Joseph McElroy (Women and Men, Actress In The House) on Mike Heppner's The Man Talking Project:
Never in my experience of our literature have I heard a more powerful, awful, funny, and dreadful parental voice discouraging the son from thinking he has a grain of talent—and that's only the first part of this disturbingly, brilliantly thoughtful deconstruction of how we live now; yet also in its four-part, excruciatingly frank package, how one might make a book and a writer's effort to sell it. Mike Heppner's accomplishment goes beyond his first two Knopf novels into the new and challenged no-man's and everyone's land of American publishing. A brave achievement.
About The Man Talking Project:
Part Three of The Man Talking Project, “Man Talking,” was written in late 2007 and early 2008. It originally appeared in a slightly different version on my website, mikeheppner.com, in April 2008, where it remained until early 2012. During those four years, the website received over forty-thousand hits.
Part One, “Talking Man,” was written in the summer of 2008 and originally published in a slightly different version as a chapbook by Small Anchor Press in September 2008. The first edition sold out, and a second was published later in 2008, followed by a Sichuanese translation in the summer of 2009.
Part Two, “Man,” was written in the late summer, early fall of 2008. Five hundred photocopies were left in random locations across the United States and Europe in December 2008, along with a note inviting people to read the manuscript and send in their reactions to my website, good or bad. (Some of those reactions can be read at the bottom of this page.)
Part Four, “Talking,” was compiled in late 2008 and early 2009. It originally appeared as a handwritten, single-copy edition awarded to contest winner Dan Pope in September 2009. It was subsequently published in the online magazine Wild Rag in October 2010.
The Man Talking Project was published by Another Sky Press in August 2012.
Responses to "Man":
"My name is Gina. I am a senior at Temple University in Philadelphia double majoring in Dance and Psychology. I found 'Man' on a table in the Honors Lounge and just started reading. I found the story quite touching, particularly the segments that described specific things the character remembered from each period. As a choreographer I am often trying to use gestures, memories and intimate details to bring people into my dances; I feel like this is what made 'Man' successful. Besides those paragraphs, I most enjoyed the honest description of the character's life as he worked toward becoming a success and the price he paid for it. There is so much pressure, I find, to have a specific goal and be successful at it, but when you speak with those who have found success, they are not necessarily much happier than anyone else."
"Hi, my name is Ed. I'm a senior, Psychology major at Arcadia University just outside of Philly. I was mostly suspicious after skimming the cover of 'Man' at a front table in the university library. Haha. I still am... Like, is this for real? But the concept was too intriguing for me to ignore it completely. It may just be me, because despite being an avid reader it always takes me a couple of pages to really get into a story, but after the first couple of pages I wasn't particularly taken to this one. It was obviously well-written, but I didn't feel captured. And yet I was. I couldn't put it down because it had to go somewhere. And then it did. And I felt it. It was the 'what I remembered's that kept me reading. I stopped and considered my own daydreams of success and 'what might be' fantasies. It was then, I think, that I could identify with the character's hopes... later, the disappointments... and mainly just the process of carving out a place for himself in the world."
"My name is Eli, and I'm an undergrad studying computer science and music at the University of Chicago. My friend J gave me a copy of 'Man' over midnight ice-cream, and I read it the next day. I applaud your experiment because I like the idea and because 'Man' was nice to read. I've dabbled in writing for the last four or five years and I know exactly what it feels like... We have to remember that the worthwhile part is intangible, is what's going on in our own heads and lives. The description of the main character's wife's battle... was tactful and powerful, and the happy ending... was relieving and at the same time surprising..."