The downfall of Albert Lesiak

This week, we're sponsored by John Popielaski, Connecticut poet and now novelist. The Hollow Middle, Popielaski's first full-length work of fiction, is the story of aging English teacher Albert Lesiak and his sojourn out of civilization and into rural Maine and reluctant foster-fatherhood.

It's rare that our attention is captured in just a few lines, but drop yourself anywhere into the first chapter of The Hollow Middle, and you'll find yourself caught up. Popielaski's style is an organized four-car pileup, with just a bit of an echo of Joyce, a bit of an echo of Eliot. You can see empathy peeking through his gentle mockery of his protagonist; your smiles will be rueful, but you won't be able to restrain them.

Here's the opening:

Nothing is remarkable about the lightening hour and the mild fairgrounds air, and nothing is remarkable about the peeps and ribbits in the meadow where the birders, loyal to migration schedules, stalk when there is light to glimpse a little rarity, and nothing is remarkable about the yonder man, bespectacled, whose respiration is the stuff of late-stage hibernation.

Read more on our sponsor feature page, then buy the book.

Sponsors like John Popielaski make the Seattle Review of Books possible. Did you know you can sponsor us, too? We only have three slots left in the first quarter of the year (and we haven't even gone public yet!). Reserve your week of choice before it's too late: Just send us a note at