Joe Meno’s Hairstyles of the Damned has the best book cover, ever. And not just because the hairstyle is reminiscent of one I might have sported in college. I could try to describe it, but just go look for yourself — or better yet — here it is.
Moving on. Meno’s novel, another south side of Chicago story, like Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir, a fantastic collection of short stories set on the Southside, captured the tumult and uncertainty of one’s high school years, but set those years not in some “everyman’s” experience, and instead focused the reader upon the peculiarities of growing up in Chicago, on the Southside, in a working class neighborhood in the 90s. Despite such specificity, Meno manages to tell what I think is a universal story of high school awkwardness, identity formation, and first loves. Because Meno grounds his characters in such a specific time and place, he gives them depth and voice that is unique.
Meno has a great ear for dialogue, and his characters are realistic, flawed, but also funny, irreverent, searching kids who remind us of ourselves.