Best Copy Available
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Best Copy Available

A True Crime Memoir

Jay Baron Nicorvo

Selected by Geoff Dyer

Title Details

Pages: 240

Illustrations: 6 b&w images

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 09/01/2024

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6736-1

List Price: $28.95


Pub Date: 09/01/2024

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6738-5

List Price: $28.95


Pub Date: 09/01/2024

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6737-8

List Price: $28.95

Best Copy Available

A True Crime Memoir

Jay Baron Nicorvo

Selected by Geoff Dyer

How the love of a single mother helped end an awful cycle of abuse and abandonment

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  • Description
  • Reviews

In the winter of 1984, Sharon Nicorvo was violently raped while delivering pizza to Fort Monmouth Army Base in New Jersey. At the same time, her seven-year-old son Jay was being subjected to repeated and secret sexual abuse by his babysitter. Best Copy Available delves into these devastating events and their long aftermath. Thirty years later, Nicorvo receives a photocopy of the criminal investigation report documenting that brutal night. This report offers a primer to better understand certain assumptions about class and race; sex and violence; crime and punishment; low and high culture; sanity, madness, and masculinity; and the facsimile nature of the truth.

As various American men—some real, some imagined, all prone to violence—move in and then out of their hardscrabble lives, mother and son spend decades avoiding and ultimately confronting what happened to them in that formative year. From the Jersey Shore to the Gulf Coast of Florida to the Midwest, Best Copy Available tells a harrowing and sometimes hilarious American story: how the love of a single mother helped end an awful cycle of abuse and abandonment.

Most ambitiously, Best Copy Available lends voice to an alternative version of American boyhood, manhood, and fatherhood. One where the sons of deadbeat dads can grow up to be stay-at-home dads, and where our boys and men may realize that the most courageous show of strength is not the determined use of force. It’s knowing when and how to ask for help.

The (true) story unfolding in Best Copy Available is almost unrelentingly bleak, but that relentlessness also makes it difficult to put down. The voice is jagged, dangerous, compelling, and, above all, appropriate.

—Geoff Dyer, author of The Last Days of Roger Federer

An unflappable, unrelenting examination of abuse and violence, Best Copy Available holds nothing back. Nicorvo is fearless as he confronts the past and fearless as he steps into his future.

—Ann Hood, New York Times bestselling author of Comfort: A Journey Through Grief

A compulsive descent into darkness, a fearless portrait of the invincibility of our fragile hearts. Nicorvo leaves it all on the page. A bravura performance.

—Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

This book set my heart and mind on fire. Nicorvo is a magician: he has taken tragedy and transformed it into art.

—Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, author of When Skateboards Will Be Free

I have read so many accounts of assault and abuse, and I’ve never read a book like this. This is a tenacious telling. There was not a single sentence I’d read before—Best Copy Available is new in its lack of anticipation, in its headlong pursuit of the experience of bringing a boy into being inside the man who is finally telling the abuse. This book is such a valuable addition, and it’s patronizing to say how proud I am that Nicorvo got this down, that he wrote the damn book, so I won’t say that. But he went back for the boy, and he took him by the hand. Best Copy Available breaks my heart. Such life.

—Lacy Crawford, author of Notes on a Silencing

You do not have to be a child of the ‘80s to deeply feel and understand each piece of Nicorvo's story and the glowing truth that beats throughout Best Copy Available. Is it possible to be sorry, and angry, and sick, and haunted by a book? Because simple, lucid touchstones are absolutely essential to jarring loose the terror and also prying open any story itself—if any (one) of us is to have a chance at grace. I somehow placed my feet onto the floor upon closing this book's final page and felt—quite literally—as if I might fall much deeper than to my knees in holy gratitude for the chance and purpose of being alive on this earth. What a work.

—Joanna Parzakonis, co-owner, this is a bookstore & Bookbug

Painfully elegant yet triumphant, Nicorvo’s thoughtful writing explores society and the effects on individuals and families as he faces appalling events in his past. Nicorvo and his demons circle each other warily, sizing each other up like big cats competing for territory, the demon cats doing their best to disrupt Nicorvo’s peace of mind, and scare off the writer intent on facing and analyzing these demons out of existence. It’s an honor to be allowed to perch on his shoulder and accompany him through this journey he so gracefully relates.

—Jamie Fiocco, owner, Flyleaf Books; recent president of the American Booksellers Association

Nicorvo is an incredible talent who deals with almost unthinkable subjects with enthralling prose, humor, and mysterious grace. Deeply felt, and darkly funny, Best Copy Available is a must-read memoir that can show the world how to love again in the shadow of sexual violence.

—Jen Percy, author of Demon Camp and Girls Play Dead

This hugely compelling book manages to do many things exceedingly well. It’s a propulsive true crime story—fast paced and pitch perfect—as well as a poetic, meditative reflection that haunts with its hard-won wisdom. It’s generous and funny and quirky and, against all odds, affirming. Nicorvo has written an original and important book.

—Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs

Nicorvo’s memoir is a gut-wrenching exploration of the sexual abuse foisted upon both a mother and son. In his unique narrative voice, Nicorvo shares their intertwined memories and in doing so, raises himself to the light. Best Copy Available is an important book for all readers. It will stand solidly on the shelf along with other classic memoirs such as Educated, The Glass Castle, and Notes on a Silencing.

—Pamela Klinger-Horn, Valley Bookseller

As he movingly muses . . . about his past and the shifting nature of memory, Nicorvo manages to find sanity and grace in a loving family of his own making. A frank, dark, disturbing, deeply emotional roller-coaster ride.

—Kirkus Reviews

About the Author/Editor

JAY BARON NICORVO is the author of the novel The Standard Grand and a poetry collection, Deadbeat. His nonfiction has twice been named "notable" in Best American Essays. Nicorvo's writing has been featured on NPR and PBS NewsHour. A proud community college graduate, he's taught at Eckerd, Cornell, and Emerson colleges. He lives with his wife, Thisbe Nissen, their son, a couple of cats, a dog, and a dozen chickens on a defunct farm outside of Battle Creek, Michigan. Find Jay at