were, what we once believed in, how we once acted, how we used to see the world. The Orlando of this book is never coming back. But it’s something that becomes a part of the permanent record of the place. To me, that’s extremely powerful.”
Around the office, the Burrow Press staff calls the book the “the Great Orlando novel,” mainly because there’s no other competition. “But there are so many talented voices in the city,” says publisher Ryan Rivas. “We hope this is just the first of many great Orlando novels.” Much like the preemptive claim to greatness, the book’s title, a play on the famous New York novel, is a tongue in cheek reference to Orlando’s diminutive status as a major American city, forever obscured by the shadow of the mouse, but the book’s ambitious scope and form amount to a love letter from Holic to the City Beautiful.