Kevin Fenton lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota and works as an advertising writer and creative director. His fiction has appeared in the Northwest Review, the Laurel Review, and the Emprise Review. His writing on graphic design has been anthologized in Looking Closer 2 and Emigre No. 70: The Look Back Issue. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota and a J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School.
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Follow four friends as they move from The Brady Bunch to Seinfeld, from junior high to middle management. There is Quint, whose rebellion frays into self-destruction; Slow, who struggles to become the world’s first teenage father figure; Chimes, who fears losing his friends while picking up a 7-10 split; and Barb who escapes the conformity of Minnisapa only to find herself returning by dark of night. You will feel as if you’ve always lived in Minnisapa, Minnesota. And you will never underestimate nice kids from the Midwest again.
"An impressive vitality, droll wit, and affecting nostalgia lift Fenton's first novel about four high school pals growing up together during the 1970s in the fictional town of Minnisapa, Minn. . . . Eminently readable prose . . ."
"Merit Badges, his debut novel, positively glows."
"Most importantly, the characters contained within its covers, doled out to the reader as chapter-specific narrators, are truly individual. . . . Fenton knows his characters, their language, and their souls."
"A beautifully crafted, perceptive and often funny evocation of some extraordinary, ordinary people."
"Merit Badges lays out for the reader an entire, if circumscribed, world, in all of its limitations and surprising possibilities, rendered with a heartening intelligence and tenderness and wit— ‘The weather was like me, only more so. The weather needed some counseling’ —and in so doing reminds us of Simone Weil’s understanding that attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity."
"Merit Badges is hilarious, painful, lovely, nostalgic, generous and true. Kevin Fenton creates an unforgettable group of characters, in whose lives and thoughts and actions readers will often recognize themselves. This is a very funny, very moving, and wonderful book."
"Kevin Fenton’s Minnisapa is a place to rival any in fiction, so skillfully sculpted that you put down the book (reluctantly, when you must) sure you’ve lived there your entire life. Fenton’s vision of the world is tender and true; his characters and their voices are unforgettable. By turns incantatory and matter-of-fact, philosophical and funny, Merit Badges is a thrilling debut."
"In Merit Badges, Kevin Fenton welcomes his lucky readers to Minnisapa, Minnesota, on the Mississippi banks where, amidst the confusions of the last quarter of the 20th century, the hills knelt like buffaloes, public niceness was an art form and the winter air was a psychopath. Blending narrative at once hilarious and wrenching with phrases that send both our senses and our intellects dancing, Fenton traces the struggle to acquire wisdom and love in a vivid collection of characters—for whom being a ‘dube’ is the great public anxiety and desperation the great private menace. Here is literary art working, without flaw, at a high level of affirmation and intelligence."